Leading LGBTI organisation receives UN accreditation

30.07.2014

ARC International is accorded UN consultative status but the need to challenge discrimination in the process of civil society accreditation continues.

ARC International is accorded UN consultative status but the need to challenge discrimination in the process of civil society accreditation continues

(New York) A leading lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights advocacy organisation, ARC International, has had the doors to the United Nations finally opened to it through the accordance of UN ‘consultative status’.

The development follows a recent successful vote for ARC International by the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is a significant move because it means ARC International, which works for the improvement of LGBTI rights through the UN system, will now be able to directly engage in more UN activities and mechanisms.

ARC International Co-Director Kim Vance said the organisation was very pleased to have been accorded the UN consultative status.

‘For us as an organisation, which has been working in UN spaces for many years, it means we are better able to achieve one of our core missions, which is to facilitate access to the UN mechanisms,’ she said.

With consultative status NGOs have the right to make oral and written statements, and to organise panel discussions at the UN, in their own name.  Until now, ARC has had to rely on other organisations to assist it in carrying out its work. 

‘We would like to thank our civil society partners who have enabled us to conduct our work within UN spaces over the last ten years, especially the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network and ILGA-Europe’ said Kim Vance. 

‘We would also like to thank ISHR for its valuable support throughout this process.’

ISHR has worked with many human rights groups to support their applications for UN consultative status.

Pooja Patel, who leads ISHR’s work on LGBTI Human Rights Defenders, said ISHR is delighted that ARC has received the accreditation as it will enable the organisation to continue and expand its valuable work to promote LGBTI rights and combat discrimination at the UN.

LGBTI organisations continue to face discrimination at the UN

Whilst ARC’s accreditation is a hugely positive development, many LGBTI organisations and others continue to face a highly politicised and discriminatory process when applying for consultative status.

Their applications continue to be delayed by the NGO Committee – effectively the gatekeeper of full rights of access to the UN for NGOs. It is this Committee that makes recommendations to ECOSOC, which then has the ultimate approval on applications for consultative status. 

ISHR has consistently spoken out against the politicization of the accreditation process for NGOs and the discriminatory practice of the NGO Committee. 

'It discredits the UN as a whole when the NGO Committee is seen to reject or unduly delay NGO applications for accreditation just because some States oppose their views or disagree with the content of their work,' said ISHR’s New York Advocacy Director Michelle Evans.

Drawing on the experience of engaging with the Committee, ARC Co-Director John Fisher said ‘LGBTI groups, and those working on sexual and reproductive rights, continue to face systemic obstacles before ECOSOC's NGO Committee. This must stop if the NGO Committee is to fulfil its mandate in a credible and non-discriminatory manner.’

States support a non-discriminatory process for accreditation

States have also lamented the practice of the NGO Committee in limiting NGOs’ rights of association and expression, and have consistently spoken in favour of accreditation of organisations covering the full spectrum of human rights.

In a joint statement of 14 July to ECOSOC, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay said, ‘The independent character, diversity and pluralism of those that form and act in conformity with the principles and aims of the Charter, should be the only criteria considered by the NGO Committee in an objective manner, to decide on according consultative status before ECOSOC’.  Furthermore they warned the Committee that it should not in any circumstance operate as a ‘forum for undue questioning, sanctions or reprisals’ against NGOs for their opinions or the work they carry out. 

The States went on to confirm that the recommendation to accord ARC International for consultative status, ‘was in line with strengthening the diversity of voices that our Organisation should embrace.’

‘We very much welcome the important statement made by Chile, Mexico and Uruguay in underlining the true purpose and role of the NGO Committee,’ said Ms Patel.

‘ISHR also considers undue delay in the processing of applications to be a form of reprisal, hindering NGOs’ access to international bodies. We call on other States to show their commitment to enabling and protecting the work of civil society by similarly demanding the NGO Committee act in a non-discriminatory fashion when considering NGO applications for consultative status.’    

Read more on the process of ARC’s application for consultative status and the functioning of the NGO Committee here

Contact: Pooja Patel, International Service for Human Rights, p.patel@ishr.ch

Contact: Pooja Patel, International Service for Human Rights, at p.patel@ishr.chContact: Pooja Patel, International Service for Human Rights, at p.patel@ishr.ch
Contact: Pooja Patel, International Service for Human Rights, at p.patel@ishr.ch
Contact: Pooja Patel, International Service for Human Rights, at p.patel@ishr.ch
Contact: Pooja Patel, International Service for Human Rights, at p.patel@ishr.ch