IGLHRC wins UN battle
by Rex Wockner
Following a grueling last-minute push, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission won consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council on July 19.
After three years of opposition at the committee level, IGLHRC, with a strong assist from the U.S. government, managed to circumvent the obstructionist committee by moving the decision on its status directly to the full ECOSOC, where the vote was 23-13. There were 13 abstentions and five absences.
IGLHRC becomes the 10th LGBT organization to have successfully outgunned U.N. homophobes and achieved consultative status.
"Today's decision is an affirmation that the voices of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have a place at the United Nations as a part of a vital civil society community," Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC's executive director, said in a statement hailing the vote.
Of its long-running battle at the committee level, IGLHRC said: "Despite full compliance with all procedures, IGLHRC faced deferrals, homophobic questioning, and procedural roadblocks in the ECOSOC NGO Committee. ... Today's decision overturned a 'no-action' vote in the NGO [non-governmental organizations] Committee that threatened to establish a dangerous precedent and the possibility of organizations deemed controversial being continuously denied the opportunity to have their application put to a vote even after undergoing the required review."
Ambassador Susan Rice, the United States' permanent U.N. representative, publicly supported IGLHRC's application, along with 14 members of the House of Representatives and four senators, including John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Representative Howard Berman (D-California), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
President Barack Obama welcomed the news, calling it an "important step forward for human rights."
"The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission will take its rightful seat at the table of the United Nations," Obama said. "The U.N. was founded on the premise that only through mutual respect, diversity, and dialogue can the international community effectively pursue justice and equality. Today, with the more full inclusion of [IGLHRC], the United Nations is closer to the ideals on which it was founded, and to values of inclusion and equality to which the United States is deeply committed."
With its new status, IGLHRC will be able to attend meetings, submit statements, and collaborate with the U.N. and national governments on human rights issues.
"We celebrate this decision," said Toni Reis, president of Brazil's Associação Brasileira de Lésbicas, Gays, Bissexuais, Travestis e Transexuais, which, in 2009, achieved ECOSOC consultative status.
"It is crucial that LGBT NGOs have the opportunity to participate in the U.N. human rights debate – though in the future, organizations should receive full and fair reviews before the NGO Committee itself," he said.
Voting for IGLHRC were Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Malta, Norway, Peru, Poland, Slovenia, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay.
Voting against the group were Bangladesh, China, Comoros, Egypt, Malaysia, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Zambia.
Abstaining were Bahamas, Ivory Coast, Ghana, India, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Philippines, Rwanda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Turkey and Ukraine. Not present were Cameroon, Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Iraq, and St. Lucia.