Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 20, 2023
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Hello everyone, let me thank you so much for joining me – once again, today. And I am delighted – absolutely delighted, to have Special Envoy Stern with me today.
Today we are proud to be hosting an historic meeting of the UN Security Council to talk about how the Council can better integrate the concerns of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex persons in the course of carrying out its important mandate.
We’re proud to be co-sponsoring this Arria formula meeting with a number of countries, as well as the UN LGBTI Core Group.
In 2015, the United States convened the Council’s first ever meeting looking at the issues affecting the LGBTI community and its experiences in situations of conflict. Today will be the second.
Since our first meeting, the UN System has made significant progress on the unique challenges, perspectives, and needs of LGBTI plus people. We believe now is the time to institutionalize and regularize the Security Council’s approach to LGBTI plus issues.
Today’s meeting will be the first time that the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity has ever briefed the Council. We will hear powerful, wrenching, courageous stories from all of our briefers. And we will discuss ways to better integrate LGBTI plus concerns in the Security Council’s regular work of maintaining international peace and security.
Notably, the United States will commit to four specific steps we will take to better integrate LGBTQI concerns into the Security Council’s daily work. And we hope to hear concrete ideas from others, as well.
Now, I’d like to introduce our special guest. The U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Persons, Jessica Stern would like to say a few words.
Over to you, Jessica.
SPECIAL ENVOY JESSICA STERN: Thank you so much, Ambassador. And my title is, in fact, challenging. I’ve been told it’s the longest title in the State Department. I want to thank the Ambassador for creating the space for this Arria today which is so incredibly important.
This meeting is historic, as it is only the second time in its 77-year history that there has been an LGBTI-specific Arria at the Security Council. As the Ambassador mentioned, you will hear from the UN Independent Expert, but also from two experts from civil society: Artemis Akbary, founder and director of Afghan LGBT Organization, and Maria Susana Peralta Ramon, a lawyer, scholar and director of the peace and transitional justice team at the NGO, Colombia Diversa. While offering specific country contexts, they will highlight the importance of integrating LGBTI issues into our collective work to maintain peace and security globally.
It is noteworthy that after numerous Security Council meetings about Afghanistan, this marks the first-ever discussion about the plight of LGBTI Afghans. It is also important that we will hear strategies for recognizing the specific ways that LGBTQI+ persons have been targeted and impacted by war and conflict. Colombia set a new precedent when it confirmed charges of gender persecution as a crime against humanity when committed against five LGBTQI+ persons in its armed conflict.
The exclusion of LGBTQI+ issues at the UN Security Council’s formal agenda is a point that experts have noted for decades. The UN treaty bodies, special mechanisms, agencies, the UPR, and senior officials including the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General have repeatedly acknowledged human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity along with the need for inclusive development that leaves no one behind.
And now we turn to the Security Council which has been one of the last bastions of silence on LGBTI issues. It only formally recognized this issue once when it issued a press release condemning killings based on sexual orientation after the tragic massacre at the Pulse nightclub. Yet, we know that LGBTI persons are targeted in specific and harmful ways during war and conflict, as we showed in 2015 at the Arria the U.S. co-hosted with Chile about the ways that ISIS pushed men that they perceived to be gay off of rooftops. We must not look away.
We hope today’s Arria will serve as a catalyst for future dialogue, and it has already served as a catalyst for us, because the U.S. government has made multiple pledges on how we will increase our attention to these issues at the Security Council. Make no mistake: to achieve lasting peace and security, everyone must be safe, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics.
This is a struggle I hope the Security Council will work into its formal agenda.
QUESTION: A quick question. Is this a way to pave the way for a formal Security Council meeting on LGBTI issues?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We do Arria-formulas when we have difficulty getting these things on the agenda, but yes, our hope is that this comes forward.