First Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Organization from the Global South to Gain Consultative Status
(Geneva, JuUnited Nations: First Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Organization fly 27, 2009) The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted consultative status today to the Brazilian Federation of LGBT Groups (Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas e Transgêneros, ABGLT), the first LGBT organization from the Southern Hemisphere to receive it, a coalition of human rights organizations said today.
“This is a victory for the human rights of LGBT people,” said Toni Reis, president of ABGLT, who thanked the Brazilian Government for their support, and the other countries that voted for ABGLT. He added that ABGLT will fight for the rights of LGBT people globally, including in the 80 countries where consenting same-sex relations between adults are still a crime, in seven of them the punishment being the death penalty.
“We greatly appreciate the support of the Brazilian government, which was fundamental in this process,” added Alexandre Böer, of Somos a member group of ABGLT. “The strong statement delivered by Uruguay on behalf of all Mercosur and Associated States also underlined that this is viewed as a fundamental human rights issue throughout the region.”
Consultative status is a key means for civil society to access the UN system. It allows non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to deliver oral and written reports at UN meetings, and to organize events on UN premises. With it, LGBT NGOs are able to share information and analysis of the abuses and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity taking place around the world.
ECOSOC, consisting of 54 member states of the UN, grants consultative status to NGOs after reviewing recommendations made by its subsidiary body—the NGO Committee—which screens the applications. At its July session in Geneva today, the ECOSOC voted to overturn a negative recommendation by the NGO Committee, and granted UN consultative status to ABGLT by a vote of 25 to 12, with 13 abstentions. A list of the States’ votes at the current ECOSOC session is included below.
“We congratulate ABGLT for obtaining ECOSOC accreditation. Particularly significant is that support for NGOs working to address human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity continues to increase,” stated John Fisher from ARC International, who coordinated lobbying at the ECOSOC session in Geneva. “This is the largest margin of victory ever for an LGBT NGO seeking ECOSOC accreditation. Today’s decision confirms that human rights concerns related to sexual orientation and gender identity fall squarely within the mandate of the United Nations, and must be addressed by all States.”
“All NGOs should be given the chance to participate in the UN debate, without discrimination,” said Adrian Coman from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, who supported the ABGLT representative at the NGO Committee sessions.
"The accreditation of ABGLT by the ECOSOC Council marks a historic moment in the relations between lgbti NGOs and the UN” said Gloria Careaga and Renato Sabbadini, ILGA co-Secretaries General. “The fact of having an NGO from the Global South giving voice to people discriminated because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the UN will contribute in a very fundamental way to the demolition of the idea LGBTI identities are just a "western construct". We are happy for our friends of ABGLT and know that they will make the best use of the ECOSOC Status acquired this morning."
ABGLT Brazil joins over 3,000 other NGOs with consultative status at the UN. However, only a handful of LGBT groups have received the status. In recent years, some states have treated LGBT groups’ applications with intense hostility. With the exception of COC Netherlands, ECOSOC has only granted such groups consultative status after first overturning negative recommendations from its NGO Committee. ECOSOC approved 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) in December 2006. The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Québec (CGQL) and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) gained consultative status in July 2007. COC Netherlands and the Spanish Federation of LGBT Groups (FEGLT) were granted the status in July 2008. The US-based International Wages Due Lesbians and Australian-based Coalition of Activist Lesbians have had consultative status at the UN for more than a decade.
In 2010, the NGO Committee is due to review applications from other LGBT groups, including Lestime and LOS, both from Switzerland, and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which were deferred from prior sessions.
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Results of the vote:
In favour of granting UN consultative status to ABGLT (25 States):
Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela
Against granting UN consultative status to ABGLT (12 States):
Algeria, Belarus, Cameroon, China, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sudan
Abstentions (13 States):
Barbados, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, India, Kazakhstan, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Philippines, Republic of Moldova, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia
Not present/did not vote (4 States):
Cape Verde, Morocco, Niger, Somalia