Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 20, 2023
Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome again to the second ever Arria meeting on LGBTQI issues held by the UN Security Council. We are proud to be co-hosting this Arria, building on the last one in 2015 that the U.S. co-convened on this topic with Chile, and to expand the scope of our discussion.
Today’s meeting is historic, representing the first time that the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity has ever briefed the Council and only the second time in its history that there has been an LGBTI-specific Arria. And while this body has discussed the crisis since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, many times, this is the first time we are hearing about how LGBT people have been specifically targeted, impacted, and harmed.
Finally, this is the first time we are hearing about a precedential new model – Colombia’s pioneering work to ensure that its peace process includes LGBT persons so that justice truly leaves no one behind. The simple fact is, the threats LGBTQI+ people face around the world are threats to international peace and security. Let me repeat that: The threats that LGBTQI+ people face around the world are threats to international peace and security. That’s especially true for those at the intersection of multiple, underrepresented identities.
Everyone deserves to live free from fear, from violence, from persecution. But for too many people, their sexual orientation or gender identity puts them at risk – they are put at risk just for being themselves.
I’ve seen this firsthand in my diplomacy abroad. During my many years serving on the continent of Africa, I often encountered this issue. And I was told, by more than one person, more than one leader, that “this is not our culture.”
I always responded the same way. “Is it your culture to commit violence against people you disagree with? To persecute people just for the way they were born?” And I ask that question to any country around the world. No one ever said yes to that question.
And fortunately, much of Africa, just like much of the world, has made tremendous progress. And our hearts have grown, our policies have changed. That’s true around the world. But so much more needs to be done or we would not be here today.
In Colombia, LGBTQI+ people have been incorporated into the peacebuilding and democratic process. That is progress. Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace, known by its Spanish acronym as the JEP, set a new precedent when it confirmed charges of gender persecution as a crime against humanity when committed against five LGBTQI+ persons in the armed conflict.
This represents the first time that any transitional justice has recognized the specific targeting of LGBTQI+ persons in armed conflict. This is a model of incorporating LGBTQI+ people into peacebuilding, and I hope it’s replicated in conflict and post-conflict settings around the world.
I am also proud of the progress we have made here in America. I think back to 1969, when being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender could get you arrested in America. It was then, right here in this city, in New York, when the police raided the Stonewall Inn, and its patrons decided enough was enough. The success of that movement is now preserved as a memorial down in the West Village.
But we are far from finished. Right now, across my own country, we are seeing hateful, shameful attacks on the LGBTQI+ community, and especially the trans community. These attacks, to me, fly in the face of our universal basic human rights.
Around the world, we are continuing to see the same kinds of challenges. In some places, the situation is dire.
In Afghanistan, for example, the Taliban has brought back its medieval policies – the same policies I saw in place when I was there decades ago, and what we just heard from Artemis. Individual Taliban members have made public statements confirming that their interpretation of Sharia allows for the death penalty for homosexuality.
Members of the LGBTQI+ community reported being physically and sexually assaulted, and many reported living in physically and economically precarious conditions in hiding. There are also reports from members of civil society that LGBTQI+ people were outed purposely by their families and subjected to violence to gain favor with the Taliban. There are reports of LGBTQI+ persons who had gone missing and were believed to have been killed, and again, we heard the story that Artemis shared with us today.
To put it bluntly, this is horrific. These actions foment hate, they support violence, and are an affront to the principles of freedom and human rights. They also destabilize whole societies. Which is why we need to do our part, as individual Member States and collectively as the United Nations Security Council.
For our part, on behalf of the United States, I am proud to announce four Commitments for Action. In recent decades, the Security Council has made great progress taking into account the needs and perspectives of women and children and youth in situations armed conflict and fragile societies.
Today we commit to specific steps to also better integrate LGBTQI concerns into the Security Council’s daily work.
First, we commit to regularly review the situation of LGBTQI+ individuals in conflicts on the Council’s agenda. That includes regularly soliciting information from LGBTQI+ human rights defenders.
Second, we commit to encouraging the UN Secretariat and other UN officials to integrate LGBTQI+ concerns and perspectives in their regular reports to the Council.
Third, we commit to raising abuses and violations of the human rights of LGBTQI people in our national statements in the Security Council.
And fourth, we commit to proposing, when appropriate, language in Security Council products responding to the situation of LGBTQI+ individuals. This includes language in the Council’s work on implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and 2475.
We are proud of these four commitments. They are just the beginning. And we call on every Security Council member to join us.
We also call on UN Special Political Missions and UN Peacekeeping Missions to increase engagement with members of the LGBTQI+ community, to stop attacks against individuals, and to continue to integrate gender identity and sexual orientation into all of their work, but particularly in protection.
And we call on the UN community as a whole to step up to defend the universal human rights of all LGBTQI+ people, to let love be love, to let us provide the moral and legal support to ensure all people are able to live their lives freely.
Let us fight prejudice wherever we see it. And let us build a world that is more peaceful for all.
Thank you very much.