It is not often that the President of the United States weighs in directly on debates at the UN Economic and Social Council.
The council is a 54 member consultative body that handles all manner of issues at the UN. One of these issues is granting accreditation to NGOs that wish to operate inside the UN and at UN conferences. This process can sometimes get politicized, which was the case with the US-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The group has been seeking credentials since 2007, but was blocked at nearly every turn by a coalition of socially conservative countries, led by Egypt and including Pakistan, Sudan, Russia and China.
This stand-off has become a point of interest here in the United States, both for LGBT rights groups and home-grown social conservatives. Colum Lynch reported earlier this week that two leading social conservatives in the U.S. congress wrote a letter to ECOSOC members urging them to block the group. Moderates and liberals also chimed in, though on behalf of the group.
A few hours ago, the ECOSOC finally voted to give the group consultative status–meaning it has UN credentials. The vote was 23-13 and 13 abstentions. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration, which has been previously supportive of using the UN as a platform to push for LGBT rights internationally, is touting this as a success. What is really surprising, though, is that Obama himself is speaking directly to this issue. In a statement released moments ago, the president said:
I welcome this important step forward for human rights, as the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (ILGHRC) will take its rightful seat at the table of the United Nations. The UN was founded on the premise that only through mutual respect, diversity, and dialogue can the international community effectively pursue justice and equality. Today, with the more full inclusion of the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission, the United Nations is closer to the ideals on which it was founded, and to values of inclusion and equality to which the United States is deeply committed.