Secretary Kerry Attends First UN Ministerial Event on LGBT Rights

Posted by H. Dean Pittman and Uzra Zeya
September 27, 2013
Secretary Kerry Participates in an LGBT Ministerial Event

The United States is committed to promoting the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and we believe the United Nations, individual governments, civil society, and corporations all have a key role to play in this work.  Today, Secretary Kerry led the U.S. delegation to the first-ever event at the UN General Assembly bringing together foreign ministers from around the world, NGO representatives and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to advance equality of LGBT individuals. 

Just days after President Obama came into office, the United States became the 67th UN member to sign a declaration led by France and the Netherlands on the human rights of LGBT individuals at the UN General Assembly.  Since then, the U.S. has taken a leading role in addressing LGBT issues throughout the UN system and other multilateral bodies. 

At the UN General Assembly in 2010, the United States led international efforts to ensure that the bi-annual resolution on extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions included a reference to killings of LGBT people.  Several UN members had succeeded in getting this reference removed in the Third Committee of the General Assembly.  During the December 2010 plenary vote, the U.S. introduced a successful amendment to the resolution re-inserting this important language.  In 2012, we successfully defended the language against a hostile amendment that tried to remove it.

The United States has also taken significant steps on LGBT issues at the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva.  We led a joint statement at the HRC in March 2011 with Colombia and Slovenia, that garnered the support of 85 UN members, many of whom had never taken a public stance on LGBT issues previously.  We then vigorously supported South Africa’s landmark June 2011 resolution on the human rights of LGBT persons.  This was followed by a groundbreaking UN report on the violence and discrimination faced by LGBT individuals around the world and a panel discussion.

To augment our diplomatic engagement, we also launched the Global Equality Fund, an innovative partnership that brings together like-minded governments and the private sector to combat violence and discrimination against LGBT persons and support LGBT activists around the world.  The Fund has allocated over $7 million in more than 50 countries worldwide and our efforts continue to grow.  President Obama and Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt announced an additional $12 million in support of this effort earlier this month.  And today, Secretary Kerry recognized a new $1 million contribution from the Netherlands.  Together, the Partners of the Global Equality Fund are putting action behind our diplomatic support for LGBT persons and we hope every ally of LGBT persons will join us in this work.

We remain committed to further progress on promoting the human rights of LGBT people at the General Assembly, HRC, other multilateral bodies, and in partnership with governments, civil society, and the private sector on the ground around the world.

About the Authors: Dean Pittman serves as Acting Assistant Secretary for International Organizations, and Uzra Zeya serves as Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

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