The Emergence of Queer Diplomacy: Navigating Homophobia and LGBT Human Rights in International Relations

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Janoff, Douglas




Since 2010, governments from Europe and the Americas have embraced LGBT rights more assertively as a foreign policy objective, leading to "significant policy change" as well as "cultural resistance and policy pushbacks" (Picq and Thiel 2015, pp. 1-2). At least seventy mainly African and Asian states continue to criminalize same-sex conduct: many of these states oppose LGBT rights in multilateral fora such as the UN Human Rights Council, generating conflict with Western and Western-allied states. The student, drawing upon his work as a foreign policy officer - and his experience as an activist and researcher in the LGBT community - argues that no single theoretical perspective can explicate this phenomenon. An interdisciplinary approach is required, bridging key concepts from sociology and cultural studies on queer identity, global sexualities, and LGBT movements with current scholarship in political science, international relations, and human rights. The dissertation's underlying assertion - that a new queer diplomacy has emerged from the triadic interaction between intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), states and civil society organizations (CSOs) - aims to demonstrate how diplomats work to both strengthen and subvert LGBT rights. The research project employed a reflexive, multidimensional standpoint methodology and involved participant observation at UN meetings in Geneva and New York, and 29 in-depth interviews with diplomats, human rights experts, and IGO and CSO representatives. The data findings suggest Western concepts of sexual and gender identity underlie many approaches used by diplomats and advocates in their international work. To a considerable extent, Western governments, in concert with IGO and CSO representatives - have succeeded in mainstreaming LGBT issues into UN human rights policy and programming, as well as areas such as development programming, health, women's rights, and the criminal justice system: however, many gaps remain. The data reveals the close relationships between CSOs and "like-minded" diplomats, as well as the systemic challenges that impede their progress. However, a more inclusive and coordinated diplomatic and civil society strategy is urgently needed to prevent or at least minimize ongoing human rights violations against LGBT people.


Canadian Studies




Carleton University

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Canadian Studies

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Theses and Dissertations

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