Monday, November 22, 2010

How The UN Works

It doesn't work any better than its member countries. An example:

The United Nations has removed a plea for lesbians, gays and bisexuals not to be executed in a narrow vote.

For the last 10 years sexual orientation has been included in a list of discriminatory grounds for executions – gay rights activists say the vote to remove that listing is "dangerous and disturbing."

The UN resolution urges countries to protect the right to life of all people, calling on them to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. Sexual orientation was previously listed as one of these forms of discrimination, alongside ethnicity, religious belief and linguistic minorities.

Others protected by the resolution were human rights defenders (like journalists, lawyers and demonstrators), street children and members of indigenous communities.

But now sexual orientation has been taken out of the list. The amendment was supported by Benin in Africa on behalf of the African Group in the UN General Assembly. It passed on a narrow vote of 79 for, 70 against , 17 abstentions and 26 absent.

Some of those voting to remove sexual orientation were countries where gays are known to be or thought to be executed or summarily killed including Iran, Nigeria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq.
It's unclear what the practical meaning of this is. But I immediately thought of UN's commissions on women's rights and about the foxes which have been assigned to guard the chicken coop there, too.

The lessons in this are twofold: First, the basic work of converting hearts and minds needs to continue. Second, it is cases like this which show why separate justice movements are needed (such as GLBT and feminist movements), rather than a generalized justice movement for all people who are not on top of the hierarchy. It is not just people on the top of the world hierarchy that have the power to oppress others.