Next month’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly will make history when a declaration against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity will be presented.

All 27 countries of the European Union have signed the declaration, which will be presented by France.

The initiative for the declaration follows a campaign by the committee coordinating the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO).

More than 80 countries outlaw same-sex relations in all circumstances.

The maximum punishments range from a few years jail to life imprisonment.

In nine countries, or regions of countries, the mandatory punishment for homosexuality is death by execution.

In September the French minister of human rights and foreign affairs confirmed that she will appeal at the United Nations for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Rama Yade also said that the EU wanted to take the lead in stopping violence against women worldwide.

Until the end of 2008 France will speak for all EU member states at the UN General Assembly, as they hold the rotating Presidency of the European Union.

Earlier this year it was reported that the French initiative on decrminalisation will take the form of a solemn declaration from UN states, rather than a vote in the UN on the matter.

France will instead submit a draft declaration at the UN General Assembly between December 15th and 20th. The British government already advocates universal decriminalisation.

It is thought that this is the first time a declaration of this kind has reached the General Assembly.

Louis Georges Tin, President of the IDAHO Committee, said the initial strategy is to encourage as many countries as possible to sign the declaration.

After the declaration is presented it is hoped that the momentum for decriminalisation will build and that there will be enough support for a resolution to be passed in the UN.

Diplomatic and political efforts to build that support are likely to continue for some time to come, but campaigners are encouraged by the world wide support for decriminalisation thus far.

The International Day Against Homophobia is a worldwide campaign which addresses homophobia and transphobia. Events and Initiatives are organised for May 17th each year.