(Remarks as prepared)
Thank you for that warm introduction, and thank you, Reverend Ogle and Bishop Christopher, for inviting me to speak today and for putting me in such good company on such an important set of topics. Bishop Christopher, the assembled crowd here today, and the people you’ve met with all across the United States, clearly recognize the importance of your work at home in Uganda. So thanks especially to you.
I want to begin today by sharing a bit about how I see protecting the human rights of LGBT people as fitting into a broader foreign policy context, and telling you a bit about what we’ve been working on at the State Department, and where we’re headed. And then I want to take a little time to zero in on some of the key challenges and opportunities that lie at the intersection of promoting human rights for LGBT people and engaging with religious leaders and communities of faith.
The Obama administration has forged a strong record of vocal and active support for the human rights of LGBT people as part of our overall foreign policy approach of principled engagement. In this and other areas we start from a commitment to universal standards that apply to everyone, including ourselves, and we are motivated by the belief that, as President Obama put it in his Nobel lecture, the only lasting peace will be one founded on respect for the inherent dignity of each person.
About 80 countries still criminalize same-sex sexual activity. Hate crimes against LGBT people continue to plague many more countries than that, including our own. Hatred of, discrimination against and marginalization of LGBT people hampers economic development, public health, and social cohesion wherever it occurs. And, like all forms of intolerance, the desire to stamp out or subjugate or ostracize certain individuals because of who they are, how they worship, or who they love stands as an obstacle for all members of society. Intolerance prevents the achievement of a rights respecting society that preserves the dignity of each person—and it is that sort of society in which both reason and morality dictate that we ought to want to live. The burden of intolerance is surely borne most severely by the victims, but like all forms of hatred, the active perpetrators and passive bystanders—who are by no means moral bystanders—also pay a price.
Intolerance is a moral, a political, and a social ill. But it is also a solvable one. It is not an immutable phenomenon. Unlike the aspects of identity for which people are hated, hatred itself can be left behind. And for that reason, the scourge of intolerance demands not only our analysis and attention, it demands our action. It’s not easy work, but it is urgent work.
Looking back over American history, the story of our nation’s progress toward a “more perfect union” is at its most inspiring when it is told through the series of chapters in which we have confronted intolerance and hate, both domestically and in our engagement with the world. At the same time, the most regretful chapters are those when we have failed to act. And as we look to the future, we know that the story is not over, the work continues. Our future progress will continue to be defined in part by our success at continuing to address false assertions of inequality and remove their manifestations in our laws and practice. And our progress in building the kind of peaceful, stable, and prosperous world in which we want to live will depend on our encouraging and promoting those around the world who are simultaneously working to make their own societies more inclusive and rights-respecting.
It is against this backdrop that this administration sees the work to protect the human rights of LGBT people around the world. It is part of a broader effort, and it follows from our commitment to universal standards and our interest in being a positive force behind the efforts of many around the world to, as Secretary Clinton has put it, “make human rights a human reality.”
At the State Department we’re working hard every day to put that principled policy commitment into action, and we’re making real progress because we have strong support from the White House and steadfast leadership from the Secretary of State. The problems facing LGBT people are not new, but never before in American foreign policy have the human rights of LGBT people been an open, unambiguous, and clear policy priority. From her first days in office, and building on a lifetime of advocacy on behalf of those who have been left out or pushed aside, Secretary Clinton has made clear that, as she said in June 2010, echoing her famous words in Beijing fifteen years earlier, “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
And Secretary Clinton’s leadership is changing the way that our diplomats and development professionals do business around the world. The Secretary has sent instructions to every single ambassador directing them to engage in support of the human rights of LGBT people with foreign governments and civil society actors as part of our comprehensive human rights policy. And in foreign ministries around the world, our diplomats are raising concerns about specific cases and laws, and working with partners to collaborate on enhancing rights protections for all people, including LGBT people.
Here in New York and also at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the United States has been leading within the UN system to make clear that human rights apply to everyone, without exception. About this time last year, a semi-annual resolution on extra-judicial killings at the UN General Assembly came up and an amendment was offered and passed that removed sexual orientation from the list of examples of reasons why people ought not be killed. Working with our partners, and by reaching out in capitals around the world, we built a coalition to reverse that amendment and successfully reinstated the deleted language. A few words in a resolution can seem like a small matter, especially to those who don’t follow the nitty gritty of the UN system, but reinstating that language sent a clear message that no, the international community would not countenance a spiteful step backward in the fight against violations of human rights. Earlier this year in Geneva, we were part of a cross regional group of countries that gathered 85 country signatories to a joint statement rejecting violence against LGBT people and criminalization of LGBT status or behavior.
And then—in a step that even the most hopeful among us thought unlikely even months earlier, on June 17 history was made when the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution expressing support for equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. I was on the floor of the Council that day, and there was an electrifying buzz in the room as the winning vote tally came in. It was a close vote—23 to 19—but everyone in the room recognized that it was a watershed moment.
We’re not just working with governments. Because we know that sustainable change is most likely to come from within societies, we’re redoubling our efforts to engage with local civil society groups who are working to defend LGBT people from human rights abuses, and who advocate for legal protections and accountability for abuses. As you might expect, these groups are often themselves marginalized and left out, even by other human rights NGOs, so our engagement can be a lifeline of moral support. We’re also working to help them build their own capacity and skills, and to connect them to each other so that they can become more effective advocates. And because we know that like all human rights defenders, those who call out wrongs and push for change often find themselves targets for intimidation or worse, we have created a special fund that can offer emergency support to defenders of human rights for LGBT people so that when there’s no one else to turn to, we can help them stay safe and continue their work.
We have human rights officers in every embassy around the world, and while the United States has a long history of advocating for human rights abroad, we recognize that ramping up engagement on the human rights of LGBT people entails making contact with new actors and organizations at our posts. It entails knowing how to broach what is often a “sensitive” topic and being able to prioritize among a menu of options for action in a way that enhances the chances of our making a difference on the ground. For these reasons, in the coming months, we’ll be road-testing and rolling out a toolkit that can be used by our embassies to help guide their work.
And because effective advocacy depends on facts that make the case for change, we’ve beefed up our reporting in the human rights reports that my bureau, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor publishes every year. We’re also supporting local civil society groups in this fact-finding and reporting effort, providing state-of-the art software and training that will help them document incidents in their communities, so that they can direct their own efforts and focus the attention of others on the realities that people are confronting day-by-day.
For my own part, I feel immensely grateful and fortunate to be a part of a team of professionals at the State Department and at posts around the world that has taken Secretary Clinton’s encouragement and leadership and translated it into action, and that is working every day to make a difference. Having a President and Secretary who are committed to defending the human rights of all people has put American leadership and hard work on the side of vulnerable people around the world.
My portfolio includes Africa and Asia, and as I travel the world, one of the sets of questions that I hear most often revolves around the role of the religious community in securing human rights for all people, how the religious community can help, and how it can, whether intentionally or not, undermine efforts to build a more humane and rights respecting world that includes protections for the rights that each person deserves by virtue of her or his humanity.
I am sure you can guess the kinds of questions I hear: “Aren’t we exporting hate?” people ask about the alleged role of American religious leaders in encouraging the Anti-Homosexuality bill in Uganda, for example. “What are you doing to stop missionaries from pushing for criminalization?” Or “isn’t it true that the Islamic world will never accept the human rights of gay people?”
Conversations about the human rights of LGBT people are still difficult and awkward in many contexts—the legacy of stigma still burdens even well-intentioned actors. And throw religion into the mix and the conversations certainly don’t get any easier. But these conversations—conversations like the ones that this conference is fostering and making space for—are important. Misunderstandings and differences of opinion or belief don’t solve or resolve themselves. We’re talking about the intersection of some of the most important, and therefore justifiably sensitive, aspects of individual fulfillment and meaning in life. And when the subject matter is deep, skating on the surface doesn’t suffice—the only way to make progress is to wade right in. So I want to try to do that in the time that remains for me today. I guess I should stop here and say “pray for me.”
I won’t pretend I have answers, but I want to say three things about my own approach, and about why I don’t just see the effort to find common ground as imperative, but am also optimistic about the possibility of doing so.
The first point is that there are as many religious actors as there are religious people. Religious people are not a monolithic group, and there is diversity in views within religious communities as well as across them. So while, yes, there are examples of religious leaders preaching intolerance, not just of gays but of people of other religious groups or nationalities or of women, there are of course also numerous examples of those for whom religious values are the foundation for a commitment to compassion, tolerance, and human dignity. We should not forget the role of religious people and religious leaders in our own national struggles for social justice—many abolitionists understood their cause as God’s work, a number of northern Jews went south to participate in the Civil Rights Movement, and Reverend King was a man of cloth as well as of change. Last year, I spoke at an event in Geneva where Desmond Tutu delivered a message of tolerance. It’s worth pausing to quote his message briefly. “Sexual orientation, like skin color,” he said, “is a feature of our diversity. How sad it is that when God’s children are facing such massive problems – poverty, disease, corruption, conflict—we are so often obsessed with human sexuality. Is there not already too much hate in this world, without seeking to persecute those who love?”
Religious leaders have a positive role to play in fostering tolerance and respect for the dignity of all. If we start by assuming that there are only challenges, we lose perspective at the outset, and we aren’t poised to seize opportunities.
The second point has three layers—bear with me—philosophical, moral, and practical. So we’re going to have 2A, 2B, and 2C. (I know, that’s cheating.) But the overall point 2 is simple: that we can and should seek to engage those whose religious beliefs and teachings seem to be at odds with advancing human rights for all people. We can have the conversation, we should have the conversation, and we must have the conversation if we’re to make progress at all.
The philosophical part of this point—2A— is essentially to reject the contention put forward by some that religious thought and human rights doctrine are divided by an impenetrable epistemological barrier. The argument here is something along the lines that those who are concerned with understanding and obeying God’s law are necessarily operating, essentially, in a different conceptual universe from “secular” human rights standards. In other words, we can’t talk to each other because we’re using a different language. But such arguments are as thin philosophically as they are easy to disprove empirically. For in fact we can talk to each other, and we can use the ideas of religious thought to make sense of the moral demands of human rights, and vice versa. As I have already noted, in many cases religious and human rights leaders aren’t from separate epistemic communities at all; in fact some people are both religious leaders and human rights leaders, and they use the lexicon of each sphere of thought without any apparent philosophical dissonance. Religious people played a part in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And our country’s own Declaration of Independence—in which the constituent concepts of human rights are salient—also grounds these rights in the idea that we are each endowed with them by our Creator. There is no legitimate philosophical excuse for not engaging.
The moral part of the point—2B— is that engaging those with whom we disagree in dialogue and debate, holding them responsible—in the literal sense of answering for their claims—is part of treating them with respect. The act of engaging and holding responsible is properly respectful, it indicates a preliminary assumption that that person is worthy of taking seriously; and similarly dismissing out of hand and refusing to engage someone who disagrees demonstrates a lack of respect. Engaging is the right thing, the respectful thing to do.
And the practical part of this point—2C—is that neither ignoring nor suppressing ideas has ever solved the problem of resolving apparent gaps or disagreements on how to build good lives or good societies. There are many who believe that we should limit speech that is offensive or hateful. But our position has been to avoid censorship, which is almost never perfectly executed, and which is in a sense, denying the problem instead of dealing with it. When people say hateful things we shouldn’t hide the hate, we should confront it, reject the premises on which it is founded, and attempt to refute it through force of argument. If we’re to make progress at identifying a common ground and forging a way forward, we have to engage. We don’t make progress by attempting to shut down or do battle, we make progress when both sides come together—shall we say “in good faith?”—and attempt to identify and correct misunderstandings and make the case.
So we need to take the tough conversations on. Obviously there are some people on both sides who aren’t prepared to come to the table—I know that—but there are plenty of others who are. And we need to make arguments that are aimed at finding common ground and forging a way forward. It may be that I will never find agreement with those who make religiously based moral arguments that homosexuality is wrong—though I certainly don’t start from the premise that that is impossible. But, even if we ultimately disagree about what constitutes a life well lived in the fullest sense, we might nevertheless agree that we ought to be unambiguously committed to defending the potential that is bound up with each human life. We might agree that in order to get to the conversation about what a good life looks like, one must start with protecting that life. And further that concern for life might lead us to be particularly careful to avoid unintended consequences of things we say or write into law.
And this leads me to my third point, which is that as difficult as the intersection of faith and sexuality is, I am hopeful and optimistic about the road ahead. This is partly because I don’t think we really have a choice: No serious person can think plausible a world without human spirituality or a world without human sexuality. Finding a way to transcend intolerance is not just what a commitment to human dignity dictates, it’s what any appreciation for the realities of human experience suggests as the only real lasting option for building a peaceful future together.
But I’m also hopeful because I think there is common ground to be found and that concepts that are familiar in nearly every religious tradition and in secular moral thought can help us get there—a sincere embrace of dignity, of generosity, of compassion, of patience can help us to uncover and appreciate what we have in common.
For many many people, religious belief and practice is a source of meaning, fundamental to their own flourishing and to making sense of the world around them and their relationships with others. Universal standards of human rights protect the freedom of each person to choose and practice her or his religion, and those protections create a space in which individuals around the world seek and find fulfillment.
Similarly, for most people, the bonds we share and the commitments we make to others, and particularly to those whom we consider family, are both crucial to our own identities and understanding of our place in the world as well as expressions of a uniquely human capacity. To deprive someone of a loving relationship entered freely is to deprive him or her of a fundamental aspect of what it is to be human, and to cut off a source of meaning and fulfillment.
The use of religion to advocate for limitations on the lives, rights, and freedoms of others, whether those of other faiths, as it often is, or those whose lives reflect other aspects of human diversity, is a manipulation of faith that tragically disregards the same goodness that religion itself can bring to human existence. There is no true love of God that can justify hatred of man.
I am optimistic because I believe that even if it is not apparent at the outset, a common purpose will reveal itself. And I am confident that a commitment to the universal human rights of all people, grounded in a respect for human dignity and made real through equal and real protections for all, will underpin the world in which each person can flourish.
I want to close with a final thought and personal reflection.
One of the virtues that is central to many religious traditions and to the aspirations of many religious people is that of forgiveness. And that virtue, in particular, is I think important for all participants in difficult discussions to keep in mind. 9 years ago I was visiting my father in the hospital as he was dying, and a young man, a nurse’s aide, was working around his hospital bed, checking the machines and such. He had gotten to know my dad during his long hospital visit, and my dad, enjoying the visit with one of his own sons, asked the guy about his father. The young man said that his dad had left his mom and siblings when he was young, and had offered neither financial nor emotional support throughout his growing up. “I used to really hate the guy,” he said “but in the last few years, he reached out, he’s made an effort, and we’ve actually become really close.” My father—who was a deeply religious man—immediately remarked “how kind of you to be able to forgive him, to give him permission to change.”
It’s a lesson that still rings true to me years later, and something I had never thought of before that moment, the empowering effect of forgiveness. As we engage in tough conversations about right and wrong, about the societies we want to make, and the beliefs we hold most dear, it’s something that I keep close at hand. We’re in this together, and we need to be prepared to forgive each other, we need to be prepared to give each other permission to change, in order to build together a stronger, more humane and holy world.
Thank you very much again for having me.
The eighteenth session of the Human Rights Council came to an end in Geneva on September 30, 2011. This was the seventh regular session since the United States joined in September 2009. Though much work remains, in particular ending the Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel, U.S. engagement thus far has resulted in significant improvements to the Human Rights Council as a multilateral forum for promoting and protecting human rights. Accomplishments include groundbreaking resolutions on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, preventing discrimination against women, LGBT human rights, religious tolerance, and the creation of monitoring mechanisms for Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, Iran, and Syria. Key accomplishments at this session include:
Sudan: The United States worked with the Africa Group on a consensus resolution that renews the mandate of the independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan for one year, expresses international concern at the humanitarian situations in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, and calls upon all parties to immediately end violence and halt clashes. The United States underlined our core message regularly during the session: we are deeply concerned about ongoing reports of human rights violations and abuses, including unlawful killing and other violence with impunity, arbitrary arrests and detention of journalists, and restrictions on freedom of assembly. In Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, where there are credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the United States will continue to support an independent and credible investigation to hold those responsible to account.
South Sudan: The United States joined South Sudan and the Africa Group on a consensus resolution that welcomes South Sudan as a new State and member of the United Nations and also welcomes the government’s commitment to strengthen national human rights mechanisms. The resolution calls upon the government to strengthen ongoing cooperation with the UN Mission in South Sudan on human rights issues, and also invites the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to assist the new government.
