On Monday in New York, the United States spearheaded a successful effort in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to accredit the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), a U.S.-based NGO whose respected work over 20 years has shed light on discrimination, combated HIV/AIDs, and promoted human rights around the world. The move, which President Barack Obama called an “important step forward for human rights,” enriches the community of NGOs that inform, influence, and hold accountable UN members.
“The UN was founded on the premise that only through mutual respect, diversity, and dialogue can the international community effectively pursue justice and equality,” President Obama said. “Today, with the more full inclusion of the [IGLHRC], the United Nations is closer to the ideals on which it was founded, and to values of inclusion and equality to which the United States is deeply committed.”
Before Monday, no LGBT rights organizations with UN special consultative status were based in the U.S. Out of more than 3,000 accredited NGOs, only nine focused primarily on LGBT rights. Only one of those operated internationally.
Before the vote, the IGLHRC had to navigate a maze of barriers thrown up by some members of the 19-member UN Committee on NGOs, culminating in a “no action” motion in May. On Monday, despite opposition, the U.S. pushed a resolution directly to ECOSOC to grant the IGLHRC special consultative status, resulting in a debate and a vote. After 23 countries voted “yes,” 13 voted “no,” and 13 abstained, the IGLHRC won.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said, “The vote was a significant achievement for all those who work to see the United Nations embody its founding principles and advance the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
Alex McPhillips is Press Officer, U.S. Mission to the UN