New York

29 September 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at the High Level LGBT Core Group Event "Leaving No-One Behind: Equality & Inclusion in the Post-2015 Development Agenda"

Thank you, First Vice-President Timmermans, for your warm welcome.

I am grateful to every member of the LGBT Core Group.

You stand with me in defending human rights for all people.

Thanks to you, the United Nations is moving closer to fulfilling the mission entrusted to us 70 years ago.

Our Charter reaffirms the fundamental human rights, dignity and worth of every single person.

Leaders from around the world have just adopted a new vision for sustainable development.

There are 17 sustainable development goals all based on a single, guiding principle: to leave no one behind.

We will only realize this vision if we reach all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In too many countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are among the poorest, most marginalized members of society.

We need more data to get a clear picture – but we already know that gay affluence is largely a myth. Studies show that gay and lesbian people suffer disproportionate discrimination and abuse. They are rejected by their families… kicked out of their homes … and pushed out of school. Too many of our LGBT brothers and sisters are jobless, homeless and struggling to survive.

The situation of transgender people is even worse overall. They have higher rates of homelessness, poverty and hunger.

For individuals and their families, this is a personal tragedy. And for society, it is a shameful waste of human talent, ingenuity and economic potential.

All members of this Core Group understand that ending marginalization and exclusion of LGBT people is a human rights priority – and a development imperative.

We are here together to break down the barriers that prevent LGBT people from exercising their full human rights. When we do that, we will liberate them to fully and productively contribute to our common economic progress.

The investments we make in eliminating intolerance and hate will bring huge benefits across the global agenda.

We can create a world where all people are Free&Equal, as our campaign is called.

We can show future generations that the best way to advance our shared goals is to embrace all members of our human family – regardless of who they are or whom they love.

Distinguished Ministers,

This year I was privileged to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, the city where it was born.

After that ceremony, I was truly proud and honoured to receive the Harvey Milk Award for the UN’s Free&Equal campaign against homophobia and transphobia.

More than 30 years ago, Harvey Milk lost his life fighting for equality when he was shot to death in San Francisco’s City Hall.

Looking at me, you would think I have very little in common with Harvey Milk.

I would never claim to be as courageous as he was.

But I am totally committed to this cause.

Growing up in the Republic of Korea, we didn’t talk about sexual orientation or gender identity.

But as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I learned to speak out because this is a matter of life and death.

I stand with the gay teen who is bullied… the transgender woman denied work … the lesbian subjected to vicious sexual assault.

Let me say a word about my personal diplomacy to fight discrimination against LGBT people.

I have been urging many world leaders whose countries have harsh domestic policies to amend them. Sometimes I am successful and other times I am not but I will continue to fight until all LGBT people can live freely without suffering any intimidation or discrimination.

In this regard, I would like to recall with deep respect an incident with the late President of Malawi, President Mutharika. I visited Malawi in May, 2010. I appealed to President Mutharika to release a gay couple who were imprisoned. He disagreed with me at first but, to my surprise, he announced at our joint press conference that the couple would be released with immediate effect.

When the human rights of LGBT people are abused, all of us are diminished. Every human life is precious – none is worth more than another.

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.

This is not just a personal commitment – it is an institutional one.

Some say I am the first Secretary-General to take up this cause – but I prefer to say I am the first of many. To lead this Organization means to carry out its sacred mission to deliver human rights for all people.

We keep advancing.

Earlier today, a dozen UN agencies issued the first-ever joint UN statement on combatting violence and discrimination against LGBT and intersex persons. I applaud them for speaking in one voice on this critical issue.

And I say to members of the LGBT community: the United Nations will always stand with you in your fight for recognition, respect and rights.

Let us unite for a better world for all people.

Thank you for your leadership and your commitment.