Committee on NGOs, by Historic Vote, Approves Openly Lesbian Medical Organization for Special Consultative Status
In a historic vote today, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations recommended special consultative status to a Lesbian medical organization, as it continued to put under scrutiny the dozens of applications before it — approving special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council for 16 organizations and deferring action on 38 applications. During impassioned exchanges about the national-based Australian Lesbian Medical Association, which advances both lesbian health professionals’ visibility and lesbian health in general, the representative of Bulgaria said that the organization had faced postponement for seven consecutive sessions and had answered 54 questions posed to it over the years. The Committee was “systematically deterring” its application. It was time, she stated, to “take a decision”.

The Committee then approved recommendation by vote — 9 in favour to 6 against, with 2 abstentions — of special consultative status to the Australian Lesbian Medical Association. Following the vote, several Members expressed enthusiastic support for the decision, with the United States’ delegate saying she was “thrilled” to be “witnessing history”. The representative of Belgium, who also voted in favour, underscored that the Association, as one of the oldest on the list of deferred organizations, was a “victim of unfair treatment and discrimination” by the Committee. As well, Israel’s representative said today’s vote sent a positive message to all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations that had previously been prevented from receiving consultative status. However, the representative of Sudan, who had voted against, said that “what we just saw” went against Committee methods. It led to a division among Members and could negatively impact future deliberations. Echoing that sentiment, Venezuela’s representative, although she had voted in favour of granting status, said that her position on procedural methods had not change, specifically the right of Members to pose questions to any organizations being consider by the Committee. Decisions must not be “forced”, she said, emphasizing that time criteria could not justify a decision.

The 19-member Committee recommends that the Council grant general, special or roster status, in accordance with such criteria as the applicant’s mandate, governance and financial regime. Organizations enjoying general and special status can attend the Council’s meetings and circulate statements, while those with general status can, in addition, address meetings and propose agenda items. Roster-status non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can only attend meetings.

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