Libya: The United States worked closely with Morocco, Libya, and others on a consensus resolution that recommends the UN General Assembly lift Libya’s suspension from the Human Rights Council. The resolution also welcomes the commitments made by the new Libyan government to uphold its obligations under international human rights law and to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the international Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council at the February 2011 Special Session on Libya.
Yemen: The United States worked with delegations from Yemen and the Netherlands, as well as others on a consensus resolution that calls for a rapid political transition and transfer of power, as outlined in the plan drawn up by the Gulf Cooperation Council, and condemns ongoing violations of human rights in Yemen. The resolution notes the Yemeni government’s announcement to launch transparent and independent investigations, which will adhere to their international obligations. The resolution also calls upon the Government of Yemen and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to develop a framework for dialogue and cooperation in the field of human rights.
Syria: At an interactive dialogue on Syria, the United States welcomed the prompt formation of the Commission of Inquiry mandated at the August 2011 Special Session on Syria. The U.S. government called on the Syrian authorities to allow the Commission of Inquiry, international humanitarian agencies, and international media unrestricted access to report on the abhorrent conditions inside Syria. The United States called on the Asad regime to step aside, and to stop killing and torturing the Syrian people immediately.
Israeli/Palestinian Issues: The United States continues to believe the disproportionate focus on Israel diminishes the credibility and effectiveness of the Council. The United States continues to strongly oppose the permanent agenda item devoted to Israel-related issues, which is the only agenda item devoted to a specific country. There were no resolutions under the Israel-specific agenda item at this session.
Fighting Racism: The United States worked with Brazil to co-sponsor a consensus resolution that urged States to fight against racism and strengthen democracy. The United States is committed to working with our global partners, both bilaterally and multilaterally, in the fight against racism and racial discrimination. The United States also recognized the importance of tolerance and reconciliation, citing the powerful example of Nelson Mandela, as tools in the effort to foster more just, tolerant, and equal societies.
The Obama Administration has dramatically changed America’s course at the United Nations to advance our interests and values and help forge a more secure and prosperous world. We have repaired frayed relations with countries around the world. We have ended needless American isolation on a range of issues. And as a consequence, we have gotten strong cooperation on things that matter most to our national security interest.
What the President calls a “new era of engagement” has led to concrete results at the UN that advance U.S. foreign policy objectives and American security. The dividends of U.S. leadership at the UN are tangible – the stiffest UN sanctions ever against Iran and North Korea, renewed momentum to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, strong sanctions and an unprecedented mandate to intervene and save lives in Libya, support for the historic and peaceful independence of Southern Sudan, vital UN assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, vigorous defense of our staunch ally Israel, lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable in the Horn of Africa and initial progress in improving the flawed UN Human Rights Council. In a world of 21st-century threats that pay no heed to borders, rebuilding a strong basis for international cooperation has allowed the United States to work together with others to solve common problems at the United Nations, making the American people more secure.
The President’s vision for a world without nuclear weapons includes a realistic path to get there. Several significant milestones on this important Administration priority have taken place at the UN.
UN Security Council Resolution 1887: In September 2009, the United States held the presidency of the UN Security Council, and President Obama chaired an historic Council Summit on nonproliferation and disarmament, culminating in the unanimous passage of Security Council Resolution 1887. This U.S.-drafted resolution reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to the global nonproliferation regime based on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, supported better security for nuclear weapons materials to prevent terrorists from acquiring materials essential to make a bomb, and made clear that all countries need to comply with their international nuclear obligations.
Iran: In June 2010, the United Nations Security Council voted overwhelmingly to put in place the toughest UN sanctions regime ever faced by the Iranian government for its continued failure to live up to its obligations, sending an unmistakable message about the international community’s commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. The new sanctions in Resolution 1929 impose restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, its ballistic missile program, and its ability to acquire certain conventional weapons. They put a new framework in place to stop Iranian smuggling and crack down on Iran’s use of banks and financial transactions to fund proliferation. They also target individuals, entities, and institutions -– including those associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps –- that have supported Iran’s nuclear program and prospered from illicit activities at the expense of the Iranian people. The U.S. continues to ensure that these sanctions are vigorously enforced, just as we continue to refine and enforce our own sanctions on Iran alongside those of our friends and allies.
North Korea: In response to North Korea’s announced 2009 nuclear test, the United States secured the unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 1874, which put in place a tough array of sanctions, including asset freezes, financial sanctions, a broad-based embargo on arms exports and imports, and an unprecedented framework for the inspection of suspect vessels. Since the adoption of Resolution 1874, countries have intercepted and seized tons of contraband cargo. These interdictions show that countries are taking seriously their obligations to enforce these tough new measures. The United States will continue to press on sanctions implementation until there is concrete, verifiable progress on denuclearization.
NPT Review Conference: In May 2010, NPT parties adopted by consensus a Final Document that advances a realistic path towards a world without nuclear weapons. This document includes calls for strengthened verification and compliance, recognizes the New START agreement and the need for deeper reductions of nuclear weapons, and calls for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the immediate start of talks on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. It also supports efforts to pursue international fuel banks and related mechanisms to broaden access to peaceful nuclear energy without creating new proliferation risks. This major achievement is a vindication of the broad thrust of U.S. efforts to inject new energy and renewed effort into stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.
UN Security Council Resolution 1977: In April 2011, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1977, underscoring the vital importance of the Committee established pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1540 by extending its mandate for an additional ten years. The 1540 Committee is charged with assisting UN Member States in the implementation of UNSCR 1540’s obligations to take and enforce effective measures against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their means of delivery, and related materials, important elements in achieving U.S. nonproliferation objectives. The United States is making a $3 million donation to the United Nations trust fund for global and regional disarmament to help the Committee in its implementation efforts.
Bolstering Progress in Afghanistan and Iraq
Afghanistan: Since 2009, the United States has pursued a strategy in Afghanistan that places much greater emphasis on the role of international civilian assistance, while our troops work to secure the country and transition to a mission in support of Afghan security forces taking responsibility for their own security. To support this goal, the United States has worked to ensure that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has the resources and political support to carry out its vital mission to lay the foundation for a sustainable peace and a prosperous future, including providing assistance with security, elections, governance, economic development, and humanitarian assistance. The United States will continue to work to strengthen all aspects of the UN presence in the country so that UNAMA can best complement efforts to support the Government of Afghanistan by the United States and the International Security Assistance Force and better coordinate donor support.
Iraq: The United States and the international community are keeping their commitments to the Government and the people of Iraq, and as the United States is completing the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) continues to play a critical role. The United States strongly supports the work of the UNAMI as it continues to provide important technical assistance to the Government of Iraq, assists displaced persons in Iraq and provides humanitarian assistance. Additionally, the United States played a key role in the passage of three resolutions that mark an important milestone in normalizing Iraqi ties to the international community that were significantly limited when Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein. The Security Council, in a special session chaired by Vice President Biden, passed Resolutions 1956, 1957 and 1958 to help return Iraq to the legal and international standing it held prior to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Promoting American Values
Protecting Civilians in Libya: In March, the United Nations took unprecedented quick and strong action to protect civilians in Libya. Resolution 1973 provided legal authority for the international community to intervene to save lives in Libya. The resolution authorized states to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone, saving countless lives. The Security Council also imposed on the Qadhafi regime and on Libya’s major financial institutions a sweeping regime of financial sanctions and other measures to pressure the Qadhafi regime to end its brutal crackdown on demonstrators. Among other things, Resolutions 1970 and 1973 provided for an arms embargo, a ban on flights by Libyan-operated aircraft and asset freezes and travel bans on Qadhafi and his inner circle. These measures helped to isolate the Qadhafi regime from the international financial system, restricting its ability to fund military operations and to maintain support in Tripoli.
The people of Libya are now taking the initial steps to rebuild their country and transition to an inclusive democracy. There are still many issues to be resolved in the coming days, but the United States is very encouraged by early the steps the TNC has taken. The United States, the United Nations, and our international partners are helping the TNC build a government that reflects the aspirations of the Libyan people. The United States and our partners have worked through the United Nations to unfreeze billions of dollars in order for Libya to get access to their state assets to meet critical humanitarian needs. The United States will continue to work with the TNC to ensure that these funds are disbursed in a transparent, accountable manner. The United States is also providing over $90 million to UN agencies, international organizations and NGOs to address humanitarian needs generated by the crisis in Libya.
Moreover, the Security Council has adopted a new resolution to promote Libya’s recovery from its recent conflict and support its transition to a free society. This resolution mandates a new, three-month UN mission that will assist Libyan efforts to restore security and the rule of law, protect human rights, and undertake an inclusive political dialogue towards establishing a democratic government. It also begins the process of unwinding the UN sanctions that were imposed last spring. Although some measures will remain in place, ensuring that funds previously frozen are released in a transparent and responsible way, the Libyan authorities are now able to pursue a reenergized Libyan economy.
Promoting a Peaceful Transition to South Sudan Independence: On July 9, the Republic of South Sudan celebrated its independence. This action took place following months of intensified diplomatic efforts in the lead up to the historic, peaceful referendum on independence in January. Much of this work was accomplished working within or alongside the United Nations, including last year’s high-level meeting at which President Obama delivered remarks to galvanize international action to ensure a credible and timely referendum.
The United States continues to work closely with the UN and other international partners to support full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and improve the humanitarian situation on the ground. In June, the Security Council created UNISFA, a UN peacekeeping force that will monitor the redeployment of armed forces from the Abyei area and that is authorized to use force to protect civilians and humanitarian workers. In July, the Security Council created UNMISS, a new UN peacekeeping force in the Republic of South Sudan, to consolidate peace and security and to help establish conditions for economic and political development.
The United States continues to work to end genocide and conflict in Darfur, including by supporting the joint UN and African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), and calling for the Government of Sudan to end aerial bombardments, improve conditions and freedoms on the ground, and allow humanitarian access.
Horn of Africa Famine: With more than 13.3 million people—primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia—in need of emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa, the United Nations is at the forefront of a large-scale international response, and the United States is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to the region, providing over $600 million in life-saving humanitarian assistance to those in need. Much of this funding is funneled through various UN agencies and supports humanitarian assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and other drought affected populations.
Additionally, the United States helped garner international support for the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), including by supporting UN funding to keep international peacekeepers in the country. The United States has been a strong supporter of recent efforts to augment the number of troops deployed in AMISOM, which now has a force of nearly 9,600. Since AMISOM’s deployment in 2007, the United States has obligated more than $258 million in assistance to AMISOM and over $85 million to the Somali transitional government’s National Security Force.
Standing up for Israel at the UN: The Obama Administration has consistently and forcefully opposed unbalanced and biased actions against Israel in the Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and across the UN system. President Obama has pledged that we will “continue U.S. efforts to combat all international attempts to challenge the legitimacy of Israel — including and especially at the United Nations.”
When an effort was made to insert the Security Council into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it. When the 2009 Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew. When the UN General Assembly voted for a commemoration in September 2011 of the original 2001 Durban conference, we voted against it and announced we would not participate. When the Goldstone Report was released, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself. When anti-Israel resolutions come up at the UN Human Rights Council, the General Assembly, UNESCO, and elsewhere, we consistently oppose them.
Strengthening UN Peacekeeping and Conflict Prevention Efforts
Improving Peacekeeping Effectiveness: In his first visit as President to the United Nations, President Obama hosted the first-ever meeting with the leaders of the top troop-contributing nations to UN peacekeeping operations, underscoring America’s commitment to this vital tool, which allows countries around the world to share the burden for protecting civilians and supporting fragile peace processes in societies emerging from war. The U.S. continues to advance initiatives to strengthen UN peacekeeping capabilities, including by seeking to expand the number, capacity, and effectiveness of troop and police contributors, helping secure General Assembly approval for vital peacekeeping reforms, and working with fellow Security Council members to craft more credible and achievable mandates for operations in Haiti, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and several other current operations.
Haiti: After the devastating earthquake of January 2010, which claimed the lives of over 100 UN personnel and the UN Mission’s leadership, the United States worked extremely closely with the UN to help the Government of Haiti ensure security and deliver vital humanitarian relief to the people of Haiti. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces were able to withdraw from Haiti within a few months, as countries from Latin America and around the world moved quickly to share the burden and augment the UN peacekeeping presence. In addition, the total U.S. 2010 and 2011 humanitarian assistance funding provided is $1.2 billion for the earthquake and $75 million for cholera.
Liberia: The United States built an international consensus to maintain a robust UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) peacekeeping operation for an additional 12 months, ensuring continued support for the 2011 elections. Security Council resolution 2008, which was adopted unanimously on September 17, also calls for a technical assessment mission in spring of 2012 to evaluate potential reductions in UNMIL’s authorized strength.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): The United States continues to champion improved protection of civilians, especially by demanding an end to the epidemic of rape and gender-based violence. The United States has worked successfully to secure new Security Council sanctions against key leaders of armed groups operating in the DRC, including one individual linked to crimes involving sexual and gender based violence and child soldier recruiting. Additionally, the United States led the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution that supported, for the first time, due diligence guidelines for individuals and companies operating in the mineral trade in Eastern Congo and agreed to practice due diligence when considering targeted sanctions.
Ivory Coast: In April, the United States welcomed the end of former President Laurent Gbabgo’s illegitimate claim to power in Ivory Coast, following robust implementation of Security Council Resolution 1975, which demanded that Gbagbo step down as President, imposed sanctions on him and his close associates, reaffirmed the international recognition given to Alassane Ouattara as President of Ivory Coast, and reiterated that the UN Operation in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) could use “all necessary means” in its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of attack. Early in the conflict, the United States worked with partners to renew UNOCI’s mandate and increase its ranks by 2,000 troops, further bolstering the mission’s ability to protect civilians.
The United States supports accountability on all sides for atrocities committed during the electoral crisis, and we will continue to support UN efforts in Ivory Coast as the nation recovers from this crisis. The Ivory Coast has accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and President Ouattara requested that the Prosecutor open an investigation into the most serious crimes committed in during the post-electoral crisis.
Eritrea: In 2009, the United States supported the African Union’s call to sanction Eritrea for that country’s role in destabilizing Somalia and the region and its failure to comply with Security Council Resolution 1862 concerning Eritrea’s border dispute with Djibouti. As a direct result of U.S. and African leadership, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1907 to impose an arms embargo and targeted financial and travel sanctions on Eritrean officials. Eritrea is paying a price for its sponsorship of foreign extremist groups. The Security Council, with the support of the UN’s Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, continue to review additional measures to respond to Eritrea’s acts to destabilize its neighbors.
Protecting and Empowering Women and Girls
Women, Peace and Security: The United States continues to lead efforts across the UN focused on women’s important roles in preventing, managing, and resolving conflict, as well as ending conflict-related sexual violence. In 2009, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presiding, the United States led the Security Council in unanimously adopting Resolution 1888, which strengthens the international response to sexual violence in conflict by establishing a dedicated UN Special Representative and creating of a team of experts to assist individual governments in strengthening their capacities to address sexual violence in conflicts within their borders.
Building upon this success, during the 2010 U.S. presidency of the Security Council, the United States supported the adoption of Resolution 1960, which expressed deep concern that violence against women and children in situations of armed conflict continues to occur. The resolution also improved reporting mechanisms on gender-based violence in conflict. On the margins of this year’s General Assembly, Secretary of State Clinton will join other women leaders from across the world in spotlighting the importance of women’s political participation in times of peace, conflict, and transition. And in the year to come, the United States will continue to lead efforts to support women’s decision-making in matters of conflict prevention and international security by releasing its National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.
UN Women: The United States was also instrumental in the establishment of a new UN agency called UN Women. This vital new organization combines four separate UN offices into one stronger, streamlined and more efficient entity working in support of women around the world. UN Women will work to elevate women’s issues within the UN system, on the ground in member states, and on the international stage. The United States is working very closely with Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile, as the first head of UN Women. In addition, when elections were held for the 41-member Executive Board, the United States secured a seat and supported other countries with strong records on women’s rights, while successfully leading efforts to block Iran’s bid for membership.
Promoting Human Rights
Human Rights Council: At the beginning of the Obama Administration, the United States made the decision to join the Human Rights Council, and that decision has paid real dividends for oppressed people around the world. Though the Council remains flawed, the United States has worked tirelessly to create the political will necessary for the Council to realize its full potential. While much work remains, in particular ending the Council’s excessive focus on Israel, the Council has taken great strides in speaking up for those suffering under the world’s cruelest regimes and focusing on the major human rights abuses worldwide.
In the past two years, the United States has spoken out on serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Yemen, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. With active U.S. leadership, the Council authorized international mandates to closely monitor and address the human rights situations in Iran, Libya, Syria, Ivory Coast, Burma, North Korea, Cambodia and Sudan. With U.S. engagement, Council members also voted to keep Iran and Syria from gaining seats on the Council.
