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Report on ILGA’s activities at the UN in 2006

in WORLD, 05/12/2006

Organising our Coming Out at the United Nations

“An increasing number of governments and NGOs acknowledge the necessity of a UN resolution to recognise and protect the rights of LGBT people around the world. The time to debate, the time for sexual orientation and gender identity, for our community as a whole to come out at the United Nations may be approaching”. Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Co-Secretary General of ILGA.

The statement delivered by Norway this Friday December 1 is but a step, a glorious and historic one with the greatest government support ever, in a process started in 1992 with the first speech on gay rights ever given at the United Nations. An arduous process which fortunately and unexpectedly went through an acceleration in 2003 when Brazil presented the first resolution banning discrimination on sexual orientation and gender identity.

One of the most fortunate and still standing achievements of the unsuccesful resolution proposed by Brazil has been to witness these last three years the various social and civil movements increasingly come together around sexual orientation and gender identity.

Though the Brazilian resolution was never properly debated on the substance, this groundbreaking text has helped mainstream LGBT rights in the Human Rights agenda of the UN. It also coincided with international human rights NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Global Rights, the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights dedicating specific resources to this agenda and sometimes opening LGBT departments. Our movement can also count on the support of world trade unions such as Public Services International and the International Trade Union Confederation.

Not only have those international players, together with LGBT international groups, ILGA and ILGA members ARC International and IGLHRC, started joining forces, but the coordination between local groups and those working directly on the UN agenda has become more solid and effective as well. Along this process, which saw an increasing number of LGBT activists attend the former UN Commision on Human Rights, now Human Rights Council, more and more LGBT national and local groups have started to integrate international work in their agendas. These last days, groups in Peru, Chile, South Africa, Brazil, The Philippines, to name but a few, have contacted their foreign affairs ministries to insist on having their governments endorse the Norwegian statement.

This has been a collective effort and victory. Our movement can only grow stronger when its awareness of the importance of international work is increasing, when it builds its capacity to mobilize and coordinate its work amongst all members of our community, from international ones to national and even local groups” says Beto de Jesus, ILGA Board Member for the Latin American and Caribbean Region and member of the Board of ABGLT, Brazil's LGBT federation.

ILGA, as the only worldwide federation of LGBT groups, has played its role in this process, essentially by facilitating access of LGBT activists to UN Human Rights meetings so that they can speak on their own behalf, and by acting as an international platform.

ILGA’s efforts to have sexual orientation and gender identity come out at the United Nations grew in importance in 2006 and organised around three aspects:

- Gaining the right to speak in our own name at the United Nations: the ECOSOC campaign
In 2005 and 2006, ILGA initiated a campaign to have an increasing number of LGBT groups apply for ECOSOC status, in other words, the right to enter the United Nations and speak in our own name.

- ILGA held its XXIII World Conference in Geneva, home of the UN Human Rights Council
Some 220 activists joined ILGA for their XXIII World Conference which took place in Geneva, as voted by its members at the previous world conference in Manila, 2003. The date of the conference was postponed to April 2006 in order to coincide with the United Nations Commission of Human Rights. Unfortunately, the Commission went under radical reform that year and did not meet except for its dissolution. Activists gathered in Geneva had the chance to meet their country representatives at the UN thanks to the initiative of ARC International.

- Maintaining an LGBT presence at the Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council held its first session in June 2006, after the dissolution of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in April. Thanks to the support of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ILGA brought 26 activists from around the world to Geneva for the second session of the Human Rights Council, held in October 2006. Activists participated in a training on Human Rights mechanisms at the UN, liaised with their permanent missions and attended the UNHRC. ILGA organised four public panels within the United Nations.

Speeches given on LGBT rights in the plenary in 2006

ILGA at the United Nations in 2005
How long will LGBT Rights be ignored by the UN?
Speeches given by activists in 2005

ILGA at the United Nations in 2004
ILGA - Supporting the Brazilian resolution
Speeches given by activists in 2004

Other resources
A list of resources to better understand the debate on sexual orientation and gender identity at the UN
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