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Thursday, December 14, 2006

LGBT organisations recognized by UN-ECOSOC

Historic recognition of LGBT organisations at the United Nations: one of ILGA’s regions and two of its members granted consultative status.

Yesterday, 11 December 2006, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted consultative status to three gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organisations: to ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, to the Danish and German national lesbian and gay association, LBL and LSVD. Consultative status granted by the ECOSOC allows NGOs to enter the United Nations, participate in its work and speak in their own name. No other LGBT group till this day enjoyed this right, apart from COAL, the Coalition of Activist Lesbians, a group based in Australia.

“State homophobia has been hit and will not remain unchallenged anymore,” says Rosanna Flamer Caldera, Co-Secretary General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association. “It is a very special moment for the LGBT movement: this historic decision follows the statement made by Norway at the UN Human Rights Council on behalf of 54 countries, pushing that forum to address sexual orientation and gender identity.

ILGA, a federation of 550 LGBT groups around the world, has been working for a number of years to have sexual orientation and gender identity come out at the United Nations. The first speech at the UN on LGBT rights was given in its name in 1992. In 2006, ILGA held its world conference in Geneva, European headquarters of the United Nations and organised four panels on LGBT issues at the second session of the Human Rights Council. ILGA also initiated a campaign to have an increasing number of LGBT groups apply for ECOSOC status. In a clear demonstration of uneasiness and an attempt to avoid any debate on the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity, countries sitting at the ECOSOC postponed the debate, using procedural manoeuvres from one meeting to another.

“This last meeting of the ECOSOC is the fourth this year where countries have had to discuss these applications from LGBT groups,” comments Rosanna Flamer-Caldera. “Some states argue or fear we may be asking for special rights and use this as an alibi to block us from entering the UN,” she continues. “This is not a question of special rights. It is a basic question of equality and universality of human rights. We demand the right not to be discriminated against on the grounds of who we are, as lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender persons.

On the international level, this starts with the United Nations recognising the mere fact LGBT people exist, that they can organise as groups and, as such, participate in UN work and protest against the many human rights violations we still suffer from around the world”.

ILGA thanks the many NGOs which have supported this campaign - with special recognition to Arc International and ISHR, the International Service for Human Rights.

In 2007, applications from seven other LGBT groups will be considered by the ECOSOC. Patricia Curzi & Stephen Barris ILGA, International Lesbian and Gay Association