We have also worked cooperatively with governments such as those of Haiti, Somalia, Kyrgyzstan, Guinea and Tunisia, as they experienced crises and sought help from the Council to strengthen their human rights capabilities and help their countries rebuild. For example, last year the United States partnered with the government of Afghanistan to build international support for efforts to prevent attacks on Afghan school children, especially girls, who seek to be educated.
In 2011, the United States has shown leadership that has led to additional concrete results. On Iran, the Council took assertive action to highlight Iran’s deteriorating human rights situation by establishing a Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran. In June, the Human Right’s Council appointed Ahmed Shaheed to serve as Special Rapporteur. He will serve as a voice for all those Iranians who have suffered egregious human rights violations. This is the first new country mandate established since the Human Rights Council was formed in 2006.
U.S. leadership has led to two Special Sessions on the situation in Syria, sending President Assad a clear message that the world is watching what he does and that atrocities and human rights violations would not go unnoticed. At the most recent special session, the Council established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all violations of international human rights law by Syrian Authorities and help the international community address the serious human rights abuses in Syria and ensure that those responsible are held to account.
The United States also played a pivotal role in convening the Council’s Special Session in February 2011 during which the Council condemned the human rights violations and other acts of violence committed by the Government of Libya, and created an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate those violations. Additionally on March 1, 2011 the General Assembly unanimously suspended Libya from the Human Rights Council because of the atrocities the Libyan authorities are committing against its own people. This was the first time that either the Human Rights Council or its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, suspended any member state for gross violations of human rights.
In March 2011, the Council took an important step away from the deeply problematic concept of defamation of religion by adopting a constructive new resolution that promotes tolerance for all religious beliefs, promotes education and dialogue and is consistent with U.S. laws and universal values. Previous resolutions adopted under the concept of defamation of religion have been used to rationalize laws criminalizing blasphemy, and challenging widely held freedoms of expression and the press, rather than protecting religious freedom and human rights.
In June, the Human Rights Council took historic, bold and assertive action to highlight violence and human rights abuses faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons around the world by passing the first UN resolution solely focused on LGBT persons. The United States co-sponsored, strengthened, and gained support for a South African initiative, which was ultimately joined by countries from every UN geographic region and paves the way for the first UN report on the challenges faced by LGBT people and sustained Council attention to LGBT issues.
Along with our international partners and the NGO community, the United States has made important initial steps toward improving the work of the Council. The United States will run for re-election next year so that we can continue the progress the Council has made over the last two years.
LGBT Rights: In a reversal of the previous Administration’s policy, the United States supported a landmark General Assembly declaration condemning human rights violations based on sexual orientation. The United States also spearheaded an effort that led to a decisive victory in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, which voted to grant consultative status to the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (ILGHRC), a U.S.-based non-governmental organization that does invaluable work around the globe to protect basic human rights, combat discrimination, and fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS. When a committee vote removed a reference in a resolution condemning extrajudicial killings based on sexual orientation, the United States led a successful campaign to reinstate that reference in the final General Assembly resolution. And the United States joined the LGBT core group in New York for the first time.
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: On behalf of the President, Ambassador Rice signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first new human rights treaty of the 21st century.
DRIP: In another important reversal of the previous Administration’s policy, President Obama announced U.S. support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP).
Health Security: The United States has taken a multi-faceted approach to dealing with infectious diseases, whatever their cause, through fora such as the UN Security Resolution 1540, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and World Health Organization (WHO). The BWC Review Conference in December offers an important opportunity to revitalize international efforts against these threats, helping to build global capacity to combat infectious disease, and prevent biological weapons proliferation and bioterrorism. This week the United States is signing an agreement with the WHO on “Global Health Security,” affirming their shared commitment to strengthen cooperation on common health security priorities. Improving global capacities to detect, report and respond to infectious diseases quickly and accurately lies at the heart of the WHO’s International Health Regulations. The U.S. is committed to have in place these vital IHR core capacities as soon as 2012.
Reforming the United Nations
UN Arrears: Working with the U.S. Congress, the Administration cleared hundreds of millions in arrears to the United Nations, which accumulated between 2005 and 2008, and is now working to stay current with payments to the Organization.
Budget Discipline: As the largest financial contributor to the UN, ensuring that U.S. funds are spent wisely and not wasted is vital. The United States has worked to contain the growth of the UN budget and consistently pressed the issue of efficiency and accountability in our discussions with the UN, pushing for a focus on results. In 2009, the Administration successfully negotiated an agreement that held constant the share of U.S. assessed contributions to the United Nations.
UN Peacekeeping: In 2011, the United States rallied major financial contributors to thwart an effort by troop-contributing countries to impose a 57% increase in the reimbursement rate for troops in peacekeeping missions, which would have cost the organization well over $700 million annually. The United States was able to insert a new provision to prevent reimbursement for troops who have been repatriated for disciplinary reasons, including violation of the UN zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
U.S. leadership was instrumental in ensuring adoption of the Global Field Support Strategy, a sweeping reform of how the UN undertakes administrative and logistics support for UN field operations. This initiative will improve the quality, consistency, and efficiency of service delivery by capturing efficiencies within peacekeeping operations and improving the UN’s capacity to support complex field missions.
Oversight and Accountability: The United States advocated and supported adoption of key elements of an accountability framework for the UN. The United States has also blocked attempts to curb the authority and operational independence of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and succeeded in March 2010 in preserving OIOS’ existing mandate and authority, allowing OIOS to fill many long-vacant positions.
The United States has consistently and aggressively supported OIOS to be a strong and independent watchdog so that U.S. taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and UN programs are managed effectively. And, while OIOS has provided valuable recommendations to improve the UN’s effectiveness and served as a deterrent in the area of waste, fraud, and sexual exploitation and abuse, it has fallen short, especially in the area of investigations. The United States has pushed hard for improvements in that function so that OIOS can more vigorously pursue fraud and misconduct. The United States was pleased to see quick action by Carman LaPointe, the Head of OIOS, in filling several leadership positions in that critical office. The United States was successful in ensuring that the position of Director of Investigations, vacant for almost two years, was filled by a qualified candidate who is tasked, among other things, with reigniting the former financial crimes unit of OIOS.
Transparency: The United States has promoted transparency throughout the United Nations system for many years. We have pushed for the Office of Internal Oversight Services and the Funds and Programs to take a number of important steps toward public disclosure of all internal audit, oversight and financial reports, and have seen significant progress. For example, Carman LaPointe has announced that she will post internal audits of the UN Secretariat on her website for public viewing starting in January 2012. Additionally, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) gave access to internal audit reports to the Global Fund and other intergovernmental donors. All of these organizations also voted to let governments who fund their programs – like the United States – read audit reports remotely from all over the world, instead of keeping audits under lock and key in New York. This September, leaders at all of these New York based funds and programs announced their support for full public disclosure of internal audits on the internet. Every agency in the UN system is a public institution and should open its doors to public scrutiny.
Human Resources Reform: In December 2010, the United States pushed through reforms that led to harmonization of conditions of service for staff serving in the most difficult locations in the world, eliminating disparities in practices between organizations—including reducing the unreasonably high levels of allowances paid by some organizations—to ensure a balance between fiscal responsibility and ensuring that the organization is able to attract and retain the most qualified staff for service in hardship locations.
The United States also demanded a review of the recent action by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) to increase the post (cost of living) adjustment for staff in New York, in light of the ongoing pay freeze in the U.S. federal civil service—whose salaries and benefits serve as the basis for those of professional staff at the UN—and the difficult international economic climate.
Thank you very much for that introduction. I am thrilled to be here today and to get the chance to talk with and meet so many of you.
My mom grew up here in Philadelphia so I have always felt a sense of connection to this city. And of course as a human rights guy, I feel lucky to get to give a talk here. Philly has what you might call a strong brand; it’s a city of principles—of liberty and of brotherly (and sisterly) love—core principles that reflect some of our most sacred moral intuitions; principles that undergird a commitment to democracy and human rights.
I want to start today by bringing you greetings from Secretary Clinton—I know that you invited her—a world superstar; historic figure; longtime champion of the human rights of LGBT people. And you got me. What can I say–these things happen. Let’s make the most of it.
More seriously, I know that Secretary Clinton would have liked to have been here today because she is deeply committed to breaking new ground in the quest for LGBT equality in her current job, and I know that she sees, as I do, the role that you play as journalists as critically important to that effort. But one of the nice things about her not being here is that it gives me a chance to brag on my boss a bit.
I was sworn in November of 2009, and from the moment I started my job, Hillary Clinton and her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and the team they lead at the State Department have been 110% behind a major push to integrate the human rights of LGBT people into American foreign policy. For Secretary Clinton, this is in part the continuation of a trajectory that included her being the first First Lady to march in a Pride parade in 1999, her work on behalf of LGBT citizens of New York as Senator, her honest and open discussions on the campaign trail in 2008, and now her role as America’s chief diplomat. It is also a continuation of a lifelong commitment to advance a more inclusive idea of who counts—from her early work as an activist for marginalized children, to that truly epic moment when she rejected enduring efforts to put women’s rights to the side, saying plainly “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights.”
For a casual listener, that line can sound like just a little bit of wordplay. But it’s not. It’s a crucial philosophical assertion. To say that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights is to put forth two important truths. First, that women’s rights aren’t special, or optional, or separate. They’re human rights that attach to women because women are people. And second, is the fact that women count, that when we talk about human rights, every woman is part of that universe of humanity to which human rights apply. Human rights belong to women, too.
So it wasn’t just an opportune echo, it was a significant advance, when last year—remarking that she didn’t understand why it wasn’t self-evident, but that if it needed to be said, she’d surely put it just as plainly as she had in Beijing—she said “Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”
The human rights of LGBT people aren’t special or separate or optional—they follow from and are part of universal commitments. And LGBT people count as people. LGBT status is irrelevant to one’s claim to human dignity. It is irrelevant one’s deserving respect.
Secretary Clinton’s leadership has been crystal clear. And in the first two and a half years of the Obama administration, senior officials from the State Department have engaged diplomatically with heads of state and cabinet ministers from dozens of countries around the world on behalf of the human rights of LGBT people. We have reached out to encourage protection of those under threat and investigation of hate crimes; we have won support for endorsements of the human rights of LGBT people in international fora, including, two months ago, the first ever UN resolution supporting these rights at the Human Rights Council in Geneva—I was on the Council floor that day and it was an incredibly dramatic moment. There was no doubt that those on both sides of the resolution understood that a tide was changing, unstoppably. We have matched our diplomacy with ramped up efforts to support those advocates and activists on the ground, often in the most difficult places, to organize and advocate for LGBT equality in their communities. Our ambassadors have publicly supported and participated in Pride celebrations. We’ve stood up a new fund that gets emergency assistance to those who are targeted for their advocacy, and we are developing programs that will help network LGBT groups on the ground and build their capacity for advocacy, strategic litigation, and organization building. Our embassies around the world are re-invigorating their efforts to reach out to local actors; we’re developing a toolkit to help Embassy staff maximize the effectiveness of their engagement; and we’re continuing to beef up our reporting in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices that my bureau, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor publishes each year.
I am a lucky guy. A generation ago, I couldn’t have been an openly gay man in my job. Today, not only do I get to serve in a State Department that is transformed, I get to serve under a Secretary and a President who are committed to progressive change, to amplifying the move toward equality here at home and around the world, and to insisting that LGBT people count.
Before I came into government, I was a professor. By training I’m a philosopher and political theorist. So I have to be mindful of tendencies to stray into the abstract and theoretical. Most of us grew up in history classes that—falsely, I think—taught us that the engine of modern history has been a series of contests between abstractions—contests of religion, contests between capitalism and communism, contests between colonialism and self-determination, and so on. Surely these contests are not meaningless fabrications—they are lenses that help us understand and make sense of collections of events. But the engine of history isn’t ideas; it’s people. And in my work as a diplomat, as I travel the world and meet with foreign leaders, human rights activists, journalists, religious leaders, and others wherever I go, I see that without a doubt, progress—by which I mean real change on the ground for real people—depends not on the beauty or elegance of your ideas; progress depends on the stories you tell about people, about their real lives, their joys, their pains, the injustices they suffer. The way that we come to know that dignity is something supremely valuable is that we come to know stories of people who have had theirs violently and vulgarly denied and trampled and we know stories of those who have courageously, against all odds, stood up to defend themselves or the dignity of others. The stories make ideas real. The narrative precedes the analytic.
I am the first to defend and be enthralled by the elegant aesthetic of the concept of rights that attach to each of us equally in virtue of our shared humanity. However, human rights don’t start with an abstraction, no matter how elegant. Human rights start with the stories we tell.
I want to say a bit more about the role of journalists in this respect. And about the intersection between journalism and free media and human rights. Most often in conversations about human rights, we talk about journalists as rights-holders—as persons entitled to freedom of expression and freedom from retribution—and often we talk about the ways in which journalists, in many, many countries around the world, continue to be abused, harassed and even killed for doing their jobs. And of course it is in this light that one of the indicators we use to tell whether a society respects human rights, including freedom of expression, is that it has a free press, and that journalists can practice their craft.
Our commitment to freedom of expression is grounded in the fact that it is a fundamental freedom, recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is part of that fundamentally human basket of entitlements: the rights that make a life recognizably, distinctively, human. In that sense, we believe in it not because it is productive or instrumentally good, but because it is simply what human dignity demands. Free expression is a right independent of whatever other benefits we see free expression producing.
Nonetheless, if asked, most of us could readily suggest ways that societies that protect freedom of expression benefit from doing so. Some might say that such societies are less likely to have problems with public corruption or exploitation by the most powerful. Others might point out that a free press is critical to the political competition that produces democracy’s dividends. Anyone who has lived in a censored press environment would be able to tell you that a free press is undoubtedly more interesting. Editors of today’s tabloids could probably forgive Pravda for being untrue—it was the fact that it was dull that would have been the real deficiency.
But one of the benefits that is less likely to be mentioned is the fact that in societies in which the stories of individual people are freely shared in the public sphere, there is a perennially refreshed set of reference points for understanding and knowing the human experience. Those stories, in highlighting the joys and pains, particularly of so-called ordinary people, remind us of their humanity, and remind us that human lives are really quite extra-ordinary. They remind us that underneath our shared experience resides a common humanity—the common humanity that grounds a shared set of individual rights and common duties to one another.
Conversely, in societies where the freedom of expression and a free press are curtailed, the stories of people are suppressed—and much more often than not, it’s not just the freedom of expression that is curtailed. Governments that fail to respect the freedom of expression fail to respect the rights of citizens more generally. In order to hold authorities accountable for protecting and respecting rights, we need to know more than that the laws of the land include human rights and that leaders pay lip-service to these commitments in the rhetoric of political speeches. We need to know the stories of real people, and whether they conform to the states’ commitments and obligations.
This is why the stories that you tell as journalists are so important. The stories you tell give a human face to the wrongs perpetrated by governments against the vulnerable. They expose failures to protect. They make plain for readers, listeners, and viewers the costs of the failure to respect human rights. The stories you tell embarrass leaders, outrage citizens, and make undeniable the gaps between rhetoric and reality.
But equally importantly, and often simultaneously in the very same story, by providing an account of particular episodes in particular lives, you paradoxically remind your audience of the universality of the human experience. When we are moved to tears by the story of a mother in Somalia watching her fourth child die of starvation, it is not because she is different, it is because she is the same. And that sameness is fundamental to both the philosophical truth underlying human rights, and to motivating human beings to do more to protect and defend human rights in the here and now.
The stories you tell highlight wrongs and their costs. They also highlight the humanity of specific people, and in so doing, give us cause to believe in the humanity, and human rights, of all people.
In the context of the human rights of LGBT people, I think it’s particularly important that we not lose sight of the role that journalists play in affirming the common humanity of all people, not by making political arguments for equality, but by telling stories about individual lives that provide the evidence for that claim.
Let me give a familiar example—a few years back, when the New York Times announced that it would start carrying wedding announcements for gay couples, a lot of people saw that as important for the political statement it made. The New York Times was endorsing a notion—an abstract one—that gay partnerships were substantively similar to straight ones.
But I would argue that the more powerful effect, particularly in changing the minds of those who didn’t already buy the abstract argument, was in the stories that followed on the pages. Both because the stories about gay couples—meeting, falling in love, taking a break, sorting through a misunderstanding or a logistical challenge, and ending up together—were pretty much the same as the familiar stories of straight couples and the evolution of their relationships, and more simply, because the protagonists in those stories were gay people who were just, well, people, plain and simple.
I’m going to go out on a limb here, and I’m probably going to be the first student of human rights or public official to link the wedding section to human rights, but the simple truth is: In whatever part of journalism you find yourself—from TV news to local radio to photo spreads to the wedding section—the stories you tell are part of the foundation for human rights, because they are the most prevalent and popular public account of what it is to be human. Human rights start with the stories we tell about what it is to be human.
