In a historic move, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has granted consultative status to three gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)organisations.
The organisations include ILGA-Europe (the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association) and the Danish and German national lesbian and gay associations, LBL and LSVD.
Consultative status granted by the ECOSOC allows these NGOs to enter the United Nations and to participate in its work. Apart from COAL, the Coalition of Activist Lesbians, a group based in Australia, no other LGBT group has been granted this status
“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”, says Rosanna Flamer Caldera, Co-Secretary General of the International Lesbian and Gay Association.
ILGA, a federation of 550 LGBT groups around the world, has been working for a number of years to have issues around sexual orientation and gender identity recognised at the United Nations. The first speech on LGBT rights ever given at the UN, in 1992, was given in the organisation’s name. 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 an apparent demonstration of uneasiness, and in an attempt to avoid debate on the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity, countries sitting at the ECOSOC have consistently postponed the debate.
“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,” says Caldera, adding that, “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.”
Applications from seven other LGBT groups will be considered by the ECOSOC in 2007.