Welcome to this panel discussion, which is being held on International Human Rights Day – 62 years to the day since the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
This event is co-hosted by Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, France, Gabon, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the United States and the European Union, in collaboration with a coalition of non-governmental organisations defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
The subject of our panel discussion is one of great importance: Ending Violence and Criminal Sanctions on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
Put simply: There is no excuse for violence against individuals on the basis of perceived sexual orientation or gender identity; and no excuse for discrimination against individuals on the basis of perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
With human rights as one of its three founding pillars, this issue must be addressed by the UN; because, in furtherance of the principles of the Universal Declaration, it is the responsibility of all states to promote and protect the human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.
We are fortunate to have some very distinguished speakers.
We will hear opening remarks from none other than the Secretary-General, His Excellency, Mr Ban Ki-moon.
We will then hear from US Ambassador Susan Rice, followed by Assistant Secretary-General in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, and a video message from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
I am pleased that the Croatian Permanent Representative, Ambassador Ranko Vilovic, joins me in co-chairing this first segment.
The Deputy Permanent Representative of Norway Tine Mørch Smith will introduce the second segment, involving civil society representatives, followed by an inter-active dialogue with Member States.
The Deputy Permanent Representative of Belgium, Thomas Lambert, will then offer some concluding remarks.
Ladies and gentlemen –
There is nothing worse than a chairperson who says that a guest speaker needs no introduction, but still wastes time providing one.
It is sufficient to say that our Secretary-General regards this issue as being of such importance that he has changed his busy schedule – indeed, broken into another commitment - to join us to open this event.
Ladies and gentlemen: The Secretary-General of our United Nations, His Excellency, Mr Ban ki-Moon.