Before concluding I want to say a quick word about not the stories you tell, but rather about the stories you bring to your craft. After all the organization under whose auspices we meet today is as much about shared identity as it is about shared endeavor. And there are a lot of folks who might be understandably skeptical of that. “I’ve never joined,” a friend in D.C. who works for a major newspaper told me, “I’m not a gay journalist, I’m a journalist.” Most of us have had similar thoughts—I have whenever I have participated in LGBT groups organized around my profession. Given that in so many cases, the goal is to get others to not pay attention to something that should be irrelevant to rights or job advancement or acceptance, it can seem odd or even counterproductive to call attention to the supposedly irrelevant. But of course, on the other hand, my friend is wrong—he is a gay journalist. And like any journalist, where he’s come from, including not only being LGBT but having been raised on a farm, having gone to a particular college, having grown up reading certain books, the places he’s traveled to, etc, all shape the way he tells the stories he tells because they shape how he sees the world.
For my own part, I hope that having spent an adolescence often characterized by feeling different and fearing exclusion has enhanced my compassion and empathy for others in my role as a teacher, manager, and diplomat. And in your work, of course, the lives you’ve led inevitably are the prism through which the lives you examine and write about are refracted. The stories you bring are part of the foundation you work from in the stories you tell.
Thank you for inviting me here today. Thank you for the work you do to capture the human story through an ongoing and ever-expanding collection of accounts of individual lives, their joys and their sorrows, their failures and their triumphs. It’s through the stories of others that we come to see their humanity, that we arrive at our intuitive understanding of what human dignity is, why it applies to each of us, and what it demands of each of us. Thank you for the stories you tell.
Jon Tollefson, President of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies: Good morning.
Good morning and welcome to the Dean Acheson Auditorium here at the U.S. Department of State and welcome to one of GLIFAA’s annual pride month celebrations.
We’re very excited that you could all be here to celebrate with us and to join in this discussion on the human rights of L.G.B.T. people abroad.
We have with us to start today a very exciting panel and then the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will join us in a little while, in about 45 minutes time.
And so we’re going to have a discussion to begin this event on the status of L.G.B.T. people worldwide and we have with us some of our foremost experts on human rights in the Obama Administration and we’re very excited to here them speak about L.G.B.T. issues.
GLIFAA is the L.G.B.T. organization of the U.S. foreign affairs agencies and that includes the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Peace Corps and other foreign offices of U.S. agencies, many of which now serve abroad.
So we’re quite a wide organization and we represent the L.G.B.T. interests and family member issues at all of our agencies and so we’re very excited to be getting more into the policy realm as we expand our activities within the building and abroad.
GLIFAA members both here in Washington and throughout the world play a role in supporting LGBT advocates and advancing L.G.B.T. equality.
Just yesterday at embassy Islamabad in Pakistan, charge d’affaires ambassador Richard Hoagland held the first embassy pride event there and many embassies are doing that around the world.
In Chennai India the GLIFAA group marched behind the GLIFAA banner the local pride parade and these are examples that the whole world is seeing now and we’re asking all GLIFAA members, no matter where you are, to start engaging, if you haven’t already, with L.G.B.T. activists and sporting the embassy in their agency as well.
So let’s get started with the panel.
[TRUNCATED: INTRODUCTION OF MODERATOR MARIA OTERO, UNDER SECRETARY FOR DEMOCRACY AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND PANELISTS MIKE POSNER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR; DON STEINBERG, DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR OF USAID; DAN BAER, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHS AND LABOR.]
Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs: Thank you, thank you so much.
This is really a wonderful way to begin the week and an actually wonderful way to really bring to closure the L.G.B.T. Pride Month that we have been celebrating.
As I sit here and listen to Jon talk about the efforts that we’ve been putting forward, it’s actually really hard to believe that it’s been a year since Secretary Clinton said gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.
And in fact we really have made quite a lot of advancements in this past year and I would start by commending GLIFAA for the leadership that they have given, because they’ve really looked not only of policy issues but also with personnel issues and they’ve had a very important impact in, for example, including gender identity in the State Department’s EEO policy.
And being able to also address not only make June pride month very successful but also make this an annual event.
And they also were very important in putting… helping put together the video that the Secretary did called “It Gets Better.”
So I do want to commend you for all the leadership you’re giving in this area and certainly for this work.
One of the things that was mentioned as we were introduced was the degree of interest around the world that is arising on this issue.
I was just in Norway a couple of weeks ago — and this is a really good example of how we are looking to elevate and advance gay rights as part of our overall human rights priorities.
In Norway, I led with the US-Norwegian global issues dialogue.
And under the human rights agenda– because it’s basically a dialogue that covers a variety of different issues– but under human rights it was very important that we really focused on two issues, one was gender-based violence as a very important issue and L.G.B.T. issues were the primary issues we focused on.
The thing that was very interesting about that is that we also learned that Norway is working very closely with Brazil on this issue and we are working very closely with Brazil on this issue so we began to see countries coming together in looking at ways in which they can all work together.
So I’m really very pleased that we have this opportunity to discuss the progress that we’re making around the world to ensuring that human rights are universal.
I think we have moved past the argument of whether L.G.B.T. people are entitled to human rights.
That is not an argument any longer – is an accepted truth.
But what we need to turn our discussion to now is how we can best protect those rights and work internationally in order to make that happen.
I think most of you know that a little bit over a week ago the U.N. human rights council passed the first historic resolution on human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
This was a historic moment and it highlights, really, the progress that we made.
I’m sure we will hear a great deal more about it during the panel discussion and I hope that we do.
And what the resolution does is really affirm that human rights are universal and no one can be excluded from freedom, from dignity, from opportunity just simply because of their sexual orientation or the gender identity.
So I welcome our panelists and really turn it over to them so that they can in brief words, you know, maybe keep it under ten minutes, speak a little bit to some of the things that they want to highlight.
Let me start with Mike Posner, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: I’m going to stand.
Well, thank you, Maria.
It’s really a pleasure, an honor to be here.
I want to, just if I can, make three points and the first is to elaborate on something that Secretary Clinton said a year ago I think at this event which is that for this Administration and this government, for our country, gay rights are human rights and we view these discussions very much in the context of our commitment to promote a universal standard of rights.
Those that come out of the Universal Declaration of human rights, which was adopted in 1948, very much a product of U.S. leadership. Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the Human Rights Commission in the 1940s which led to the creation, the drafting and then adoption of the Universal Declaration.
And the Universal Declaration is an important document because it was the first time that the world coming out of the Holocaust and World War II said that individuals have rights not because of where they live or where they’re citizens or what their governments say but by virtue of their humanity.
It’s an inclusive document.
It says that by virtue of being a human being you’re entitled not to be discriminated against and it doesn’t delineate categories but clearly in the context in which we’re here today, the L.G.B.T. community is entitled to the protections of the Universal Declaration to live their lives freely and without discrimination.
Secretary Clinton has said again that we are going to uphold these universal standards, one set of standards for the entire world, and we’re going to lead by example.
And that’s very much what we’re trying to do with respect to advancing the L.G.B.T. set of initiatives.
The second point is that President Obama has talked about principled engagement in the world.
What it means is that in every country where we do business, where we have diplomatic relations and every country in the world, we are both looking at and promoting various economic, political, strategic interests, but human rights, including the rights of L.G.B.T. people, are part of that discussion.
It’s simply now what we do.
And we do it on several levels.
We do reporting.
We do an annual report on human rights, which covers 194 countries in the world.
The focus increasingly is on… we are increasingly attentive to, and embassies are paying attention to, discrimination, violence, et cetera, directed at the L.G.B.T. community in those countries.
Secondly is our bilateral diplomacy.
We will talk, I’m sure, in the coming minutes about some of the particular places, but one we’ve had a range of challenges throughout the African continent and Uganda in some ways has been a flash point where proposed legislation would have not only criminalized gay sex but also made it a capital offense in some cases.
We push very hard across the board, Dan Baer visited Uganda, as did Maria, and we’ve been thus far successful in stemming the tide of that legislative effort.
There are many, many other examples, specific examples of countries.
This is part of our civil society initiative.
Secretary Clinton last July in Krakow as part of the community of democracies gave a landmark speech, really talking about restrictions on the ability of civil society, N.G.O. activists, to organize, to operate freely.
And these… these rights, again, apply very much to the community, the L.G.B.T. community and countries who are often denied the ability to speak out, to assemble, to associate, to advocate, on behalf of their community.
And finally, we are involved in a multilateral set of activities.
Maria mentioned the U.N. human rights council resolution, actually a South African initiative that was adopted just several weeks ago.
We’ve come a huge way in the last four or five years since I think the French first proposed or began initiating some discussion of these issues, even in the last year there’s been a dramatic step forward and I’m really proud to say that we in this Administration have taken a lead in, again, trying to get a global consensus or a global initiative, particularly here addressing violent activity directed against the L.G.B.T. community.
To say the least, we’ve made progress, but there’s a long way to go.
So for me in the broader context of a human rights policy of the United States, these are cutting-edge issues in the 21st century, human rights issues.
They’re issues in which I’m proud to be associated with an administration that unambiguously is saying this is part of what we do in promoting human rights around the world.
Maria Otero: Thank you, Mike.
Let’s proceed, then, and have Don Steinberg, the deputy administrator for U.S.A.I.D. proceed to the podium.
Ambassador Donald Steinberg: Thank you, Maria.
It really is a great pleasure to be here today.
This is, indeed, an exciting moment for those of us who are committed to these issues.
I don’t think we can overstate the impact of the U.N.’s resolution last week from the human rights commission, which has the acronym H.R.C. and for the first time I’m realizing that is “Hillary Rodham Clinton” and it is fully reflective of her views.
This was a very exciting moment.
Our administrator, Rod Shaw, was so excited that he tweeted 100,000 people to endorse what had been done.
Pointing out that the rights of the L.G.B.T. community are rights that we all support, we all defend, and we all highlight.
For me, however, at U.S.A.I.D., this isn’t just a question of fairness or equity or even human rights.
It is a question of how we do our development policy.
Effectiveness and efficiency.
We recognize at U.S.A.I.D. that our development efforts won’t be successful unless they’re inclusive and are drawing on the full contributions of the entire community that we’re dealing with, including the L.G.B.T. community.
So we have four pillars that we’re focused on at U.S.A.I.D. in this regard first we’re ensuring that in our specific projects we engage in efforts to enhance the political, economic, and social development of the L.G.B.T. community.
Including through our direct programming and through our partnership arrangements.
In terms of our partnerships, we’re developing templates that incorporate bans on bias that comes against sexual and gender identity for our agency but also for our development partners.
We are ensuring that we’re involving the L.G.B.T. community as planners, as implementers, and as beneficiaries of our programs based on the principle “nothing about them without them.”
We’re trying to build viable civil society institutions capable of defending the rights and promoting the interests of these individuals and this community.
Most importantly, our mission must be to promote social and legal equality for the L.G.B.T. community through our conversations, our advocacy and our programs.
A couple of examples are our work with professional associations here in the United States to encourage them create equitable, professional and expert service deliveries to L.G.B.T. communities in developing in transitional countries as well as funding of U.S.A.I.D. sensitivity training to create a welcoming and comfortable environment for L.G.B.T. clients for our activities.
Secondly, we need to recognize that the protection and participation of L.G.B.T. community is essential during times of conflict or emergencies.
It’s during these periods that marginalized communities are most vulnerable.
We often say let’s just get the job done, let’s get food, let’s get water, let’s get health services, we’ll worry about these issues later.
But, indeed, that misses the point.
We have been involved personally in my case with efforts to expand the protection of rights and the security of the L.G.B.T. populations in the context of population displacement, especially refugee camps and I.D.P. camps.
Indeed, we must go beyond the concept of viewing this community as victims and see them for what they are: Vital contributors to a holistic strategy.
Third, we need to ensuring the issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity are fully mainstreamed and integrated into our broader programming as a cross cutting theme.
We need to recognize that the success of our efforts to ensuring food security or democracy and good governance, economic growth and perhaps most significantly global health rests in large part on our capacity to harness and to create space for all countries to draw on the talents and the contributions of this community.
I’m just returning this week from discussions in Istanbul and Paris to set an agenda for developing countries for the conference on aid effectiveness toward the end of this year.
And I’m pleased that the United States was able to promote concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity to be addressed in the basic documents that we will be adopting at this that point.
Finally but certainly not least we must ensuring that we’re walking the walk in house.
We need to ensure that our own practices, attitudes, and actions related to sexual orientation and gender identity reflect the values of democracy, human dignity, diversity, and inclusion.
This means carefully looking at our recruitment, our promotion, and our evaluation policies and practices to ensuring that they’re both free of discrimination and dedicated to the career advancement of all of our staff both in Washington and abroad.
We are conducting trainings for every incoming official in our development leadership initiative on the issues of L.G.B.T. rights and practices and we’re conducting listening sessions where administrator Shaw and myself hear the concerns directly from individuals who are either working on these issues or have personal interest in them.
In order to highlight these concerns, I’m pleased to announce that U.S.A.I.D. will shortly name a senior coordinator for sexual orientation and gender identity who will be responsible for advising the U.S.A.I.D. Administrator on this agenda.
And further, we’re establishing an agency policy coordinating committee to perform such functions as information and knowledge exchange, consensus building, sharing and documenting of best practices and advising on policy and strategy gaps.
This committee will begin with the so-called landscape analysis to assess where we are right now on the four pillars I’ve described before, including our U.S.A.I.D. foreign development assistance strategy.
In order to complete all of this work, we NEED to draw on you, both members of GLIFAA as well as individuals who care about these issues as well as individuals who work on these issues.
We are open to your comments, we are open to your criticisms and we look forward to working with you on this vital agenda.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Thank you, Don.
Let’s proceed, then, with Dan Baer who is the deputy assistant administrator for the bureau of democracy, human rights, and labor.
And Dan, if you would proceed.
Daniel Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: I feel like a trend has been started and so I have to continue it.
I would be happy to sit down but I’ll be brief since I’m a pinch hitter here and pinch hitters should be brief.
But I just want to say thanks again to John and GLIFAA for organizing this event.
I think it’s really… this is a landmark event as well and it’s really a testament to your leadership and everybody in GLIFAA who has contributed to this so thank you very much.
The leadership of the people within our diplomatic corps, within our development professionals community is really important to our making progress as a whole on these issues and it’s really been outstanding over the last year and a half and obviously the support from the top is great but it’s also a bunch of people working everyday to move these issues forward that makes a difference.
So thank you very much.
I just want to say a few quick things.
One, the resolution that everybody has talked about already.
It really was… I was on the floor in the human rights council when it passed, it really was a momentous occasion.
The vote was 23-19.
And, of course, one wants these things to be consensus and they will be consensus someday because even if it was 23-19, everybody on both sides of that vote knew that it was a watershed moment.
And it was really, really impressive to hear the South African ambassador stand up and give a rousing address about the importance of L.G.B.T. human rights within the context of the human rights struggle of his own country was a truly inspiring and, frankly, a moment that even six months ago I would have bet a lot of money against.
So it was a really special time.
When I talk about what kind of comes next in terms of making progress on L.G.B.T. human rights around the world I often talk about busting three myths.
Three myths that you encounter on a regular basis as you work on these issues around the world and the first myth is that L.G.B.T. issues are a western thing and that problems that L.G.B.T. people face are a non-western thing.
And the fact is that that’s not true on either count.
L.G.B.T. issues are not a western thing.
L.G.B.T. people are not a western phenomenon.
And the problems that L.G.B.T. people face they face everywhere, including in the west.
And so rejecting the idea that this is somehow a particular phenomenon that applies to one part of the world or one culture is the first myth.
The second is rejecting the idea that L.G.B.T. rights are special rights.
You know, as secretary Clinton’s words made clear with regard to women, this was also a… something that was asserted with regard to women’s rights and the power of the statement that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights was to say these aren’t special, these are part and parcel of the universal standards that Mike talked about.
And so we need to reject the idea that they’re special rights, as Secretary Clinton did last year.
And the third is that… the idea that advancing human rights for L.G.B.T. people is the job of L.G.B.T. people only.
The fact is that if these are universal rights, they are the universal job of all of us, of all of us who are committed to human rights.
And so these are… just as women’s rights aren’t women’s work, L.G.B.T. rights aren’t the work of the L.G.B.T. community, they are the work of all of us and all of us should be committed to doing that.
As we go forward, you know, as… as Mike and Don Steinberg have alluded to, there are ways in which our government is already engaging on this and I want to just say a couple things.
First, we have to do more than lip service.
Events like today are great, they get us inspired, they get us on the same page, they tell us about the job ahead, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on that’s day-to-day work that really does make the progress.
