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ECOSOC: LGBT voices at the United Nations / LBL (Denmark), ILGA-Europe and LSVD (Germany)

in WORLD, 13/12/2006

United Nations Grants Consultative Status to LGBT organisations: Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians (LBL), ILGA-Europe and Lesbian and LSVD, Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany.

(United Nations, New York, NY, December 13, 2006) At long last, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted consultative status to three lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) non-governmental organizations (NGOs) addressing human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The consultative status will allow these LGBT NGOs to work directly on human rights and other issues of importance to the LGBT community by allowing access to UN meetings, delivery of oral and written reports, contact with country representatives, and organizing events to facilitate understanding of the abuse and discrimination that LGBT people face around the world.

Adrian Coman, IGLHRC’s Program Manager, congratulated the UN’s newest consultants and stated, “Their addition to the UN NGO family gives more credibility to the United Nations itself. This decision paves the way for LGBT groups from Africa, Asia, and Latin America whom we hope, in the future, will be granted consultative status so that a more global representation of LGBT voices at the UN is ensured.”

Currently, there are about 2,800 NGOs with consultative status with the UN. After nearly a year of delays and procedural votes, the ECOSOC vote this week overturns the prior decision of its NGO Committee which rejected the applications of the three groups, the Danish National Association for Gay and Lesbians (LBL), The European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe), and the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD).

ECOSOC consists of 54 member states of the United Nations. Nearly half of the members voted in favor of the LGBT groups, with 24 supporting the German group and 23 voting for ILGA-Europe and the Danish organization. The 10 to 11 abstaining states gave the groups the majority needed for official status to the UN. The supporting votes came mainly from European countries, as well as Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Australia, Canada and the United States. Costa Rica also voted in favor of the German group. South Africa, with the first constitution in the world supporting LGBT rights, chose to abstain.

On hand on Monday at the United Nations to lend last minute support for the resolutions granting official status to the three groups were Adrian Coman from the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), John Fisher from the Canadian ARC International, and Kurt Krickler who represented the three applicant NGOs.

While the UN's decision this week ends years of effort by LGBT groups to seek consultative status, they are not the first to have been granted such status. The US-based International Wages Due Lesbians and Australian-based Coalition of Activist Lesbians have had consultative status at the UN for years. In addition, ILGA, a world-wide federation of LGBT groups, succeeded in its effort to gain entry to the UN in the early nineties only to be stripped of the status at the urging of former United States Senator Jesse Helms, a long-time opponent of the LGBT community.

Prior to the vote, Finland’s representative spoke on behalf of the European Union to support the LGBT groups’ accreditation, saying that LGBT groups’ presence at the UN adds diversity to the voices expressed there and is in line with the ECOSOC’s focus on issues such as health, gender, development, human rights, and HIV/AIDS. Another public statement from the Canadian delegation praised the proposal as part of an effort to create an “inclusive United Nations.” Germany, Norway, and New Zealand also voiced their support.

"As a community, we have pushed through the glass ceiling at the United Nations, and look forward to working with our colleagues to promote greater awareness and response to the human rights violations faced by our communities around the world," said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC's Executive Director.

With ARC International and other supportive NGO's working with the UN, IGLHRC plans to support colleague organizations from the Global South who are seeking accreditation and wish to bring their voices to the United Nations process.

A full list of states’ voting patterns during Monday’s ECOSOC session

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