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UN chief on LGBT rights: “Leave no one behind”

09 October 2015


The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, received a standing ovation for a speech in which he declared his unwavering support for the cause of full legal and social equality for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

“This United Nations I lead will never shirk in the fight against discrimination. We will never shy away from protecting the most marginalized and vulnerable people," he said.

The Secretary-General, Botswana's former President Festus Mogae and former Special Rapporteur Hina Jilani were among featured speakers at a high-level event on LGBT inclusion and the Sustainable Development Goals at UN headquarters on 29 September 2015, organized by OHCHR in collaboration with the cross regional LGBT Core Group at the United Nations. The event was attended by approximately 300 people, including some 15 ministerial-level representatives and a number of UN Ambassadors.

The event highlighted the linkages between protecting the rights of LGBT people and progress towards achieving the new set of global development goals that world leaders adopted last week.

“There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals all based on a single, guiding principle: to leave no one behind,” the UN chief said. “We will only realize this vision if we reach all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity ... Ending marginalization and exclusion of LGBT people is a human rights priority – and a development imperative."

The Secretary-General welcomed the adoption – announced earlier in the day – of an unprecedented joint UN statement on ending violence and discrimination against LGBT and intersex people, endorsed by 12 UN agencies – including the UN Human Rights Office, which co-led the initiative. The joint statement, he said, showed that support for the rights of LGBT and intersex people wasn't just personal, on his part, but institutional, spanning the UN system.

For his part, President Mogae challenged African leaders who hadn’t taken up the fight against homophobia. "In Africa, one of the most fundamental ideals we have fought for is that of non-discrimination on the grounds of skin color, gender, religious orientation and other beliefs. We uphold this ideal passionately," he said. “Yet ironically, discrimination against LGBT people is still upheld and justified by our same nations and laws.”

Hina Jilani, former Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and a member of the international NGO The Elders, spoke about the range of violations perpetrated against members of the LGBT community and challenged attempts to justify violence and discrimination with reference to culture and religion.

She paid tribute to the tenacity and determination of LGBT human rights defenders and highlighted the advances being secured in even unlikely places, citing recent Supreme Court victories for the rights of transgender people in Pakistan as an example of continuing progress. "Human rights defenders fighting for the rights of LGBT people will never stop. They will never be defeated. And that gives me hope," she said.

A new 2-minute Free & Equal campaign video, "Voices from the Front Lines", featuring testimony from survivors of homophobic and transphobic abuse and their families, created especially for the event, was also screened.

9 October 2015