There’s engagement both with government leaders that our diplomats around the world are engaging in at the direction of the secretary.
I myself have been in meetings where we’ve raised L.G.B.T. human rights concerns with the foreign minister, justice minister, or Prime Minister of over half dozen African countries and that kind of work is going on around the world and it’s really important.
It’s work that probably wasn’t happening not so long ago.
And it’s an important way that we’re engaging.
We’re also engaging with civil society and with activists and we’re engaging in a way that is more than just the first order engagement of reaching out to L.G.B.T. groups but really recognizing as deputy administrator Steinberg talked about the kind of second-order issues are involved in this problem.
So, you know, in many cases sex workers and L.G.B.T. issues, the marginalization of L.G.B.T. people leads many of them to find themselves in the position of being sex workers and you can’t actually make progress if you’re not willing to engage.
I had lunch in Turkey about six months ago with a trans sex worker who is an activist there and as I sat there, her and her knee high black vinyl boots and fish net stockings and a tube top and me in my U.S. State Department diplomatic attire, I thought you know this weren’t normal a while back and I’m not sure… I may be the first person to have lunch with a transvestite sex worker for a legitimate business purpose.
And so we’re engaging not only on the first order issues but on the second order issues.
And lastly, one of the things we’re trying to do as Deputy Administrator Steinberg mentioned is we’re looking for the right ways to support people who are working on the ground to make progress around the world.
And one of the things DRL has done in the last 18 months is set up a fund that is basically an emergency support fund for those who get in trouble because of their advocacy on L.G.B.T. issues and over the last year we’ve helped dozens of people in a variety of countries when they’ve come under threat because of the work they’re doing.
So I’ll stop there and leave us some time for questions.
Thanks very much, again, to everybody for being here today.
Maria Otero: Thank you, Dan.
And you were pinch-hitting but I’d say he hit it out of the ballpark.
I think he did a pretty good job.
I think we’ve heard from different perspectives, just the ways in which we are addressing this issue and certainly as Dan mentioned, for those of us that worked on gender issues– and that goes back into the 1970s, when I was 12–
We… these were some of the same questions that came up and some of the factors that made it important for us to push forward.
And what we have heard from here is not only that we’re working at the diplomatic level and that we are engaging in our own diplomacy and our own reporting and our own work, but we are also training our own people in order to be able to do this and we are funding as we look at the many different ways to address it.
But just gathering from the different presentations where we’ve seen the recurrence of different words such as “inclusive,” “partnering.”
Words related to the kinds of very important issues or events such as the human rights council event that are marking the way we’re moving this forward.
One of the things that I wanted to ask particularly, Mike, is the degree to which as you’re looking at gay rights being human rights and you discussed universal declaration of human rights. It’s always wonderful to have Mike on a panel because he will always go back to the source of everything, which is terrific.
But can we frame this a little more in international human rights and think also of international human rights law as we see it more broadly speaking?
Mike Posner: Thanks, Maria.
Yeah, I think it is a logical evolution of all of the work that’s been done over the last 60 some years in fleshing out the standards articulated in the universal declaration and the two covenants, civil and political rights and economic, social, and cultural rights.
And it is for me also taking a look at the various practical ways that the State Department, a.i.d., work on any number of issues, going from principle to practical applications.
So what I see happening– and it’s happening at a very quick pace– is that everywhere from the recruitment and training of new foreign service officers, civil servants, these issues are now part of the landscape and so it’s a sensitizing and educational process.
It’s the reporting of these acts of discrimination in the context of our annual human rights reporting.
Again, drawn from the covenants and the international standards, how are governments doing against an international frame?
It’s funding, what Don described so well– and Dan– the defenders fund that we have in DRL it’s diplomatic engagement as we do on a whale range of issues.
This is now part of the menu when Secretary Clinton or Dan or I are out in the world, these are the… part of the sets of issues that we discussed in the frame of international human rights standards.
And it’s public diplomacy.
What’s been so striking to me is how often Secretary Clinton has gone out of her way to raise these issues even when they’re not asked.
She’s making a point– and Cheryl Mills does this, too– of saying this is something that we’re going to be out front on so that the public knows this is not something that’s happening behind the scenes.
We are framing these publicly as human rights issues.
And finally it’s a whole of government approach.
It’s not enough just for DRL at State or AID to be doing it, it’s important that PRM is figuring out what are the particular vulnerabilities of L.G.B.T. refugees.
It’s important that we also go beyond state and look at what’s the rest of the government is doing and finally it’s important as we did with the universal periodic review last year that we lead by example.
This is not just about the rest of the world, it’s about those universal standards being applied in the United States as well and our really being a leader and saying these rights apply at home as well as abroad.
Mario Otero: Thinking about all those different ways in which we’re operating, what you bring to the center stage is the fact that we are now interacting with advocates with whom we really didn’t have a lot of interaction, as Dan said, before.
But many of these advocates are not operating in countries where they have this kind of coverage or this kind of support.
In fact, many of them they are on the ground and they’re in volatile sometimes very vulnerable situations.
So Dan, maybe we can talk a little bit about as you meet with these folks or as we interact with them, they themselves– we know, we’ve been in meetings like this– are… even when they come out really put themselves in considerable danger, especially in some countries that have enormous resistance to this issue.
How do we interact with them then?
How do we provide protection in what do we do in order to make sure that we’re not just exposing them in a way that we are not exposed because we’re protecting them.
Dan Baer: I think that a really important point to make.
It’s not just L.G.B.T. activists who we meet with who may be put at risk by their association with the U.S. government so we’re always trying to be careful, I’m sure, all of us on this panel are trying to be careful and one of the first principles is you don’t force people to meet with you.
You let them decide and you try to help them make sure that they are aware of the risks that they may be taking on by meeting with us.
And try to adapt the situation in a way that best protects them.
My own experience is that by and large the vast majority of people do feel that going to a U.S. embassy, especially those who are already beleaguered and out and advocating, et cetera, going to a U.S. embassy actually does help shine a spotlight on their work.
The moral authority of the United States government and of our embassies and missions around the world is powerful and most of them, I think, feel like it gives a bit of protection, a measure of protection, as well as being an opportunity for us to engage.
But I think one of the things that we can continue to do is not only meet with these people but also one of the things that I’ve been focusing on is, you know, when I travel I often meet with L.G.B.T. activists, I also usually meet with a range of human rights activists and one of the things I’ve been focusing on lately is really encouraging the kind of established leaders of established human rights organizations generally to do their part in terms of reaching out to L.G.B.T. groups.
And often it’s women’s groups who are most willing to do this or general human rights organizations, N.G.O.s, et cetera.
They need the support of their local civil society partners as well.
So one of the things that we can do is encourage that kind of support so that they’re less isolated, less standing out on their own, less vulnerable.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Does anybody else want to add to that?
Don Steinberg: Just very briefly.
When I was American ambassador in Angola and someone would step forward on one of these issues, whether it was a question of gender, ethnicity, or L.G.B.T. issues, I would have our human rights official quietly call that person and say “do you want a meeting at the embassy with the ambassador?
Do you want the American flag wrapped around you?”
And frequently they would say yes.
Equally frequently they would say, “Are you kidding”?
That’s the last thing I want.
But, indeed, it is really up to them to make the decision as to whether a connection with the United States is going to be protection or a threat and I think we need to respect that.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Mike Posner: Maria, if I can just add a word to follow up on something that Dan said.
Before coming into government I worked with an N.G.O. and we had a big campaign looking at discrimination and it was in the context of the O.S.C.E., the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
And I went to a meeting in Brussels where the discussion was about violence borne out of hate.
Hatred of vulnerable or marginalized populations.
And one of the things that was really striking to me, that was group there with the Roma community, that was group of Jewish activists concerned about anti-Semitism, a group of Muslims in Europe concerned about their situation, L.G.B.T. activists, African refugees.
Each one of the groups felt marginalized and isolated and they were all in effect fighting the same forces or many of the same forces.
And it was so difficult for them to think, oh, my God, we’re not alone, there’s actually others in the same boat if we can only get ourselves together.
So I think that’s one of the things… one of the challenges for us, frankly, is to try to create an organic whole recognizing that these vulnerable groups are often times weaker standing alone, stronger coming together and being part of a larger discussion that we all universal human rights.
Maria Otero: Good.
As you talk about particularly vulnerable groups, I’m reminded also that one set of vulnerable L.G.B.T. population are in the refugee community, those that are especially in situations of conflict, as was mentioned, and themselves become far more exposed when they’re either in a refugee situation or in an asylum-seeking situation.
And through our Population Refugee and Migration bureau I thought it would be good to mention since Assistant secretary Schwartz is not here, I think he would like us to be able to include in this discussion the work that we’re doing in order to address this issue among refugees.
We ourselves have developed a comprehensive strategy for how it is that we would work with refugees in this situation and we are also working with U.N.H.C.R., the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, so that they themselves provide training for their staff who are working refugee camps and who are developing ways in which they can make sure that this population is not discriminated against, is not persecuted but is actually protected effectively.
This is one of the areas that is important and interestingly our Department of Health and Human Services is developing the same thing for those refugees that are asylum seekers who are L.G.B.T. refugees.
Because they themselves also are entering a new community can suffer considerable discrimination.
So I think these are some of the ways in which we’re trying to address this.
And I’m sure AID is doing some of this as well.
And maybe if you… as you address this, it might be also interesting to hear a little bit more from you about the way in which you’re providing funding or how it is that you are really funding activities that are directly related to L.G.B.T.
Don Steinberg: I just wanted to pick up on your other point, though, because if it’s true for refugees it is true in spades for internally displaced people.
In 2005/2006 I was a fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and spent the year going around the world living in I.D.P. (internally displaced persons) camps from Sri Lanka to Sudan and other places and you always found it was marginalized communities who had been marginalized during peacetime who were most vulnerable during that period as well.
And I believe that in general we have pretty good guidance from the interagency steering committee of the United Nations, that we’ve been participating in how to address both sexual violence and other issues of marginalization.
But this is the one issue where the guidance is faulty.
The L.G.B.T. parts of the I.A.S.C. guidance for U.N.H.C.R. is just not sufficient and we are committed to working with P.R.M. as well as ourselves to bring that guidance up to speed.
Maria, in terms of the funding side, the real question here for me is institutionalization of these efforts.
I mean, if we can not achieve results when we have Barack Obama as President and Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State yourself, Michael Posner in senior positions here, Rajiv Shaw and Barry Wells over at U.S.A.I.D., if we can’t achieve results during this period we’ll never be able to do it.
But the question is: Are we institutionalizing this?
Are we creating new points that any future administration will not be able to roll back?
And for me that means building institutions within developing countries in particular where much of the prejudice and discrimination occurs so that these institutions are stronger.
It means developing systems, codes of conduct.
We just adopted a code of conduct for trafficking in persons that provides tough new standards not only for U.S.A.I.D. but for U.S.A.I.D.’s development partners overseas.
We need to do the same in this area.
We need to build partnerships with the American community that cares about these issues and, frankly, has resources to devote to it.
So that long-term relationships are built.
It’s all about sustainability of these actions and about country ownership.
We need also to be looking at second order issues.
Are financial systems prejudiced against the L.G.B.T. communities such that they cannot get financing for entrepreneurships and other considerations.
And so in the whole range of food security, global health, climate change, democracy and governance, economic growth and other areas where we’ve prioritized, these issues have to be in our D.N.A.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Anybody else want to address this mainstreaming challenge that exists?
Dan Baer: It’s related to that but also to where Mike left off in terms of our example in leading by example.
I thought it might be fun to share a couple vignettes of times where this that’s really been driven home in the last year.
One was I met with activists in St. Petersburg and for those of you who have been following the news over the weekend, St. Petersburg Pride parade was disturbed and people were arrested.
I met with folks last summer as they were starting to plan this and I met with this lesbian activist at my hotel, she came to my hotel and the first thing she did was pull out a button that she had been so excited to give me which was a “Harvey Milk for Supervisor button.”
And she talked about how watching that movie had inspired her to become an activist in her community.
And that American story had inspired her… I mean, the ironies of my getting a button from a Russian activist about a San Franciscan who… but it was a… and she teared up as she gave it to me and told me the story.
It reminded me of the power of our example, the way that we institutionalize our commitments and how that has not only had an affect on how we do things but how others do.
And the other more recent story, Mike and I were in Beijing for the Annual China Human Rights Dialogue, the U.S. government’s annual human rights dialogue and I met with a group of L.G.B.T. activists there and they are planning a Pride celebration for later this summer.
It’s really impressive.
They have a great web site, actually.
And one of them told me that they are working on putting together… launching an “it gets better” campaign and that they had seen Secretary Clinton’s and President Obama’s videos and that that was part of their inspiration to try to do the same sort of viral video campaign within China.
And so the ways that we lead do replicate themselves in ways big and small and I think the power of our example is really important to remember.
I also– before giving up the mic– I want to say that I just want to recognize that the Undersecretary and Assistant Secretary have come in since we’ve started and both of them have been… we’ve talked about some of the successes that the Administration has had in this area and both of them have been on the front lines of that and have been crucial to it and I want to recognize them publicly for their work.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
I think we’re about closing up the panel, as we know we are all anticipating the arrival of the Secretary.
But, you know, one of the… I would just put this forth as one of the final questions for consideration.
As we talk about leading with example, we also know that in our own country there’s still a great deal of work to be done and that this effort has to be addressed.
And as we also work in other countries, we are confronted with the social, the cultural, the religious concerns that exist related to L.G.B.T. people.
That governments themselves and that civil society attempt to deal with and that private sector should also be addressing.
So I just wonder if we can just say a few words to close this discussion about how it is that as we look at this governments themselves, the way that we are putting this forth in the Obama Administration could themselves play a role, I think we’re beginning to see this effort take place.
I mentioned Brazil.
Brazil is a very good example of a country that’s not only leading by example but also leading in the region.
So if we could just address that a little bit in the way in which we are all surrounding our own work.
Whoever wants to address it, yes.
Mike Posner: Well, just a couple of things on that as you were speaking.
I was thinking about the role of the private sector and one of the things that’s really been quite striking is how much in the last ten or 15 years we’ve begun to think about the private sector, the corporate sector in particular, as another piece of the puzzle in terms of how we advance our rights agenda abroad.
In the labor area, for example, my bureau does democracy, human rights, and labor.
And one of the things we are now very actively looking at and working on is how to use the global manufacturing supply chains as a way to advance some of our notions about minimal labor rights standards.
Using the American and European companies as a wedge or as a piece of influence, a part of the influence.
So there are American labor practices, we applied them at home.
What does it mean for the American manufacturer when they go to China or India or Bangladesh to produce their products?
There is now a growing body of evidence or body of work that says their responsibilities follow their product line and their brand reputation depends on their having a global strategy for making sure that things produced under their banner are produced in accordance with some universal or international standards for labor rights.
I think the same strategy ought to be implemented here.
As American companies take on greater responsibility with respect to these rights and they operate abroad, we ought to be thinking of them as a natural partner to try to push this universal set of rights not just through the government, but through the private sector.
Maria Otero: Good.
Don Steinberg: If we here in the wrap-up stage, I just wanted to add one thing.
And that is we’re all talking as if we’ve got these answers here.
The truth is we have to have a lot of modesty here.
We don’t really know as well as we should what the issues at play are.
We haven’t even really done the environmental analysis, if I can say that, within U.S.A.I.D.
Right now Claire Lucas and Urvashi Vaid are involved in trying to do an analysis… a landscape analysis at U.S.A.I.D. to see exactly where the gaps are, where the opportunities are, where we’re doing well, but where the challenges are.
And, again, for that purpose we really need the community to help us.
And so this is both a reassertion of our modesty but also a request for your help in guiding us as we move ahead on this important agenda.
Maria Otero: Well, thank you very much.
I think we’ve had an opportunity to cover a great number of issues.
(Applause.) Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you.
Well, this is an especially momentous and extraordinary time for us to meet for the State Department’s annual Pride celebration, the third event we’ve had here at State since I became Secretary, and the first following the historic vote in New York, which I think gives such visibility and credibility to everything that so many of you have done over so many years, because I look out at this audience and I see a lot of familiar faces of people who have been on the frontlines for many years and have worked so diligently and smartly for the progress that we are seeing.
I do want to recognize, in addition to John, Patrick, and Arturo, who have already been mentioned, Under Secretary Otero and Assistant Secretary Posner and USAID Deputy Director Steinberg and Deputy Assistant Secretary Baer and all who have led our efforts, including Counselor Mills, to protect the rights and well-being of LGBT people worldwide. And I thank Jon Tollefson and GLIFAA for being an invaluable partner in coordinating personnel and policy matters here at State. I’m very honored to receive this award. It really belongs to all of you and so many others in recognition of the work that we’ve had the opportunity to do together to advance equality around the world.
