Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gays represented in the UN

For the first time ever since the estblishment of the United Nations, gay-interest organisations have been granted consultative status which allows them to vote in the Economic and Social Council!

The recognition of three gay-interest organisations-- the International Lesbian and Gay Federation--Europe (ILGA), Danish National Association for Gays (LBL) and Lesbians, and German Lesbian and Gay Federation (LSVD)--means that the UN is taking the rights of the LGBT community seriously.

Previous applications for consultative status were rejected because of strong oppossition from countries like Iran, Poland and the Vatican, and many church-based non-governmental organisations.

Chairman of the oldest gay-interest organisation in the world, the Dutch COC, a founding member of ILGA, said:

" The decision is an important step to get the rights of all gays, lesbians, bisxuals and transgenders recognised as human rights. It is a struggle against those countries where homosexuality is still in the criminal code, if not then [punished] with the death sentence."

The status of COC will be dealt with in 2007, and should be approved easily since it has existed for as long as the UN, and even been granted Royal recognition here in the Netherlands.

There seemed to be some commotion about the granting of consultative status today, because apparently various gay-interest NGOs applied, but only three managed to get approved. Many states complained that the approvals and rejections were done in haste and were very arbitrary and no reasons were given for the decisions that were made.

Finland, representing the European Union argued “the United Nations must try to ensure diversity in the representation of those groups. That was especially true of non-governmental organizations whose mandates fell under the competence of the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies , since much of their work dealt with matters of health, gender, development and human rights and HIV/AIDS”. It is unrealistic that some 2800 NGOs, representing a range of issues, some espousing “ views that were not in keeping with those of the European Union”, are already in the ECOSOC, whereas gay-interest NGOs are not.

Norway (also in favour, and speaking on behalf of New Zealand) complained that the Non-Governmental Organization Committee which admits NGOs into the ECOSOC did not consider the applications of various gay-interest NGOs objectively. Some organisations had their applications rejected without any substantive discussion and no reason given, despite the fact “there was extensive evidence of violations of the rights of people, based on their sexual orientation and gender identity”. Canada (in favour) also supported this view, and argued “it was crucial for non-governmental organizations representing diverse constituencies to be able to express their views in United Nations forums”. Germany (for) expressed similar concerns,

China (against) on the other hand expressed concern granting consultative status to gay-interest NGOs, saying that it might undermine the “credibility” of the Committee, and hoping that today’s decision would not “create any precedents for its future work”. Benin (against) called the decision a “masquerade”, because the hasty way that consultative status was granted was sowing “confusion for the benefit of certain organizations”. Russia also voted against, for similar reasoning.

ECOSOC Resolution 1996/31 provides the criteria for eligibility. An NGO must have "aims and purposes of the organization shall be in conformity with the spirit, purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations", and must "have been in existence (officially registered with the appropriate government authorities as an NGO/non-profit) for at least two years, must have an established headquarters, a democratically adopted constitution, authority to speak for its members, a representative structure, appropriate mechanisms of accountability and democratic and transparent decision-making processes".

It's hard to see how it took so long to have gay-interest NGOs included in the ECOSOC. I mean if the 'International Organization for Biological Control of Noxious Animals and Plants' or the 'International Music Council', the 'Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs', and the 'International Black Sea Club' can be included why not LGBT interest groups?

No disrespect to those groups, but it's just a little bewildering that it took 61years for the UN to recognise that gays need representation too...

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