Gaining the right to speak in our own name at the United Nations
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups still face discrimination in accessing UN consultative status
February 11, 2008 - New York, U.S.A. The United Nations Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations refused ECOSOC status to three lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups.
In a tie vote, the committee recommended denial of ECOSOC consultative status to the Spanish LGBT federation, Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales (FELGTB). It also 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 which was deferred for the second time. Both NGOs will be therefore reconsidered in the upcoming NGO Committee session of May. The three organizations had applied for ECOSOC consultative status at the UN, an observer status which allows Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to participate in UN Sessions.
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.
Beto de Jesus (ABGLT - Brazil) says: “Being deferred for the second time is obviously frustrating. We are looking forward to have our association become the first one coming from the Southern hemisphere to officially and permanently represent the voice of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender people in an UN forum ” says Beto de Jesus who represented ABGLT, a federation gathering over 200 LGBT groups in Brazil. “The fact we were presented a rather long list of questions on the eve of the review of our application shows again how determined is our opposition”.
Joyce Hamilton (COC – The Netherlands) says: "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."
The Spanish Federation (which was also deferred previously) received a negative recommendation in a tied vote. The NGO Committee only proceeded to voting on FELGTB’s application after defeating a motion by Egypt, Pakistan and Qatar to again defer their application. The motion to recommend status was defeated in a tied vote of 7 Yes, 7 No, 4 Abstain and 1 not present (voting a motion to grant which results in a tie counts as a vote not to grant). This is a big improvement from the vote on ILGA and LBL two years ago which were voted down by a margin of 9 No and 5 Yes.
Voting totals on granting consultative status:
Yes: Columbia, Dominica, Israel, Peru, Romania, UK, USA
No: Burundi, China, Egypt, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, SudanAbstentions: Angola, Guinea, India, Turkey
Not present: Cuba
Toni Poveda and Sylvia Jaén, President and Secretary general of FELGTB had to answer over 20 questions over the organizational aspects of the association, political positions and were asked to clarify the federation’s comitment to the the rights of the Child. They of course regretted that the recommendation was negative but recognize how this vote allows FELGTB to get its application to the next stage: a vote on this recommendation by the full ECOSOC in its July session.
Toni Poveda (FELGTB - Spain) says: “Even getting this negative recommendation was difficult in the NGO Committee today. Representatives of Egypt, Pakistan, and Qatar constantly came up with additional questions for us and claimed that proceeding to a vote on whether or not to grant consultative status to the group - before all questions are answered - would constitute preferential treatment to this NGO. UK, Romania, and others disagreed, considering that the NGO Committee received sufficient information in order to make a decision during this session This session showed clearly how rights of LGBT’s are the last frontier in the field of universal human rights”.From her side, Sylvia Jaén (FELGTB) wished to mention “the major support we’ve had 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. We were succesfull in overcoming this situation but unfortunately our Dutch and Brazilian friends were not”.
The nature of the questions LGBT human rights defenders were asked, repeatedly trying to link homosexuality and pedophilia, 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. In the concluding comments, the UK stressed that the NGO Committee discriminates against LGBT NGO applicants and that it is the right of this community to have their voice heard at the UN. Romania also regretted the outcome of the second motion and the fact that the NGO Committee "engaged in a blatant act of discrimination today," and pointed out the pattern established for LGBT NGOs to be rejected in the NGO Committee and then approved in the plenary of ECOSOC, wondering where the NGO Committee is heading with this practice.
Philipp Braun, Co-secretary general of ILGA, the International Lesbian and Gay Association says:“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 2 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. ILGA also wishes to thank Adrian Coman from the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) for giving support to their lobbying at the Committee”. Background InformationIn 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 organizations: 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.
Contact: Stephen Barris / ILGA 00 32 2 502 24 71www.ilga.org