It is an inspiration, however, to keep working, because we have a long way to go toward a world that affords all people the respect, dignity, and equality that they are entitled to. So in that vein, I wanted to share just a few stories from the past year that I hope will keep us going because they are stories of perseverance and creativity by our Foreign Service officers and civil servants who are representing the United States.
In Honduras, as many of you know, anti-gay violence increased significantly in 2009 and 2010. More than 30 LGBT people were murdered and the investigations into those crimes appeared to be going nowhere. Then our Embassy team got involved. They publicly called on the Honduran Government to solve the murders, bring the perpetrators to justice, do more to protect all Hondurans from harm. Soon after, the government announced it was creating a taskforce to investigate and prevent hate crimes. And with the help of a United States prosecutor and detective, which our Embassy arranged to be made available to assist in this effort, we are making progress. And I particularly want to thank and recognize Assistant Secretary Valenzuela, because it was his leadership on this issue that really made a difference.
In Slovakia, the country’s first-ever Pride parade last year ended in violence. So this year, our Embassy staff worked overtime to help make the parade a success. They brought together more than 20 chiefs of mission from other nations to sign a public statement of support for the march. They hosted a respectful, productive debate on LGBT rights. And on the day of the parade, our ambassador marched in solidarity right next to the mayor of Bratislava.
And then there is the work that our Embassy team in Rome has been doing. Two weeks ago, they played an instrumental role in bringing Lady Gaga to Italy for a EuroPride concert. (Laughter.) Now, as many of you know, Lady Gaga is Italian American and a strong supporter of LGBT rights. And the organizers of the EuroPride event desperately wanted her to perform, and a letter to her from Ambassador Thorne was instrumental in sealing the deal. Over 1 million people attended the event, which included powerful words in support of equality and justice.
And then there is the tremendous work that our diplomats have been doing in regional and international institutions to strengthen a shared consensus about how governments should treat their citizens. And we’ve made the message very consistent and of a high priority. All people’s rights and dignity must be protected whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In March, President Obama and Brazilian President Rousseff announced their shared support for the creation of a special rapporteur for LGBT rights within the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. And we have our Bureau for Western Hemisphere Affairs and our permanent mission to the OAS to thank for that.
Also in March, the United States led a major effort at the Human Rights Council in Geneva to get other countries to sign on in support of a statement on ending violence and criminalization based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In the end, 85 countries signed the statement, 18 more than ever had signed onto any previous UN statement on LGBT rights.
And in the very next session of the Human Rights Council, just two weeks ago after another major push by American diplomats in Geneva as well as our teams from IO, DRL, EUR, WHA, and other bureaus, the Council passed the first ever UN resolution recognizing the human rights of LGBT people worldwide. And it was especially meaningful that we had South Africa cosponsoring that resolution with us. And with that we took a huge step forward in our work to refute the hateful suggestion that LGBT people are somehow exempt from human rights protections, and we made it absolutely clear that, so far as the United States is concerned and our foreign policy, and our values – that gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.
Now, it is not just momentous achievements like the Human Rights Council resolution that contribute to progress; it is the day-to-day work of our embassies and AID missions around the world to increase engagement around the issues affecting LGBT rights, especially in those places where people are at risk of violence, discrimination, or criminalization. That’s a concern that Johnnie Carson, our assistant secretary for African Affairs, who is currently on travel to Africa, raises regularly with his African leader counterparts; the op-ed that our ambassador to Barbados wrote in support of LGBT rights; the work that our Eric Schwartz, our assistant secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration is doing to lead the training of humanitarian workers to better protect and assist LGBT refugees and asylum seekers; the discussions that undersecretary Maria Otero led about the human rights of LGBT people in our first Global Issues Dialogue with Norway.
And so I want to applaud all of our diplomats and our development experts who continue to reach out to those advocating around the world in Uganda, Malawi, Russia, Turkey, China, and so many other places. Our colleagues are meeting with human rights activists, health authorities, youth activists, sex workers, the full range of people who are involved in and working to protect LGBT people’s rights and lives. This is people-to-people diplomacy at its best.
Now, all this progress is worth celebrating, but we cannot forget how much work lies ahead. Because let’s just face the facts: LGBT people in many places continue to endure threats, harassment, violence – including sexual violence – in public and private. They continue to flee their homes and nations and seek asylum because they are persecuted for being who they are. They continue to be targeted for trying to build public support through pride activities such as parades. And what we have long thought is becoming the case, and that is if we can convince people to speak out about their own personal experiences, particularly within their own families, it does begin to change the dialogue.
If you followed closely, which I’m sure all of you did, the debate in New York, one of the key votes that was switched at the end was a Republican senator from the Buffalo area who became convinced that it was just not any longer fair for him to see one group of his constituents as different from another. Senators stood up and talked about nieces and nephews and grandchildren and others who are very dear to them, and they don’t want them being objectified or discriminated against. And from their own personal connections and relationships, they began to make the larger connection with somebody else’s niece or nephew of grandchild and what that family must feel like.
So we have to continue to stand up for the rights and the well-being of LGBT people, and sometimes it’s hard when you’re in the middle of a long campaign to see where you’re getting. But I’ve always believed that we would make progress because we were on the right side of equality and justice. Life is getting better for people in many places, and it will continue to get better thanks to our work. So I ask all of you to look for ways to support those who are on the front lines of this movement, who are defending themselves and the people they care about with great courage and resilience. This is one of the most urgent and important human rights struggles of all times. It is not easy, but it is so rewarding.
Pride month is a time for gratitude, for joy, and of course, for pride – pride in ourselves, in our families and friends, in our colleagues, in our community. And at the State Department, there are so many reasons for pride, and the same is true for all of our foreign affairs agencies represented here, from AID to the Peace Corps and others, because we do have so many talented people, and we have so many who are LGBT serving our nation with honor, courage, and skill. And shortly, our military partners will be able to say the same.
So think of the amazing work that has been done in the last year or two, because it truly is a great tribute to those who have fought for these rights, for those who have sacrificed for them, and mostly for our country, because it is our country and our values that truly are being put at the forefront.
And so I say to all of you, thank you. You make our country proud and you make me proud as the Secretary of State to work with you and serve with you every day. But please don’t forget that for every proud moment we can share together, there are so many around the world who live in fear, who live in shame, who live in such difficult circumstances. And our work must continue until they have the same opportunity that all of you and so many other Americans have, which is to be recognized for who you are and to be given the respect that you so richly deserve.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
Remarks by Ambassador Rice at a LGBT Pride Month Reception Held by Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, at the State Department
Thank you. It’s great to be with you here today. And I want to thank my IO colleague Chris Deutsch for that warm introduction and Jon Tollefson for everything he does to lead GLIFAA.
It’s particularly fitting that I am able to speak to this group today—exactly one week after the United Nations, for the first time in history, adopted a resolution dedicated to advancing the basic and fundamental human rights of LGBT persons. That vote at the Human Rights Council marked a major victory for defenders of human rights. It sent a clear message that abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity must end. And for the first time ever, it commissioned a UN report to investigate the challenges that LGBT persons face.
This was more than just another vote in Geneva. That vote marked the beginnings of universal recognition that LGBT persons are endowed with the same inalienable rights as all human beings and entitled to the same protections as all human beings. The United Nations is finally beginning to codify and enshrine the promise of equality for LGBT persons—and as it does so, the world will become a safer, more just, and more humane place for all.
Lots of people in this building and in Geneva—notably Ambassador Donahoe, Assistant Secretary Brimmer, Assistant Secretary Posner, and their teams—fought hard to ensure that this historic resolution passed. We did so because we believe in the equal value of all human beings and are committed to safeguarding everyone’s rights. When the U.S. delegation voted yes in Geneva, we reaffirmed a basic American promise: to fight discrimination in any guise and to embrace diversity in every form. The Obama Administration is proud to work to make that promise real. We’ve taken historic strides to advance LGBT equality and to strengthen LGBT families and communities.
I’m proud of the early progress we’ve made across the UN system. The United States is now a member of the LGBT Core Group at the United Nations—a decision that was long overdue. One of the very first changes our Administration made at the UN was to join the General Assembly’s Statement on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which condemns violence, harassment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And in July 2010, the United States, working with others, won NGO consultative status for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission—the first LGBT group from the United States to do so and one of just a few LGBT groups worldwide.
Last year, we also waged a serious fight against discrimination in New York. When the General Assembly’s Third Committee voted to eliminate any mention of LGBT individuals from a resolution condemning the extrajudicial killing of vulnerable people around the world, I wasn’t just angry. I was incensed. On December 10, Human Rights Day, I pledged to use all of America’s influence to reverse that outrage. And when the resolution went to the full General Assembly, we battled back to restore the reference to sexual orientation. And we won.
The wider State Department has made important progress too. The Department’s annual Human Rights Report now includes a section on the way LGBT persons are treated in every country. In 2009, the Department announced a new grant to provide emergency aid to some human rights defenders, either because they work on LGBT issues or because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender themselves. And the Department has made clear that transgender applicants can, under certain conditions, obtain passports that accurately reflect their gender.
Even as we work to support LGBT persons abroad, we are leading by example—and pushing to ensure that LGBT rights are fully realized here at home.
In 2009, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to violently attack someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Law enforcement officials in this country now have the tools to respond to gay-bashing and related violent acts wherever they occur in the United States. And for the first time, the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” became part of U.S. law to provide explicit protection to LGBT individuals.
Also in 2009, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum extending, to the extent permissible under current law, federal benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of U.S. government employees. Secretary Clinton extended benefits for overseas State Department employees, and this, I’m proud to say, has served as a model for similar changes for LGBT Americans working for the UN Secretariat.
The Obama Administration also renewed the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides lifesaving medical services and support to Americans living with HIV/AIDS. We’ve eliminated the discriminatory ban that kept people out of the United States based on their HIV status. President Obama released the first-ever National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which focuses on decreasing new HIV infections in high-risk communities, improving care for people living with HIV/AIDS, and reducing health disparities. Despite tough economic times, the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget does not just maintain domestic HIV/AIDS funding—it increases it.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is opening core housing programs to all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. The President has honored the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and awarded the Medal of Freedom to Harvey Milk and Billie Jean King. And President Obama has appointed more LGBT officials to his government than the previous two Administrations combined.
And then, of course, there was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”—a law that violated fundamental American principles of fairness, integrity, and equality. President Obama was clear all along that we only weaken our national security and diminish our military readiness by depriving ourselves of the service of patriots determined to defend the country they love. He was right. He was determined. And on December 22, 2010, he signed the law that brought that discriminatory policy to an end.
This is real progress. But we have got a great deal more work to do together.
Around the world, some nations still cling to laws that criminalize gay relationships. Such laws don’t just violate human rights. They hinder social cohesion, economic development, and public health. They reduce trust and cooperation among nations. So we are working together with our fellow Core Group members to urge countries that still have such laws to repeal them—now.
At the UN, the United States continues to fight to ensure that NGOs working to advance LGBT rights have the access they deserve. We were deeply disappointed that the UN NGO Committee voted in May to deny UN accreditation to the Belgium-based International Lesbian and Gay Association. We are working with others to bring forward a resolution in ECOSOC this July to get that decision overturned.
At home, President Obama continues to support repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, so that committed gay couples can have the same rights and responsibilities as any married couple. We must protect the rights of all families by securing their adoption rights, ending employment discrimination, and ensuring that federal LGBT employees receive equal benefits. And we must ensure that LGBT teens are not singled out for bullying and abuse.
The quest for equality for LGBT persons isn’t just an American challenge. It must be the work of all peoples and all nations. But I do see it as a struggle rooted in a great and distinctly American promise: to ensure that all people can live with dignity and fairness under the law.
The story of America is, in part, a story of the expanding boundaries of equality and dignity—of the way that discrimination and prejudice have been overcome by diversity and respect. I feel this deeply and personally. Even at a time of profound challenges at home and abroad, we dare not give up on the great causes of equality and fundamental rights. And that includes the pursuit of full and equal rights for LGBT people in this country and around the world.
Each June, we remind ourselves that change comes from those on the front lines. Each June, we remember that change comes from people who refuse to move to the back of the bus. And each June, we stand proud for equal rights for all—no matter who you are or who you love.
Thank you, and thank you for everything you do for our country.
I am pleased that the UN Human Rights Council today adopted the first-ever UN resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Today’s vote marks a victory for defenders of human rights. It sends a clear message that abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity must end. It commissions the first-ever UN report to investigate the challenges that LGBT persons face. The United States took a leading role in the resolution’s adoption, and we pledge to continue to fight discrimination in any guise and embrace diversity in every form.
The United States joined the UN Human Rights Council in 2009 to change a flawed institution from within through direct and sustained engagement. Since then, we have worked in the Council to shine the spotlight on human rights abusers, promote tolerance for religious beliefs, and mobilize international action against hate. We will continue to stand firm on behalf of all who are at risk of violence or discrimination. And we will continue to work to ensure that rights that are universally held are universally protected.
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Request for Proposals: To expand Cuban civic participation and strengthen independent civil society groups with a view to supporting the ability of Cuban citizens to freely determine their own future.
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Proposals from organizations interested in submitting proposals for projects that respond to the needs and interests of Cubans on the island and empower citizens to engage more robustly in civic activities and decisions that improve their lives.
PLEASE NOTE: DRL strongly urges applicants to access immediately www.grants.gov in order to obtain a username and password. It may take two full weeks to register with www.grants.gov.
Please see the section entitled, “DEADLINE AND SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS” below for specific instructions.
REQUESTED PROPOSAL PROGRAM OBJECTIVES
DRL invites organizations to submit proposals outlining innovative implementation concepts (including but not limited to distribution of small cash grants to enable Cubans on the island to carry out activities that they design, and use of new technologies that facilitate networking, such as SMS text messaging) and capacity to manage projects, targeting one of the following issues. Proposals that include a majority of on-island activities are strongly preferred. Special thought and consideration should be given to the selection of consultants and other personal who may be required to travel to the island. To the extent possible, travel by American citizens should be limited. It is preferable for these personnel to speak Spanish fluently, possess solid understanding of the cultural context, and have prior experience on the island, in order to maximize their effectiveness in this unique operating environment.
Proposals that combine topics may be deemed technically ineligible. Applicant organizations proposing the disbursement of small cash grants should demonstrate their capacity to disburse cash grants and propose a comprehensive plan for administering multiple small cash grants and ensuring that funds are used strategically within the scope of the primary grant. In addition to quarterly reporting responsibilities, grantees will be required to provide DRL, on a quarterly basis, a record of all small cash grant disbursements, breakdown of disbursements, activity funded, and goals reached to date. To ensure transparency and oversight, DRL reserves the right to request any programmatic and/or financial information during the grant period.
Strengthen the inclusion of people with disabilities (subject to the availability of funding, approximately $200,000):
DRL seeks proposals to strengthen and complement Cuban-led initiatives to create the conditions that allow meaningful civic participation by persons with disabilities. DRL seeks to support
initiatives that enable Cuban civil society to encourage and support Cubans to respect, protect and fulfill the rights set out in within Cuban law and international conventions to which Cuba is a party, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Envisioned projects should be designed with the end goal of enabling independent Cuban civil society groups to promote changes in attitudes and behaviors that stigmatize and marginalize persons with disabilities. Illustrative project activities may include, but are not limited to:
Strengthening the organizational and administrative capacity of grassroots disabled persons’ associations and other organizations that provide services to disabled persons, particularly those organizations centered outside of Havana; for example, providing management and organizational skills training; facilitating networking among disabled associations, student groups, and other organizations; and capacity building for public events, publications, etc. For example, this could include working with local associations to promote and execute their activities in remote areas and engage in sponsored events, such as Special Olympics.
Promoting advocacy activities, for example by providing training for grassroots disabled persons’ organizations on principles of independent living, data and information collection and analysis, outreach, communications strategies, and advocacy techniques to help ensure that disabled persons have equal access to housing, education, healthcare services, employment etc. and equal opportunity for civic participation.
Promoting awareness of the rights and obligations set forth by international conventions on the rights of persons with disabilities, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as education and training on advocating in international fora for the enforcement of treaty obligations.
Evaluating and promoting the use of accessible technologies to conduct awareness-raising activities to affect negative societal attitudes against disabled persons and better inform members of the disabled community about their rights, especially outside of Havana; for example, working with local groups to organize events and awareness campaigns, etc.
