Wednesday, 25 May 2011

At the UN, ILGA loses again; In US, evangelicals train UN delegates

By Paul Canning

The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) has lost its third bid for consultative status as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) at the United Nations.

According to the UN, the procedure followed means that after ten years of applications the ILGA application is now "closed".

The close vote at the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations was lost due to a switch to no by Kygyzstan, the absence of Cuba and the abstentions of Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The session was marked by attempts at blocking actions and a failed attempt at humour by Belgium.

Report from UN watcher Inner City Press:
First, countries which opposed ILGA tried to stop them on a so called no-action vote, emphasizing that the group had declined to answer a new round of questionnaires, calling them discriminatory. In February, as exclusively covered by Inner City Press, ILGA was blocked by a no-action vote, 9-7.

This time the blocking vote failed, 7 to 7 with several abstentions:

US- No. Venezuela- abstain. Belgium- No. Bulgaria- No. Burundi- Yes. China- Yes. India – No. Israel- No. Kyrgyzstan- Abstain. Morocco- Yes. Mozambique- Abstain. Nicaragua- Abstain. Pakistan- Yes. Peru- No. Russia- Yes. Senegal- Yes. Sudan- Yes. Turkey- No

After that vote, Belgium asked the committee chair for “rules of procedure for dummies.” Venezuela took exception to being called a dummy. Things proceeded without humor.
The final vote was:
Sudan- No. Turkey- Yes. US- Yes. Venezuela- Abstain. Belgium- Yes. Bulgaria- Yes. Burundi- No. China- No. India- Yes. Israel –Yes. Kygryzstan – No. Morocco- No. Mozambique- Abstain. Nicaragua- Abstain. Pakistan- No. Peru- Yes. Russia – No. Senegal- No.
Belgium, who moved the consultatative status request, said:

Noting that it was the organization’s third request for consultative status, he said it had been harassed by individuals in the Committee because of its lesbian and gay identity.  Committee members might hold different views, he asserted, but the NGO should finally be given a reply that was “adult enough” to acknowledge that difference of opinion.

Belgium’s representative, however, said it was with a feeling of bitterness and shame that he observed Committee members hiding behind procedural issues instead of focusing on the true substance of the issue at hand.  Sharing that view, the representative of the United States said it was time for the Committee to stop judging NGOs based on “who they love”; it should conduct its consideration based on the letter of the law.  The Economic and Social Council had sent a message that it was unacceptable to close its doors to groups like the International Lesbian and Gay Association, and her delegation would again call on the Council so that justice could be done for this NGO.
The Burundi delegation had wanted to ask questions about paedophilia and the refusal by ILGA, supported by Belgium and other countries, to answer questions was based on them all being previously answered. Nevertheless the Venezuela delegate said that Venezuala:
Guaranteed the rights and freedoms of all individuals and the delegation did not have a problem with conferring status on the NGO, its representative said she had abstained for reasons of procedure.  She noted that Committee members had the right to ask questions and, that afternoon, they had seen an attempt to force the granting of status fail.  It was unfortunate that a clumsy measure had led to closing the organization’s application.

Likewise, the representative of Nicaragua said that, while the political Constitution of Nicaragua ensured that all individuals were equal before the law, her delegation had abstained because of procedural issues and the belief that delegates should be able to ask questions and receive replies.
The American investigative reporter Kerry Eleveld (formally of The Advocate) reports that a right-wing American evangelical group has been hosting and training UN delegates:
The Arizona-based Family Watch International (FWI) hosted “26 UN delegates from 23 different countries” at a policy forum in January that provided “expert presentations” and policy briefings about “how to better protect and promote the family and family values at the UN,” according to an FWI newsletter written by the organization’s president, Sharon Slater.
“The list of governments represented read like a geography lesson, as diplomats from countries around the globe-including from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean Islands-met in Gilbert in January,” trumpeted an article that has since been removed from the website of the Arizona Beehive, a publication that serves Arizona’s Mormon population. 
Slater’s newsletter characterizes the presentations at the meeting as providing information on “how the UN system is being manipulated by sexual rights activists to promote the sexual agenda” and adds that “the institution of the family is being undermined by these efforts.” 
According to invitations distributed to attendees and obtained by Equality Matters the two-day session included briefings by lawyers on family policy issues dealt with by the UN’s Third Committee ­­­– the social, humanitarian, and cultural affairs committee – and those addressed by subsidiary bodies of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), including the Commissions on the Status of Women, Sustainable Development, and Population and Development.
“Delegates will be provided with current research, statistics, and resources on a number of sensitive family issues that will be negotiated at upcoming UN conferences in 2011,” says the invitation.
The presentations, Eleveld reports, covered "successfully reorienting from homosexuality to heterosexuality", a process which has been scientifically proved to not work but nevertheless is central to the anti-gay rhetoric in countries like Uganda.

Her report goes on to examine whether US HIV/Aids prevention money, which amounts to billions of dollars, is making its way to right-wing evangelical organisations and churches in Africa. Tracking such money is difficult because various rules means that financial disclosure is not always required.

She also covers the efforts of anti-feminist US evangelicals to work at the UN with Islamic and majority Muslim states.
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