Gay groups’ observer status at UN blocked

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

LGBT rights groups from Spain, the Netherlands and Brazil have been refused observer status that allows Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to participate in United Nations business.

The UN Committee on NGOs was tied, with Columbia, Dominica, Israel, Peru, Romania, UK and the USA voting yes and Burundi, China, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia and Sudan voting no.

Angola, Guinea, India and Turkey abstained while Cuba was not present.

The UK representative on the committee said they were discriminating against LGBT NGO applicants and that it is the right of the community to have their voice heard at the UN.

Romania said the NGO Committee “engaged in a blatant act of discrimination today.”

Sylvia Jaen of the Spanish Federacion Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales (FELGTB) pointed out:

“The major support we’ve had is from the permanent mission of Spain in the UN.

“They engaged in many diplomatic conversations and read a declaration of support from the Spanish government.

“There is clearly a group of countries in this committee, which insists in blocking the applications of LGBT groups from one session to another, preventing them to reach the full ECOSOC where their position does not have a majority.”

The vote allows FELGTB to get its application to the next stage: a vote on this recommendation by the full ECOSOC in its July session.

ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, assists the General Assembly.

In the January sessions of the ECOSOC NGO committee 19 countries review applications and issues recommendations that are then later approved or rejected by the full ECOSOC with 54 members.

The committee deferred consideration of two other LGBT national federations: COC (Cultuur en Ontspanningscentrum) from the Netherlands and ABGLT (Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas, Bissexuais, Travestis e Transexuais) from Brazil.

Both NGOs will be therefore reconsidered in the upcoming NGO Committee session of May.

“The nature of the questions LGBT human rights defenders were asked, repeatedly trying to link homosexuality and paedophilia, simply shows how far our stubborn opposition is ready to go to put obstacles before LGBT groups on their way to recognition as members of civil society,” the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) said in a statement.

Joyce Hamilton from Dutch group COC said:

“It was a shocking first experience at the UN, an organisation that is supposed to safeguard the rights and dignity of each human being.

“This blatant structural discrimination against LGBT organisations shows the need for a continued battle at this level.

“It is important to continue the dialogue with conservative member states for recognition of LGBT rights as human rights and the need for recognising diversity of the world population.

“Consultative status will enable COC to address the fact that the UN cannot accept a society where people are discriminated

and marginalised based on their sexual orientation or identity.

“It most certainly has strengthened our motivation to continue the fight.”

Philipp Braun, co-secretary general of ILGA, said:

“The LGBTI community is clearly gaining ground at the UN as shown by the increased support from countries that before were hostiles to LGBTI issues.

“Only two years ago we were in a much more difficult position in

the NGO Committee and even a tied vote was but a dream. ILGA wants to thank the countries that supported these NGOs in the Committee.

“I want to congratulate the courageous activists from ABGLT, COC and FELGTB for standing their ground at the United Nations.”

In 2005, ILGA began its ECOSOC Campaign, an initiative aimed at

allowing LGBTI human rights defenders to address the UN “in their own name”, by getting LGBTI groups from diverse countries to apply for ECOSOC status.

In 2006 and 2007, after harsh and lengthy consideration by the ECOSOC, consultative status was granted to five LGBT organisations:

ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, the Danish, Swedish and German national LGBT federations (LBL, LSVD and RFSL) and the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Quebec, CGLQ.

This development has already allowed ILGA members to address the floor of the Human Rights Council (HRC) plenary, which prompted the High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour to state her support for LGBT rights in that international forum.

ILGA has been facilitating the presence of LGBT activists at the United Nations Human Rights Council since 2004.