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Student Research Projects

LGBT Equal Rights at the United Nations: The Struggle for NGO Consultative Status

Student Jessie Dawe
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Political Science
Course Independent Research Project


My research will examine lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) equal rights advocacy at the United Nations. The expression "equal rights advocacy" signifies the quest to achieve basic human rights and protections for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
This research is significant for several reasons. First, there has been a lack of attention at the United Nations to the protection of LGBT human rights. No U.N. human rights instruments address sexual orientation or gender identity. Secondly, no NGO specifically representing LGBT advocacy is accredited with consultative status at the U.N., which is the only official means by which NGOs are able to influence and participate in U.N. meetings concerning human rights. International recognition of LGBT equal rights is necessary for the protection of LGBT individuals around the world, but without consultative status NGOs have had limited success.
While progress has been made for some human rights movements, the United Nations has not served as a site for all marginalized groups. In January 2006, the U.N. Non-Governmental Organization Committee of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), for the first time in its history, dismissed the applications of NGOs seeking consultative status without permitting them a standard hearing. Those NGOs included two LGBT human rights groups, the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) and the Danish Association of Gays and Lesbians.

Although to date no LGBT NGO has consultative status, NGOs play a vital role in advancing the LGBT human rights cause. The work of such NGOs is fundamental in transforming domestic and international attitudes and policies that currently deny equal rights to LGBT people. They apply continuous pressure through extensive research and activism that addresses U.N. standards and domestic issues. Such research demonstrates the need for the adoption of LGBT human rights measures at the U.N. by presenting evidence of worldwide human rights abuses against the LGBT community. NGOS are also important at the domestic level because they serve as a vehicle for community action and awareness. However, the voices of such NGOs cannot currently be heard at the U.N. In an effort to explain the lack of LGBT equal rights recognition at the U.N. to date, I will investigate the efforts and progress of key non-governmental organizations representing LGBT equal rights, specifically the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.


VWC Undergraduate Research Grant

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