The World Health Assembly recently passed a resolution led by Italy to grant the Vatican, which opposes sexual and reproductive rights, a formal role in UN health talks.
Last year, openDemocracy revealed that a US Christian Right group had trained African government officials to lobby against sex education that is LGBT-inclusive.
Today’s report identifies a range of ways in which anti-rights groups have “infiltrated the UN” – including such trainings to influence government delegates and campaigns to “water down” human rights agreements.
While some of these anti-rights groups “seek to infiltrate and shape the system to their aims […] others seek to undermine the system,” the report continues, noting that some have also campaigned to defund UN agencies including the World Health Organization.
NGOs can apply for ‘consultative status’ at the UN, which gives them access to meetings, state delegates and UN officials, and the ability to host side events. Progressive groups have used this status to advocate at the UN for years, but now a growing number of ultra-conservative organisations are adopting the same tactic.
Some governments – including the former Trump administration in the US – have also invited groups that oppose women’s and LGBT rights to join their official delegations.
Beyond the UN
“We face a global backlash,” warns the OURs report, “against the right of each and every person to live freely and safely in their body and identity.”
The report also details how ultra-conservative groups have sought to deepen their influence beyond the UN, in regional intergovernmental systems including in Europe.
For instance, it describes how some of these groups successfully campaigned at the European Parliament for a new special rapporteur to “protect Christians”.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a US-based Christian Right group, managed to secure NGO ‘participatory status’ at the Council of Europe, but lost it in 2020 following its extensive campaigning against the Istanbul Convention on gender-based violence.
ADF is one of the dozens of US Christian Right groups that openDemocracy revealed last year have spent millions of dollars around the world over the last decade.
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