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At UN Amid Flag Banging on Gay Rights, Ban's Double Standard, NGOs Deferred, Kafka like UNCA

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 25 -- Countries' name plates were banged down to silence other speakers Friday in a chaotic end to a Kafka-esque week in the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.

  The issue was gay rights, and the break-down between countries was predicable. Belgium spoke in favor of an Austrian LGBT rights group. Sudan spoke in opposition.

   Israel, represented by Yoni Ish-Hurwitz, mentioned its support for the Australian Lesbian Medical Association. This was immediately opposed by Morocco. But the chair said Morocco's was not a point of order.

 Afterward several pro gay rights delegates snarked to Inner City Press that "some Arab men seem so very scared of homosexuality," even that a particular monarch in the region might himself be gay.

  Earlier at the day's UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked the spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon:

Inner City Press: is it true that the UN has a policy of only recognizing homosexual partnerships or domestic partnerships if the staff members at issue come from a country that itself recognizes these domestic partnerships, that if not, there is no rights within the UN either for partners or pensions, benefits, travel, all of the above. Is that true?

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: The Secretary-General, as you know, has been quite outspoken when speaking about the rights for the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] community. And he is fully aware of the concerns of staff members from that… from the community, the LGBT community. And I know that the Secretariat on his instructions is looking into what can be done. There are complications, because of national legislation in some cases. But, certainly, the Secretary-General has undertaken, through colleagues in the Secretariat, to look into this matter. The key point here is that he has been a clear advocate for the rights of the LGBT community and I think that is recognized by people in the community.

  Hours later after the NGO Committee session, a prominent anti-gay speaker told Inner City Press, please don't write about this. Another, more reasonable, said that their questions for the NGO in question shouldn't be answered by a member state but by the NGO itself.

  But in this committee the NGOs are rarely heard. Inner City Press spent the morning beside the South African representative of the group Ilitha Labantu, described as " aiming to provide immediate access to support and education services around violence against women and children and to provide counseling to survivors of violence."

  To this, Sudan formally asked how the group defines "survivors of violence;" the group was also asked about its finances. Belgium noted that the information is in the audited financial statement, but agreed that more questions would be sent to the group.

  But sent how? Throughout Friday morning, the NGO's representative asked to see the questions, so she could answer them while still in New York. The goal of questions, often, is simply to stall or delay the group. This is true not only on the way in -- when a group is applying for accreditation with ECOSOC -- but even on the after-arising reports.

The representative of one human rights - challenged country on the committee told Inner City Press, we keep blocking acceptance of the reports, if this happens for two cycles the groups come running to us, offering to take things off their web sites.

  An observer not on the NGO Committee, when Inner City Press told him this story, joked that maybe after the reports were accepted, the human rights groups would change their web sites back to the original.

  There was talk Friday about arranging a session on Tuesday for a seemingly much-needed discussion of the NGO Committee's "working methods."

  But ironically, in terms of another dysfunctional UN related organization, the UN Correspondents Association has set up a meeting at that time to serve the desire of correspondent Louis Charbonneau of Reuters which unlike Foreign Policy's The Cable which ran a follow-up story giving credit to Inner City Press, stole Inner City Press' exclusive story that US official Jeffrey Feltman will replace Lynn Pascoe atop the UN Department of Political Affairs to eject Inner City Press through a Kafka-esque kangaroo court.

  Yet none of these correspondents even came to or covered the NGO Committee. It's a shame: they would fit right in...

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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