U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO David Killion praised UNESCO’s announcement that it would hold the first-ever United Nations consultation on LBGT rights in schools, calling it “an important step forward in promoting gay rights at the international level.”
The consultation is being held in Rio de Janeiro from December 6th- 9th to discuss the question of widespread abuse and discrimination against LGBT students in schools and universities. According to UNESCO, more than 90% of LGBT students in the United States have been subjected to homophobic harassment; in New Zealand 98% of LGBT people say they have been verbally or physically abused at school. UNESCO has emphasized the psychological and intellectual costs of this abuse, underscoring that LGBT students are more likely to drop out of school and to contemplate or engage in self-destructive behavior. The Rio consultation will examine existing policies and programs that support LGBT students with the goal of identifying best practices that can be shared with Ministries of Education across the world.
Ambassador Killion congratulated UNESCO for the initiative.
“UNESCO can play an important role in the promotion of gay rights,” Killion said. “Discriminatory attitudes are often learned in schools, so this is where they must be fought. UNESCO is helping schools across the world teach tolerance, including through Holocaust education, and I’m glad to see that the organization is developing new ways to combat homophobic attitudes.”
UNESCO’s initiative coincided with an announcement by the Obama administration that it would actively seek to promote gay rights as part of its foreign policy. Speaking to an audience of diplomats in honor of International Human Rights day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” On December 6th, the Obama Administration issued a presidential memorandum directing all federal agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.