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.
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.
The State Department and National Science Foundation joined forces with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on June 13 to sponsor a groundbreaking symposium entitled “Changing Mindsets to Promote Women and Girls in Science”. The symposium, a commitment under the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), brought fifteen women scientists from Benin, Jordan, Burkina Faso, Mongolia, Brazil, India, Tanzania, The Gambia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, and the West Bank together with more than 100 scientists, educators, and representatives from the private sector and foreign governments.
Participants examined programs and policies that are making a positive impact on attracting girls to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, keeping them interested in STEM through college, and providing concrete tools to retain women scientists at every level of their scientific careers.
At the symposium the OIC announced that it will host a visit by RAISE Project leadership in OIC member states within the coming months. The visit will offer opportunities to adapt RAISE programming in OIC nations. The RAISE Project, sponsored by the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR), is a campaign to increase the status of professional women through enhanced recognition of their achievements in science, technology, engineering, medicine, and mathematics. Its searchable database of professional awards is an invaluable resource for scientists wishing to nominate women for professional recognition.
At the conclusion of the symposium, the State Department and the OIC agreed to hold a similar symposium in the Middle East/North Africa region.
The symposium was supported by additional partners, including NASA, the National Institutes of Health, USAID, the Iraqi Women’s Fellowship Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, and Novus International.