United Nations Resident Coordinator in Albania receives special award for LGBTI rights advocacy

Monday, 21 May, 2018

Brian J Williams, the UN Resident Coordinator in Albania received the Pink Embassy of Albania’s prestigious award” "30 People of the Year for LGBTI Rights in Albania”. Thirty personalities representing Parliament, Government, Civil society and International Organizations received the special award on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The award underlines the commitment of Mr. Williams to advance human rights agenda in Albania with a focus on the LGBTI rights.

While accepting the award, during the ceremony held at Prime Minister’s Office, Mr. Williams underlined:” I am very honored to receive this award on this special day. We have travelled across the country where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people(LGBTI) told us stories of terrible violence on account of their sexual orientation, gender identity, hostile public attitudes, unethical portrayal in the media, and a general lack of support. Their sexual orientations and gender identities may vary, but their experiences are powerful reminders of the need to protect LGBTI people from stigma and violence. To combat and break the cycle of fear and violence, efforts should be put in place to improve education, public awareness and support those who stand up for human rights. Families have a key role to play when it comes to educating their children with a culture of tolerance and respect. This year, the world will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which promises a world that is free and equal. We will only honor that promise if everyone – without exception – enjoys the protection they deserve. LGBTI rights are human rights and they are made to be respected”.

The Pink Embassy Award is presented every year to individuals, group, or institution that have made a fundamental contribution to the improvement of the position of lesbians, gay men, bisexual men and women, and transgender people.

LGBTI People have made progress in Albania and globally in claiming rights and inclusion, in recent years. However, LGBTI people face widespread discrimination and violence, which leads to exclusion. This adversely affects both the lives of LGBTI people as well as the communities and economies in which they live. The latest UNDP supported survey released in December 2017, shows that 92 of the respondents declare that they would not interact with LGBTI people. Only 17% of businesses in Albania include terms such as sexual orientation and gender identity in their employment policies with equal opportunities for all. Only 3 percent of companies have facilitating policies in the employment of LGBTI people.

United Nations Agencies in Albania have been supporting the Government and oversight institutions – People's Advocate, the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner – to improve their capacities in addressing discrimination against individuals of this group.   In December 2016, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) launched UN Free & Equal – an unprecedented global UN public information campaign aimed at promoting equal rights and fair treatment of LGBTI people. “Free and Equal” campaign in Albania carries a key message: LGBTI rights are human rights. As Part of the Free and Equal campaign, regional meetings were organized which brought together hundreds of young people to talk about LGBTI rights.

Despite substantial legal protections in anti-discrimination, discrimination against LGBTI people persists. These include denial of the right to marry and have a family; the right of reassigned gender surgery for transgender people; and the right to self-determination in relation to bodily integrity for intersex people.