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United Nations Grants Official Status to US-Based International LGBT Rights Group
A victory against homophobic silencing of civil society
NEW YORK - On July 19, 2010, the full United Nations Economic and Social Council
(ECOSOC) voted in favor of a US-led resolution to grant the
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
consultative status. IGLHRC is only the tenth organization working
primarily for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) human
rights to gain such status at the United Nations.
"Today's decision is an affirmation that the voices of
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have a place at the
United Nations as part of a vital civil society community," said Cary
Alan Johnson, IGLHRC Executive Director. "The clear message here is that
these voices should not be silenced and that human rights cannot be
denied on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity."
The resolution passed with 23 in favor, 13 against, 13
abstentions and 5 absences.
This victory is particularly significant, coming as it
does after a prolonged 3-year application process in the sub-committee
that makes initial recommendations on status. 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-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.
The vote also signals a recognition of the important role
of a diverse and active civil society at the UN. In support of progress
on IGLHRC's application, a group of over 200 NGOs from 59 countries endorsed a letter to all
UN Member States, demanding fair and non-discriminatory treatment and
supporting IGLHRC's goal of amplifying LGBT voices in the international
"As human rights defenders and LGBT people living in
countries where homophobic discrimination is a daily reality, we
celebrate the accreditation of IGLHRC at the UN," said Frank Mugisha,
Chairperson of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), one of 13 NGOs from
Uganda to publicly call for IGLHRC to be accredited. "IGLHRC's access to
the UN means that we too will have greater access to international
human-rights mechanisms that can prove invaluable to LGBT people's
The government of the United States stood strongly behind
IGLHRC's application, calling for a vote in both the NGO Committee and
ECOSOC. Ambassador Susan Rice, US Permanent Representative to the
United Nations, publicly supported IGLHRC's application.
Additionally, 14 members of the US House of Representatives and 4
Senators sent letters of support for IGLHRC's application to all UN
Member States. Among them were Senator John Kerry, Chair of the
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Congressman Howard Berman,
Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The victory continues the upward trajectory for LGBT
rights at the UN. It allows IGLHRC to participate in a more formal way
through attending meetings, submitting statements and collaborating with
the UN and governments in the international human-rights arena.
"We celebrate this decision," stated Toni Reis, president
of the Brazilian LGBT group, Associação Brasileira de Lésbicas, Gays,
Bissexuais, Travestis e Transexuais (ABGLT) - that in 2009 was the last LGBT organization to receive
status. "It is crucial that LGBT NGOs have the opportunity to
participate in the UN human rights debate - though in future,
organizations should receive full and fair reviews before the NGO
Despite the limited opportunities offered to
non-accredited NGOs, IGLHRC has a long history of advocating at the UN
for the rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation and
gender identity. The organization advocated for sexual rights to be
included in the official discussions at the 1995 UN Fourth World
Conference on Women in Beijing; spoke at the first UN General Assembly
meeting on HIV and AIDS in 2001; and in recent years has been part of a
collaboration between NGOs and supportive States that resulted in the
groundbreaking 2008 UNGA Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender
Identity, signed by 67 UN Member States.
The votes on this resolution granting IGLHRC special
consultative status were as follows:
Vote For - 23
- Rep. of Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
Votes Against - 13
- Russian Fed.
- Saudi Arabia
Abstaining - 13
- Cote D'Ivoire
- Rep. of Moldova
- Saint Kitts & Nevis
Absent - 5
- Saint Lucia
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The mission of The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) is advancing human rights for everyone, everywhere to end discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. A non-profit, non-governmental organization, IGLHRC is based in New York, with offices in Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Visit http://www.iglhrc.org for more information.