Strengthen the inclusion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community (subject to the availability of funding, approximately $300,000):
DRL seeks proposals to strengthen grassroots organizations to create the conditions that allow meaningful and unhindered participation by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in all aspects of Cuban society. Envisioned projects should have the ultimate goal of promoting change in attitudes and behaviors that stigmatize and marginalize LGBT persons. Illustrative project activities may include, but are not limited to:
Strengthening the organizational and administrative capacity of grassroots LGBT associations and other organizations that provide services to LGBT persons, particularly those organizations centered outside of Havana; for example, providing management and organizational skills training; facilitating networking among LGBT associations, student groups, and other organizations; and capacity building for public events, publications, etc.
Promoting advocacy activities, for example by providing training for grassroots LGBT groups on data and information collection and analysis, outreach, communications strategies, and advocacy techniques to promote the equal access of LGBT persons to housing, education, employment, healthcare services, police protection, etc. and equal opportunity for civic participation.
Awareness-raising activities to affect negative societal attitudes against LGBT persons and better inform members of the LGBT community about their rights, especially outside of Havana; for example, working with local groups to organize Pride parades and festivals, HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, etc.
Strengthening the capacity of grassroots LGBT organizations to register in Cuba as recognized non-governmental organizations
Freedom of Expression
Professional support to journalists (subject to the availability of funding, approximately $600,000):
DRL seeks to expand its professional support to journalists by enabling the creation of better networked and more professional journalists that can carry out citizen-led initiatives to advance freedom of expression on the island. The end goal is to involve independent journalists’ in the media development process.
Illustrative project activities may include, but are not limited to:
Strengthening the organizational capacity of journalists and independent journalists’ unions to enable them to:
improve the quality of media coverage
raise awareness among journalists of their professional/ethical obligations
provide a platform for interaction among journalists
provide resources for journalists and other media professionals
Promote interaction between journalists and their audiences in order to increase on-island readership.
Greater freedom of expression on the island (subject to the availability of funding, approximately $600,000): DRL seeks proposals to support greater freedom of expression on the island, especially among performing artists, visual artists, musicians, poets, bloggers, and writers. Objectives are to increase opportunities for expressing opinions openly and sharing ideas, generate increased demand not only for information, per se, but to advocate for artistic freedom and for general freedom of expression.
Social Inclusion in Cuba (subject to the availability of funding, approximately $1,000,000): DRL seeks proposals to support effective approaches that empower Cuban citizens to advocate for public policy alternatives that improve standards of living to enable them to demand rights, including access to housing, food, education, and health care. In some instances, these rights may be contained within, but not implemented by the Cuban Constitution, existing Cuban legislation, and/or international conventions signed and/or ratified by Cuba. Local actors increasingly seek means of demanding governmental accountability for systemic rights violations, and have demonstrated a widespread interest in enhancing governmental accountability and transparency within Cuba. Successful applicants will employ mechanisms to promote home-grown solutions to achieving greater respect for rights.
Mechanisms should be aimed at empowering Cuban citizens by providing the appropriate resources and tools to allow them to identify rights that they consider important, and by enabling them to design peaceful, nonviolent strategies or more effectively promote existing strategies. Illustrative project activities may include, but are not limited to:
Community organizing, counseling, advocacy and self-advocacy to demand social and/or economic change
Facilitation of alliance-building to coordinate social and/or economic advocacy efforts on the island
Education and outreach regarding issues related to how housing, food, water, and education, health care are currently provided in Cuba, and discussion of alternative approaches to improving non-discriminatory access.
Education and outreach regarding the right to work, the right to the free choice of employment, the right to just and favorable conditions of work, and the right to own property
Documentation of citizens’ access to guaranteed rights such as housing, food, water, education, and health care, and of violations of those rights. Facilitation of legal advocacy initiatives that promote Cubans’ understanding of their legal rights and increase knowledge of mechanisms for demanding governmental accountability.
Promoting the peaceful resolution of conflict (subject to the availability of funding, approximately $300,000): DRL seeks proposals that promote conflict resolution techniques and foster collaboration among Cuban civil society actors. The end goal is to use conflict resolution as a tool to improve respect for human rights by helping people work together to manage their differences and promoting a consultative process to prevent conflict.
Envisioned projects should include activities that promote techniques (i.e., cooperative approaches, negotiation techniques, principle of impartiality, interest-based cooperative strategies, dialogue, and role-play/scenario exercises) for resolving a wide range of conflict situations, including seeking remedies and redress for abuses and arbitrary enforcement of the law, community disputes, workplace grievances, and vulnerable populations’ participation in society. Illustrative project activities may include, but are not limited to:
Promoting peaceful conflict resolution to prevent or mitigate conflict
Use of conflict resolution to promote greater respect for human rights,
Promoting cooperative approaches that bring opposing parties to the negotiating table and solve problems of mutual concern
Incorporating conflict resolution techniques to the work that nascent civil society groups, such as legal associations, bloggers and larger media community, and religious groups carry out in order to facilitate networks among like-minded groups that would otherwise be competing for limited civic space.
Strengthening Cuban independent legal associations (subject to the availability of funding, approximately $700,000):
DRL seeks proposals that strengthen independent lawyers and legal associations by providing resources, training, information dissemination, and capacity building, among other measures. The end goal will be to further empower independent Cuban lawyers to assist citizens in explaining and defending their rights and freedoms. In addition, given the recent economic reforms in Cuba, the envisioned program will also help independent Cuban lawyers to play a critical role on economic issues related to markets. Illustrative project activities may include, but are not limited to:
Provision of continuing legal education for independent lawyers and other trainings law students. Trainings may focus on topics not traditionally taught in Cuba, such as public international law, office administration and management, small business growth, budgeting and planning, etc.
Provision of management, administrative, human resources and other capacity-building trainings to encourage the effective growth of independent associations.
Creation of synergies with ongoing DRL-funded alternative dispute resolution activities.
Potential synergies could be found through training in mediation and conflict resolution skills for attorneys and civil society actors.
Human Rights Documentation (subject to the availability of funding approximately $427,024):
This project will provide professional support to human rights monitors and investigators throughout Cuba. Currently, most human rights monitors and investigators lack training in basic skills such as data collection, information security, reporting for appropriate audiences, and effective collaboration. Program activities may include:
Promoting the establishment of human rights monitors/investigators’ networks in order to
1) facilitate human rights documentation and analysis effort on the island;
2) identify the most effective approaches to documenting cases; and
3) increase the efficiency and effectiveness of human rights monitoring efforts.
Strengthening the capacity of Cuban human rights monitors/investigators to act upon rights violations and advocate for human rights based upon international human rights standards. Professional development training for human rights monitors/investigators. Training sessions should cover methodologies for monitoring, reporting, coalition building and advocacy. Specifically, training should cover
1) protection and security of information gathered by fact finding missions (security refers to both that of the investigator/monitor and of the persons who come in contact with him/her);
2) documentation techniques, including unique and creative ways to collect and preserve testimony from those inside the island, such as the use of SMS messaging to transmit information, and the provision of sound and precise information through thorough and well-documented reports;
3) how to conduct fact finding missions, collecting sensitive data without compromising the safety of witnesses, and collection of sound, objective, and precise information to document human rights situations.
Supporting human rights monitors/investigators in clarifying both their mission and international human rights standards.
Subject to Congressional approval, the Bureau anticipates awarding grants before September 30, 2011. The bulk of funding activities should take place during a two to three-year time frame. Programs that leverage resources from funds internal to the organization or other sources, such as public-private partnerships, will be highly considered. Programs that have a strong academic or research focus will not be highly considered. Cost sharing is strongly encouraged, and cost sharing contributions should be outlined in the proposal, budget, and budget narrative.
Approximately $4,127,024 in FY 2010 ESF Funds subject to the availability and Congressional approval of funding would be awarded for programs in the themes outlined above. To support program and administrative costs required for implementation, the Bureau anticipates making awards to the maximum available figure listed by theme for Cuba programs. DRL will not consider proposals that reflect any type of support, for any member, affiliate, or representative of a designated terrorist organization, whether or not elected members of government. The information in this solicitation is binding and may not be modified by any Bureau representative. Explanatory information provided by the Bureau that contradicts this language will not be binding. Issuance of the solicitation does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the Government. The Bureau reserves the right to reduce, revise, or increase proposal budgets in accordance with the needs of the program evaluation requirements. To ensure transparency and oversight, DRL reserves the right to request programmatic and/or financial information during the grant period. This request for proposals will appear on www.grants.gov and DRL’s website, www.state.gov/g/drl.
Organizations submitting proposals must meet the following criteria:
Be a U.S. non-profit organization meeting the provisions described in Internal Revenue Code section 26 USC 501(c) (3) or a comparable organization headquartered internationally, or an international organization.
Have demonstrated experience administering successful and preferably similar projects. DRL reserves the right to request additional background information on organizations that do not have previous experience administering federal grant awards. These applicants may be subject to limited funding on a pilot basis.
Be a registered user of grants.gov.
Have existing, or the capacity to develop, active partnerships with in-country entities and relevant stakeholders including industry and non-governmental organizations.
Organizations may form consortia and submit a combined proposal. However, one organization should be designated as the lead applicant.
An OMB policy directive published in the Federal Register on Friday, June 27, 2003, requires that all organizations applying for Federal grants or cooperative agreements must provide a Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number when applying for all Federal grants or cooperative agreements in or after October 1, 2003. Please reference: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/fedreg/062703_grant_identifier.pdf for the complete OMB policy directive.
TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS Proposals should conform to DRL’s posted Proposal Submission Instructions (PSI), available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/p/october_2010/index.htm#. (For this solicitation, applicants must use the Revised PSI dated October 2010.) An organization may submit no more than two (2) proposals. Proposals that do not meet the requirements of the announcement and PSI may not be considered. Proposals will need to include a justification for the selection of targeted groups and geographic regions within the targeted county. Proposals that request more than the award ceiling will be deemed technically ineligible.
For all application documents, please ensure:
1) All pages are numbered, including budgets and attachments,
2) All documents are formatted to 8 ½ x 11 paper, and
3) All Microsoft Word documents are single-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, with a minimum of 1-inch margins.
Complete applications should include the following for proposal submission:
1) Completed and signed SF-424, SF-424a (Budget Summary) and SF424b (Assurances), most recent A-133 Audit, and Certifications Regarding Lobbying forms as directed on www.grants.gov.
2) Table of Contents (not to exceed one  page in Microsoft Word) that includes a page numbered contents page, including any attachments.
3) Executive Summary (not to exceed one  page in Microsoft Word) that includes:
a) Name and contact information for the project’s main point of contact,
b) A one-paragraph “statement of work” or synopsis of the program and its expected results,
c) A concise breakdown of the project’s objectives and activities,
d) The total amount of funding requested and program length, and
e) A brief statement on how the project is innovative, sustainable, and will have a demonstrated impact.
4) Proposal Narrative (not to exceed ten  pages in Microsoft Word). Please note the ten page limit does not include the Table of Contents, Executive Summary, Attachments, Detailed Budget, Budget Narrative or NICRA. Applicants may submit multiple documents in one Microsoft Word file, i.e., Table of Contents, Executive Summary, Proposal Narrative, and Budget Narrative in one file or as separate, individually submitted files. Submissions should address four specific criteria (Quality of Program, Program Planning/Ability to Achieve Objectives, Multiplier Effect/Sustainability, and Institution’s Record and Capacity). Details about these criteria are described in the Review Process section below.
5) Budget Narrative (preferably in Microsoft Word) that includes an explanation/justification for each line item in the detailed budget spreadsheet, as well as the source and description of all cost-share offered. For ease of review, it is recommended that applicants order the budget narrative as presented in the detailed budget. Primarily Headquarters- and Field-based personnel costs should include a clarification on the roles and responsibilities of key staff and percentage of time devoted to the project. In addition, cost-effectiveness is one of the key criteria for rating the competitiveness of a program proposal. Applicants that include cost share in their budget should note that cost share is considered a commitment and that the grantee will be held responsible for meeting the amount of cost share included. It is recommended that budget narratives address the overall cost-effectiveness of the proposal, including any cost-share offered (see the PSI for more information on cost-sharing and cost effectiveness).
6) Detailed Line-item Budget (in Microsoft Excel or similar spreadsheet format) that contains three  columns including DRL request, any cost sharing contribution, and total budget. A summary budget should also be included using the OMB approved budget categories (see SF-424 as a sample). See the PSI for more information on budget format. Costs must be in U.S. Dollars.
7) Attachments (not to exceed seven  pages total, preferably in Microsoft Word) that include the following in order:
a) Pages 1-2: Monitoring and Evaluation Plan (see PSI for more information on this section).
b) Page 3: Roles and responsibilities of key program personnel with short bios that highlight relevant professional experience. Given the limited space, CVs are not recommended for submission.
c) Page 4: Timeline of the overall proposal. Components should include activities, evaluation efforts, and program closeout.
d) Page 5-7: Additional optional attachments. Attachments may include additional timeline information, letters of support, memorandums of understanding/agreement, etc. For applicants with a large number of letters/MOUs, it may be useful to provide a list of the organizations/government agencies that support the program rather than the actual documentation.
8 ) If your organization has a negotiated indirect cost rate agreement (NICRA) and includes NICRA charges in the budget, your latest NICRA should be sent as a pdf file. This document will not be reviewed by the panelists, but rather used by program and grant staff if the submission is recommended for funding. Hence, this document does not count against the submission page limitations. If your organization does not have a NICRA agreement with a cognizant agency, the proposal budget should not have a line item for indirect cost charges. Rather, any costs that may be considered as indirect costs should be included in specific budget line items as direct costs. Furthermore, if your proposal involves sub-grants to organizations charging indirect costs, and those organizations also have a NICRA, please submit the applicable NICRA as a pdf file (see the PSI for more information on indirect cost rate).
Note: To ensure all applications receive a balanced evaluation, the DRL Review Committee will review the first page of the requested section up to the page limit and no further. DRL encourages organizations to use the given space effectively.
The Bureau will review all proposals for eligibility. Eligible proposals will be subject to compliance of Federal and Bureau regulations and guidelines and may also be reviewed by the Office of the Legal Adviser or by other Department elements. Final signatory authority for assistance awards resides with the Department’s Grants Officer. DRL and the Grants Office reserve the right to request any additional programmatic and/or financial information regarding the proposal.
Proposals will be funded based on an evaluation of how the proposal meets the solicitation review criteria, U.S. foreign policy objectives, and the priority needs of DRL. A Department of State Review Committee will evaluate proposals submitted under this request. Each proposal will be rated along six criteria. Review criteria will include:
1) Quality of Program Idea Proposals should be responsive to the solicitation and should exhibit originality, substance, precision, and relevance to the Bureau’s mission of promoting human rights and democracy.
2) Program Planning/Ability to Achieve Objectives A strong proposal will include a clear articulation of how the proposed program activities contribute to the overall program objectives and each activity will be clearly developed and detailed. A relevant work plan should demonstrate substantive undertakings and the logistical capacity of the organization. The work plan should adhere to the program overview and guidelines described above. Objectives should be ambitious, yet measurable and achievable. For complete proposals, applicants should provide a monthly timeline of project activities. Proposals should address how the program will engage relevant stakeholders and should identify local partners as appropriate. If local partners have been identified, the Bureau strongly encourages applicants to submit letters of support from proposed in-country partners. Organizations also should identify and address gender considerations in all proposed program activities, and must provide specific means, measures, and corresponding targets to address them. Organizations should also identify and address disability considerations in all proposed program activities, and must provide specific means, measures and corresponding targets to address them. Additionally, applicants should describe the division of labor among the direct applicant and any local partners. If applicable, proposals should identify target areas for activities, target participant groups or selection criteria for participants, and purpose/criteria for sub-grantees, among other pertinent details. In particularly challenging operating environments, proposals should include contingency plans for overcoming potential difficulties in executing the original work plan.
3) Multiplier Effect/Sustainability Proposals should clearly delineate how elements of their program will have a multiplier effect and be sustainable beyond the life of the grant. A good multiplier effect may include but is not limited to, plans to build lasting networks for direct and indirect beneficiaries, follow-on training and mentoring, and continued use of project deliverables. A strong sustainability plan may include demonstrating capacity-building results or garnering other donor support after DRL funding ceases.
4) Program Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Plan Programs should demonstrate the capacity for engaging in outcome-based evaluations and identify outputs and outcomes to measure how program activities will achieve the program’s strategic objectives. The M&E Plan should include output- and outcome-based indicators, baseline and target for each indicator, disaggregation if applicable, monitoring and evaluation tools, data source/s, and frequency of monitoring and evaluation. For a more detailed explanation of what DRL is looking for in the M&E Plan, please see the PSI and the DRL Monitoring and Evaluation Primer (www.state.gov/g/drl/p/c12302.htm). Projects that propose an independent evaluation, including a midterm and final assessment, with a clear monitoring and evaluation plan will be viewed favorably in this category.
