OIC blasts Annan in gay rights uproar
UNITED NATIONS: Secretary General Kofi Annan faced a gay rights uproar from Islamic countries at the United Nations on Monday over his decision to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of UN staff.
The 56-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) lambasted Annan’s order, which came into effect last month, saying only member states had the right to make such a move.
Annan’s limited order allows domestic partners to receive benefits as long as the UN employee’s country of origin legally recognises the relationship. A UN spokesman said only a handful of staff have applied so far.
But the OIC said it was “seriously concerned” by the UN chief’s ruling and demanded an explanation in writing from the UN secretariat, which officials said would be delivered in the coming weeks. “No decision has been taken by the General Assembly to change the long-established scope of the (definition of the) family for the purposes of entitlements,” the Muslim bloc said.
Cameroon joined other nations in expressing similar concerns at the meeting, which had been devoted to technical questions about human resources management at the United Nations, which has some 9,000 staff worldwide. “Everyone in the room knows this is not an administrative matter,” the delegation from the west African nation said. The Holy See, which is not a member of the United Nations but has observer status here, also weighed in — something the Vatican rarely does when technical committee issues are being discussed..
“This policy conflicts with the understanding of the family as contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” it said in a statement. “For us, marriage is a union between a man and a woman and is the foundation of the family, and the family in turn is the basic unit of society.”
When Annan issued the decree in January, the association of gay, lesbian and bisexual UN staff, UNGLOBE, hailed the move and said it had been working to secure those rights from the United Nations “for years.”
In announcing his decision, Annan had said the decision would “continue to ensure respect for the social, religious and cultural diversity” of the world organisation’s member countries.
The European Union spoke out in favour of the Annan decree on Monday, calling it a “welcome step” that reflected his efforts to “modernise the human resources management” of the United Nations. —AFP