Russia is furious that United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon ordered that all UN employees in legally recognized relationships should have equal partner benefits regardless of where they are working.
The Russian Government has warned it may intervene at the United Nations to stop gay and lesbian employees of the UN receiving equal partner benefits regardless of the laws of the country they are working in.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued an administrative order in June last year so that all UN employees who were in relationships that had been legally recognized by a member state could receive equal benefits no matter where they were working.
However Russia’s diplomats are now threatening to force a vote on the issue in a budget committee known as the Fifth Committee.
Unlike in the General Assembly, Security Council member countries do not have veto power in the Fifth Committee – meaning that if Russia did force a vote on the issue it could probably win it with the support of African, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and Central Asian countries that oppose LGBTI rights.
Russia says Ban Ki-moon’s administrative order violates a 2004 UN General Assembly resolution that left it to national governments to determine whether UN employees working under their jurisdiction are eligible for spousal benefits.
‘We will insist that the secretary-general urgently revoke the administrative bulletin,’ a Russian diplomat was quoted as saying by ForeignPolicy.com.
Russia has issued a memo to all member states that claims Ban Ki-moon’s order ‘violates the sovereign rights of members states to determine the legal framework of [the] life of their citizens.’
The memo also claims that allowing equal partner benefits for same-sex couples will result in fraud and corruption by UN employees because ‘each staff member who is not married can easily register sham traditional or same-sex marriage and can get additional dependency allowances.’
Why Russia has waited until now to attempt to block the order is unclear.
However International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission executive director Jessica Stern said that Russia was trying to undermine Ban Ki-moon’s authority at a time when its own actions were under the spotlight.
‘It’s no secret that the Secretary General and Russia have been at cross-purposes over Ukraine and Syria, and the Russians have found the perfect political vehicle for attacking him,’ she said.
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