Watching and Waiting at the UN

I’ve spent most of this week watching and assisting the Brazilian group ABGLT in the formal process of trying to get consultative status at the United Nations. Consultative status enables NGOs to deliver oral and written reports at UN meetings, organize events on UN premises, and speak out about abuses and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. ABGLT is the first LGBT NGO from the Global South considered for consultative status.

The UN Economic and Social Council grants consultative status to NGOs after reviewing recommendations made by a subsidiary body—the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (often referred to as the NGO Committee)—which is comprised of 19 Member States.  The January 2009 session of the NGO Committee was held this week.

Egypt—leading the opposition to LGBT NGOs—centered the debate on the issue of pedophilia. It expressed disagreement with organizations "promoting a lifestyle that we believe is against human nature.” The Committee voted 7 to 9 against a motion from Egypt to close the debate on the application from ABGLT (which would have had the result that ABGLT could only submit a new application in 2010).  But it also voted 8 to 6 against a motion from Romania to recommend consultative status to ABGLT.  This was how the vote broke down:

6 Yes: Israel, Romania, UK, US, Columbia, Peru
8 No: Burundi, China, Egypt, Guinea, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Sudan
4 Abstentions: Angola, Dominica, India, Turkey
Cuba: not present

Despite how it seems, this is actually a best case scenario, as it means that the NGO Committee’s negative recommendation proceeds to ECOSOC for consideration at its July 2009 session in Geneva (July 9-31). There is a pattern regarding the way LGBT groups obtain consultative status, consisting first of a negative recommendation from the NGO Committee, which then gets overturned by ECOSOC.  We hope that things go well for ABGLT in July.

Adrian Coman