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John Fisher - Arc International reports

in WORLD, 04/12/2006

Nasty procedural wrangling at the ECOSOC

In Spring 2005 ILGA led a campaign to have several LGBT groups apply to gain observer status at the United Nations. The full 53 governements members of the ECOSOC gathered in Geneva this past July. On the table, the applications of ILGA, LBL, LSVD, and ILGA-Europe. In its sittings in January and May, the 19 members New York based NGO Committee which primarily reviews the applications recommended the ECOSOC to reject them all.

John Fisher from Arc International who was present throughout the ECOSOC session reports.

The bottom line: ILGA has been denied consultative status. The ECOSOC rejected proposals to deny status to the Danish group LBL, the German group LSVD and ILGA-Europe. The ECOSOC could not agree however on whether to affirmatively grant these groups status, and substantive consideration has been deferred.

The first group up for consideration was ILGA. We already knew that our margin of support on any of the groups was very narrow, that the USA and Australia would vote against ILGA but in favour of the other 3 groups (primarily because they still associated ILGA with the decade-old NAMBLA/paedophilia debate), that Costa Rica would only support 1 of the 4 groups, and that these factors combined meant that we had a chance with LBL, LSVD and ILGA-Europe, but did not have sufficient support to win the vote on ILGA. What we did not know was how intense and nasty the procedural wrangling would become… Under consideration was a draft decision/recommendation by the NGO Committee proposing “that the Economic and Social Council decides not to grant consultative status to the International Lesbian and Gay Association.” Germany on behalf of the EU proposed an amendment to delete the word “not” and grant status to ILGA. China objected that this was not a valid amendment because it would reverse the intent of the original motion. The Chair inclined to the view that the German proposal was a valid amendment, but Russia moved a no-action motion to prevent further consideration of the German proposal. After (much) debate, the Russian motion was carried 25-21, with 5 abstentions. The ECOSOC then voted on the Committee recommendation to deny ILGA consultative status, and this recommendation was adopted by a vote of 22-19, with 9 abstentions.

Consideration was then given to the NGO Committee recommendation that LBL not be granted consultative status. Again, Germany proposed the deletion of the word “not”, again Russia proposed a no action motion on the German proposal, and again the motion was adopted, this time by a narrower vote of 23-21, with 6 abstentions. Again the Council moved on to consider the Committee recommendation to deny LBL consultative status, but this time the recommendation was rejected adopted by a vote of 19-22, with 9 abstentions. And that’s where confusion really set in: the ECOSOC had voted no-action on the German proposal to grant status, but had also rejected a motion to deny status. Where did that leave LBL? Guinea-Bissau was first off the mark with a proposal to send it back to the NGO Committee (where LBL would certainly be rejected a second time); Germany also made a proposal that the ECOSOC vote to accord status to LBL. The Guinea-Bissau proposal was voted on first, and rejected by a tied vote of 20-20, with 9 abstentions. Germany then pointed out that having rejected a proposal to deny status, and having also rejected a proposal to send it back to Committee, it was time to vote on the only substantive issue remaining: whether to grant status to LBL. This caused no end of consternation. Russia complained that it needed more time to review the application of the NGO, that it would need to consult with capital and vowed “to do everything we can to prevent this”. Ultimately, a motion to adjourn and enable the application to be reconsidered was adopted by a vote of 28-20, with 4 abstentions.

The Committee recommendation to deny LSVD consultative status was rejected by a vote of 20-23, with 7 abstentions. Immediately after the vote, Russia proposed sending it back to the NGO Committee, and Germany proposed an adjournment, which was carried.

The Committee recommendation to deny ILGA-Europe consultative status was rejected by a vote of 22-22, with 6 abstentions. As with LSVD, Russia proposed sending it back to the NGO Committee, and Germany proposed an adjournment, which was carried.

So, three of the four NGOs are still in the running, and many States are committed to ensuring that LGBT groups have a voice at the UN. The ECOSOC is expected to resume consideration of these groups at its December 2006 meeting, and we will keep up the fight to bring to our issues the attention they deserve.

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