After two years of debate, the UN committee responsible for reviewing applications from non-government organizations (NGOs) has voted to reject Brazil’s Associação Brasileira de Gays, Lésbicas e Transgêneros (ABGLT) over questions of the group’s position on pedophilia. ABGLT came under scrutiny by the NGO committee over allegations that one of the organization’s founders was being investigated for posting essays promoting pedophilia on his blog.
The NGO Committee member from Egypt urged the committee not to make a rushed decision on any organization where there was even the “slightest shadow of doubt” about its involvement in pedophilia. He argued that the answers provided by AGBLT so far were not sufficient to clear the case and make members comfortable that the NGO did not have any members or associates involved in such a “deplorable act.”
The 19-member NGO committee is a subcommittee of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of five principal organs of the UN which approves and governs participation of all UN NGOs. The NGO Committee uses various criteria to recommend official status, with ultimate authority residing with ECOSOC.
Consultative status is a key means for civil society to access the UN system. Accredited NGOs are invited to participate in UN meetings, can deliver oral and written reports, and may organize events on UN premises.
The committee voted against deferring a decision on AGBLT and rejected the application in a roll call vote of 8 (Guinea, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Sudan, Burundi, China, Egypt) to 6 (Colombia, Israel, Peru, Romania, United Kingdom, United States).
Debates within the NGO committee meetings over applications from homosexual rights groups have become increasingly heated in the last few years. While ECOSOC almost always accepts subcommittee recommendations, it has made exceptions to accredit radical homosexual groups. In two instances, homosexual rights groups have received a negative recommendation from the NGO Committee which the ECOSOC council has subsequently overturned.
After the vote, the representative from the United Kingdom said she deeply regretted the committee’s decision to reject the NGO and that it did nothing more than reinforce the view that the committee could not properly undertake the work for which it was tasked. For years, the United Kingdom has championed homosexual rights groups’ participation in the UN. The UK rep stated, “Simply put, it is their right.”
The observer for the Czech Republic, speaking on behalf of the European Union, associated herself with the statement delivered by the United Kingdom and added that “Withholding its status, the NGO Committee acted in a discriminatory manner against the NGO, which has every right to participate in the work of the UN.”
The observer for Brazil, who had vouched for the organization earlier, said that the committee had failed to evaluate the merits of the organization and instead acted as a “censorship chamber” on what kind of NGOs were allowed to express their views and contribute to the work of the UN.
The ECOSOC council is expected to review the recommendations of NGO Committee at its July session in Geneva.