The Geneva based non-governemtal human rights organisation called on the UN Secretary General to take action.
UN Watch has called for the countries responsible for excluding 22 gay and transgender rights groups from the UNGA’s high level meeting on ending AIDS to be ‘named and shamed’ by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The meeting, organised by UN AIDS, will see heads of state, cabinet ministers, corporate executives and people living with HIV discussing how to accelerate the response to HIV over the next five years – with the goal of setting the world on course to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
United Nations Member States are expected to adopt a Political Declaration on Ending AIDS, to scale up the pace of progress in combatting the epidemic.
However, a group of over 50 Muslim states have reportedly blocked LGBT organisations from attending the meeting, meaning their expertise and experience with HIV and the AIDS epidemic will go unheard.
The ban was reportedly requested by Egypt, in a letter sent on behalf of 51 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, allegedly backed by Russia, Cameroon and Tanzania.
Via a statement today, UN Watch allege that the UN refuses to release the text barring the LGBT organisations, but it was reportedly seen by the Associated Press and others.
“By barring activists from this conference because of their sexual orientation, the UN is committing a gross violation of the equality and anti-discrimination guarantees of its own Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.
“The discrimination is particularly absurd and pernicious in the context of this HIV summit, because it silences the voices of those who suffer most from the problem the summit is supposed to address, with transgender people 49 times more likely than others to be infected by HIV.”
UN Watch also note in their statement that Mr Ban commented last week that he was “opposed to the exclusion of LGBT organisations from the conference, noting that “NGO’s are close to communities affected by the epidemic and they must be part of the response.”
“This is welcome but insufficient,” responded executive director Neuer. “The only way to stop non-democracies from the escalating and widespread phenomenon of NGOs being barred from normal UN participation is for the head of the organisation to call out serial offenders and hold them to account. Unless the enemies of civil society are named and shamed, they will continue to block human rights activists—especially gay rights defenders—with impunity.”
UN Watch also notes that this is not an isolated incident, when Mr Ban recognised same-sex marriage for UN staffers in 2014, a coalition of 44 States – including Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and Syria – tried, but failed, to block the move.
When news first broke of the LGBT organisations being barred from the talks, US Ambassador to the UN, and long standing advocate for LGBT rights, Samantha Power wrote to General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft in protest.
“Given that transgender people are 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than the general population, their exclusion from the high-level meeting will only impede global progress in combating the HIV/Aids pandemic,” Ambassador Power said.
“We are deeply concerned that at every negotiation on a new general assembly gathering, the matter of NGO [non-governmental organisation] participation is questioned and scrutinised.
“The movement to block the participation of NGOs on spurious or hidden grounds is becoming epidemic and severely damages the credibility of the UN.”
GT has approached the UN for comment.