5) Institution’s Record and Capacity The Bureau will consider the past performance of prior recipients and the demonstrated potential of new applicants. Proposals should demonstrate an institutional record of successful programs, including responsible fiscal management and full compliance with all reporting requirements for past grants, especially in similar operating environments. Proposed personnel and institutional resources should be adequate and appropriate to achieve the project’s objectives. Roles, responsibilities, and brief bios demonstrating relevant professional experience of primary staff should be provided as one of the main attachments.
6) Cost Effectiveness The administrative, including salaries and honoraria, and overhead components should be kept as low as possible. All other items should be necessary and appropriate. Given that the majority of DRL-funded programs take place overseas, U.S.-based costs should be kept to a minimum. Cost sharing is strongly encouraged and is viewed favorably by DRL reviewers. For a more detailed description of how DRL evaluates the cost effectiveness of its proposals, please see the PSI.
DEADLINE AND SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS Applicants must submit proposals using www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on July 18, 2011. DRL will still require applications to be submitted via www.grants.gov but will work with applicants who have trouble in the actual submission process.
Several of the steps in the www.grants.gov registration process can take several weeks. Therefore, applicants should check with appropriate staff within their organizations immediately after reviewing this solicitation to confirm or determine their registration status with Grants.gov.
Please note: In order to safeguard the security of applicants’ electronic information, www.grants.gov utilizes a credential provider to confirm, with certainty, the applicant organization’s credentials. The credential provider for www.grants.gov is Operational Research Consultants (ORC). Applicants MUST register with ORC to receive a username and password which you will need to register with www.grants.gov as an authorized organization representative (AOR). Once your organization’s E-Business point of contact has assigned these rights, you will be authorized to submit grant applications through www.grants.gov on behalf of your organization.
Each organization will need to be registered with the Central Contractor Registry (CCR), and you will need to have your organization’s DUNS number available to complete this process. For more information regarding the DUNS number, please visit www.dnb.com or call 1-866-705- 5711. After your organization registers with the CCR, you must wait approximately three to five business days before you can obtain a username and password. This may delay your ability to post your proposal. Therefore, DRL strongly urges applicants to begin this process on www.grants.gov well in advance of the submission deadline.
No exceptions will be made for organizations that have not completed the necessary steps to post applications on www.grants.gov.
Once registered, the amount of time it can take to upload an application will vary depending on a variety of factors including the size of the application and the speed of your internet connection. In addition, validation of an electronic submission via www.grants.gov can take up to two business days. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you not wait until the application deadline to begin the submission process through www.grants.gov.
The www.grants.gov website includes extensive information on all phases/aspects of the www.grants.gov process, including an extensive section on frequently asked questions, located under the “For Applicants” section of the website. DRL strongly recommends that all potential applicants review thoroughly www.grants.gov, well in advance of submitting a proposal through the www.grants.gov system.
Direct all questions regarding www.grants.gov registration and submission to: www.grants.gov
Contact Center Phone: 800-518-4726
Business Hours: Monday – Friday, 7AM – 9PM Eastern Standard Time
Applicants have until midnight (12:00 a.m.), Washington, D.C. time of the closing date to ensure that their entire application has been uploaded to www.grants.gov. There are no exceptions to the above deadline. Applications uploaded to the site after midnight of the application deadline date will be automatically rejected by the www.grants.gov system and will be technically ineligible.
Please refer to www.grants.gov for definitions of various “application statuses” and the difference between a submission receipt and a submission validation. Applicants will receive a validation e-mail from www.grants.gov upon the successful submission of an application. Again, validation of an electronic submission via www.grants.gov can take up to two business days. DRL will not notify you upon receipt of electronic applications.
Faxed, couriered, or emailed documents will not be accepted at any time. Applicants must follow all formatting instructions in this document and the PSI.
It is the responsibility of all applicants to ensure that proposals have been received by www.grants.gov in their entirety. DRL bears no responsibility for data errors resulting from transmission or conversion processes.
Once the RFP deadline has passed, U.S. Government officials – including those in the Bureau, the Department, and at embassies/missions overseas – must not discuss this competition with applicants until the entire proposal review process is completed.
OPERATOR: Welcome, everyone, and thank you for standing by. At this time, I’d like to inform all participants that your lines are in a listen-only mode until the question-and-answer session of today’s conference call. If you would like to ask questions, please press *1 on your touchtone phone. To withdraw your request, you may press *2. Today’s call is being recorded, and I will now turn it over to our first speaker, Mr. Mark Toner. Thank you. You may begin.
MR. TONER: Good morning, and thanks to everyone for joining us on such relatively short notice. As you know, this morning, at least our time, but earlier today, the UN Human Rights Council adopted the first ever UN resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. And here to talk to us today about this historic resolution, we have our Ambassador to the Human Rights Council Eileen Donahoe as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Suzanne Nossel, and our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Dan Baer.
Without further ado, I’ll hand it off to Ambassador Donahoe just to make some brief remarks, and I believe that Suzanne and Dan will also chime in before we take your questions. So over to you, Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR DONAHOE: Thank you very much. I just wanted to underscore how thrilled we are and the entire U.S. team at the Human Rights Council as well as the international community here that this historic resolution has passed the Human Rights Council. It is the first internationally recognized form of protection for lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual people, and it is based on a very simple and elegant idea that all individuals deserve universal rights. And we spend all of our time at the Council protecting the universality of human rights, and this is the first time we’ve been able to explicitly extend that protection to LGBT people and with the support of the international community.
I just want to quickly mention two other aspects of this resolution. First of all, it includes an expression of grave concern about acts of violence and discrimination that are committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And from our vantage point, that was an essential element because there are horrific acts of violence and discrimination that are committed against LGBT people around the world in many places, and sexual orientation is even criminalized in many places. So the extent of support we got for expressing this idea that people deserve to be protected regardless of who they are and who they love and how they want to live their lives was really essential.
Second, the operational provision of the resolution instructs the high commissioner for human rights to document discriminatory laws and practices that take place around the world, and the acts of violence that have taken place against individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity. And we’ve asked her to come back and report to the Council, and we hope this is just the beginning of a movement within the international community, within the UN, and at the Human Rights Council where we can work together to further promote and protect the human rights of LGBT people.
So I will leave it there and let Suzanne and Dan add their perspectives.
MS. NOSSEL: Thanks, Eileen. I’ll start, then I’ll kick it over to Dan. This is really a paradigmatic example of using the UN system to advance one of President Obama’s top policy priorities. We’ve been able to deliver on broad international support behind an agenda that we have set as a key goal for this Administration.
This resolution, I think, will be a lifeline to those struggling for their rights around the world who now know that they have the weight of the United Nations behind them, that they’re not alone, that they can turn to the international system for protection. When they’re abused, when they’re subject to violence, they can reach out and the Human Rights Council and the high commissioner for human rights are there to support them.
And it really – just a third point – it expands the frontier of human rights protection in a new direction, and it’s a direction that not all accept. And it was a hotly fought resolution; you could see that from the voted result. But I think getting a majority on – particularly on the South African-led resolution really is a crucial step that will be irreversible. Gay rights have taken their place under the global human rights agenda. Gay rights have arrived at the United Nations as of today.
Over to you, Dan.
MR. BAER: Sure. I think Ambassador Donahoe and Suzanne have covered it pretty well. I would just echo Suzanne that this is – places in the broader context of Administration policy. Both the President and Secretary Clinton have made LGBT human rights a priority. Secretary Clinton gave a speech last year in which she said gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights. She has sent out a cable to all ambassadors instructing them that LGBT human rights are part of our comprehensive human rights policy. And within the context of the UN system, there has been a series of events leading up to today’s resolution which was, as Suzanne indicated, led by South Africa, but Ambassador Donahoe’s team here put together a side event here last September on LGBT human rights and violence against LGBT people.
There was a statement – well, actually in New York in December. We led an effort to reinsert sexual orientation and gender identity into a resolution at the UN, where it had been removed, about extrajudicial killings. Then in March, there was this joint statement signed by 85 countries, which the U.S. team here did a great job of leading, and now today, the first ever resolution. And so I think this resolution comes at a time where the U.S. has ramped up our engagement on this issue across the board, and not only in the context of international organizations, but also at our embassies and posts around the world.
MR. TONER: Great. Thank you very much, Dan. We’re ready for questions now. Just a reminder of the ground rules, this is an on the record briefing. So with that, we’ll open it up to your questions.
Operator? Bridgette? Thanks.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Thanks. Once again, at this time if there are questions or comments, please press *1 on your touchtone phone. To withdraw your request, you may press *2. And once again, it is *1 on your touchtone phones if you have any questions or comments. And we’ll wait a moment to see if we have any responses.
All right. Our first response is from Jim Mannion of AFP. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yes. I guess my question is: What are the practical implications of this resolution, particularly in countries where, as you all pointed out, that – where homosexuality is criminalized?
AMBASSADOR DONAHOE: I’m going to start – I’m going to let Dan and Suzanne talk about in-country, but I want to make one preliminary comment about the practical impact in the Human Rights Council and in conversations in the international community, which is simply that it is now on the map as a legitimate topic for those concerned about human rights to be raising and reaffirming internationally. And we think this is a game changer in terms of changing the culture in the – at least at the Human Rights Council, on the topic of protections for LGBT people.
Prior to today, it was almost a taboo topic. It was so volatile, there was so much animosity around this topic, and frankly, we – very recently, we didn’t expect that we would be able to see this kind of a result. And yet because of some leadership from partners around the world and widespread support from Latin American countries in particular and European countries and then particularly the South Africans coming together and taking a risk, the conversation has been changed. And so on a – to your point about what’s the practical impact, I think this is a first step in changing the culture, at least the international and diplomatic culture, on this topic as something that is essential to our work. It’s part of our responsibilities.
And I’ll let Dan and Suzanne talk about the effects actually on the ground.
MS. NOSSEL: I mean, just a couple thoughts. One, you won’t see a sea change overnight. It’s not like that by passing this resolution, all of a sudden dramatically, all the repressive laws and practices around the world are going to change and be abolished. That won’t happen. But this does raise the political price of repression and discrimination and violence. It puts a spotlight under it. It sends a message that the international community rejects it, that governments that condone and pursue those policies are outliers, that they’re at odds with an international norm.
It also puts in place reporting so that activists and victims of abuses have a place to turn, they’re not alone, they can contact the High Commissioner and ensure that what they’re undergoing sees the light of day, that people know about it, that it’s – the behavior is called out. And I think, as Ambassador Donahoe said, it’s really a beginning. It’s a beginning of an international norm that will take hold gradually, and if you look at the human rights provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they didn’t all take hold overnight, but by putting them down definitively in an internationally-backed document, you set an irreversible process in motion.
QUESTION: If I could follow up: Is it binding in any way? Because I noticed that there were an awful lot of countries that voted against this.
AMBASSADOR DONAHOE: Well, it’s not binding except to the extent it is the beginning of the establishment of a norm. And so what it does is, as I think Susanne said, it extends the existing principle of universality specifically to LGBT people. So it’s based on something that is widely accepted, it is the core premise of the human rights community and the human rights foundation within the UN, which is that universal – human rights are universal, they are – all individuals are endowed with fundamental human rights. We have now simply extended the concept of that universality to include LGBT people. And so it’s more that it is a reinforcement that this norm is, in fact, truly universal, and that in people’s consciousness and in government practice, it must be applied to LGBT people along with everyone else. And so in that sense, it’s – it has a lot of force because it affirms the extension of the existing, widely accepted universality to the group of people, LGBT people.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MR. TONER: Great. Next question.
OPERATOR: Next question is from Bill Varner, Bloomberg News. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, thank you. I just want to be clear about one thing. The resolution, the text of which I have not seen, expresses grave concern but does not explicitly condemn. Is that correct?
AMBASSADOR DONAHOE: Well, the way I would put it, it’s not that it doesn’t condemn. The operative paragraphs are action-oriented. So it is – what will happen because of this is that the high commissioner will go out and document discriminatory laws and practices and – that inspire violence or past acts of violence against LGBT people around the world, and then come back and report to us and begin the conversations in the council so that we can (inaudible) practices around the world. So that’s the operational aspect of it. And we have instituted a study to document these laws and practices that we want to change and begin the conversation here to encourage that.
But the essence of the – so the spirit, the animating spirit of it, is, in effect, condemnation because of grave concern of – that acts of violence and discrimination are perpetrated against LGBT people. So it’s the same animating idea that that is wrong and that this resolution asserts that violence and discrimination against LGBT people is not acceptable for the international community.
QUESTION: Understood, but just so I’m clear, the only – the – sort of the biggest – the most explicit view of these acts is an expression of grave concern. That’s sort of the position about these acts?
AMBASSADOR DONAHOE: Correct.
QUESTION: Not anything beyond that in terms of – okay, I just wanted to make sure I understood. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR DONAHOE: Mm-hmm.
MR. TONER: Next question, please.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is from Natasha Fozgovaya of Haaretz. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. I was just wondering to what extent the U.S. Administration can take credit for promoting these undeniably positive changes at the Human Rights Council?
MS. NOSSEL: Yeah, I think Dan said it well when he went through the steps that we’ve taken over time to put this issue on the agenda and work with others to build support, and particularly the role that we played in March in mobilizing 85 countries behind this far-reaching and much more sweeping statement on LGBT rights that you may want to take a look at to Bill’s question in terms of stronger language and condemnation; there was very broad support for that.
But it was very important that South Africa took the lead here. I mean, as many of you know, the – some of the practices about which we’re most concerned – violence, discriminatory laws, laws that can legitimize repression – are in place in Africa. And so for an African country to step forward and lead on this resolution was quite significant, and actually makes it, I think, in a sense, more of – an even stronger message of global unity around this.
MR. TONER: All right. Next question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. I’m currently not showing any other questions, but as a reminder to all parties on the phone lines, if you have questions or comments, please press *1 on your touchtone phones at this time. Again, it is *1 on your touchtone phone if you have any questions or comments. And we’ll wait another moment here to see if you have any responses.
All right, we have a response from Richard Solash of Radio Free Europe. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, everyone. Thank you for doing this conference call. I just wanted to get a statement from one of you as to what the United States would say to countries like Russia, Pakistan, many African nations that opposed this. What is the U.S. statement for those countries on your – well, what is your position to their opposition?
AMBASSADOR DONAHOE: I feel like we should let Dan do that. I want to say one line, is they’re behind the curve on this issue, but I’ll let Dan elaborate.
MR. BAER: I guess I think that one of the purposes of the Human Rights Council, obviously, is to foster an international conversation about human rights and to shine a spotlight on urgent human rights issues, both in particular places and particular thematic issues around the world. And I agree with Eileen; I think that our message would be that universal human rights apply to everyone, and that the state – that today’s resolution is not meant as a shot in an argument; it’s meant as an affirmation of a universal principle that we consider to be there in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that the categories that are enumerated in the Universal Declaration were not intended to be comprehensive and that no distinction, such as the one covered in the resolution today, would be an excuse for anyone to deny any individual human rights.
And I think that over time, we have seen progressively that it has taken the international community time to recognize the fact that all individuals deserve human rights. For a long time, women were excluded, for a long time people of different races or religious or ethnic groups were excluded. And each time that we’ve – that the international community has expanded the circle of who counts as human, there have been people who have disagreed, and each time, as time has progressed, those disagreements have seemed less and less convincing. And so we would expect that over time, that will be the case with this as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
AMBASSADOR DONAHOE: Can I just add one thought that occurred to me in terms of getting across a little bit about the dynamic at the council and the resistance to this idea? I think it’s often expressed as an effort of, let’s say, Western countries to impose their values on more traditional cultures or different cultures. And I think what we’re seeing is that that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what’s going on here. And our perspective is that these are core fundamental, traditional human rights. They are universal. They already exist. It’s not a matter of imposing these values on anyone. They exist and they – every individual embodies those rights. And this is simply reaffirming that regardless of one’s sexual orientation or identity, people all are endowed with these rights.
And I think that the conflicting narrative we have is between the idea that these are just core human rights for all individuals, that we are reasserting in a way that makes it obvious that they’re applicable to LGBT people versus this idea that I think is mistaken and will shown – be shown relatively soon to be an outdated idea that this is an imposition of Western values. I think that idea is losing steam, and I think more and more countries and people around the world are coming to see that these really are just basic universal human rights.
MR. TONER: All right. Thank you. We have time, I think, for just one more question.
OPERATOR: I have no further questions in the phone queue.
MR. TONER: Perfect. All right, then. Well, thanks so much for everybody joining us from the journalist side today as well as our interlocutors joining us both from Geneva and here in Washington. We appreciate the participation, and everyone have a great day. Thank you all.
OPERATOR: I thank you all for your participation. That concludes today’s conference. You may now disconnect. Thank you.
MR. TONER: Thank you.