• Carr Center for Human Rights Policy


Global LGBTQI+ Human Rights Program logo

The program will expand research and training on safeguarding the human rights of LGBTQI+ people worldwide.

The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School launched a new program today called the Global LGBTQI+ Human Rights Program. Led by Carr Center Faculty Director Mathias Risse, Faculty Program Chair Timothy Patrick McCarthy, and Program Director Diego Garcia Blum, the program aims to address the escalating crisis of violence and discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals globally.

By creating a unique program that focuses on expanding and preserving the human rights of LGBTQI+ populations around the world—especially in areas where these rights are threatened, disappearing, or nonexistent—the Carr Center intends to elevate a critical subject matter that has not yet received sufficient coverage at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Risse, Garcia Blum, and McCarthy envision establishing the Carr Center as a key international nexus for LGBTQI+ human rights policy, training, ideas, and dialogue that will  amplify the impact of activism on the ground and facilitate global collaboration among activists, academics, policymakers, and the media.

“The heart of this program is empowering and supporting the brave LGBTQI+ activists working in challenging and often perilous environments,” said Garcia Blum. “Through our training and high-impact research, we aim to supercharge their efforts.”

Diego Garcia Blum is the Program Director for the Global LGBTQI+ Human Rights Program at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. His work is dedicated to advocating for the safety and acceptance of LGBTQI+ individuals globally, particularly in regions where they face significant risks. It is a calling born out of his own story of overcoming oppression as a gay man and witnessing the heartbreaking assault on LGBTQ people in repressive areas of the world. At Harvard, Garcia Blum's efforts have centered on driving social change through policy, impactful research, political engagement, storytelling, community organizing, coalition-building, and developing training programs for advocates. 

Previously, Diego worked under Governor Deval Patrick researching LGBTQI+ issues and creating educational programs as the Social Change Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership. Since 2020, he has taught "Queer Nation: LGBTQ Protest, Politics, and Policy in the United States" alongside Dr. Timothy Patrick McCarthy at Harvard. Garcia Blum previously served on the National Board of Governors of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQI+ advocacy group in the U.S., where he also volunteered as a community organizer in Washington D.C.

In many parts of the world, LGBTQI+ individuals face severe persecution, including criminalization and even the death penalty, simply for their sexual orientation or gender identity. This hostile environment leads to disproportionately high rates of suicide among LGBTQI+ youth, as they are forced to live in constant fear and are denied basic rights and protections. Ensuring the safety and well-being of LGBTQI+ people globally remain pressing human rights issues that require urgent action.

Today, we stand at a critical crossroads for the global LGBTQI+ community.  Authoritarian regimes, taking cues from actions like Russia's classification of LGBTQI+ groups as extremist, increasingly use the suppression of LGBTQI+ rights to tighten their grip on power. This pattern, particularly prevalent in Africa, the Middle East, and other regions, highlights a crisis that has long been neglected. Our immediate and strategic action is essential to combat these threats and uphold the human rights and safety of LGBTQI+ individuals globally.

“Across human history, LGBTQI+ people endured profound suffering, forced to conceal their identities in the shadows when they were not safe anywhere on earth. Even as many LGBTQI+ people in the Global North have gained hard-won freedoms, this ongoing and often forgotten crisis persists in numerous regions around the world,” said Garcia Blum. “Today, these already vulnerable populations face escalating repression by actors exploiting harmful myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings of LGBTQI+ people. To combat this injustice, we must identify, confront, and dispel the falsehoods used to justify such egregious human rights violations.”

The key initiatives of the Global LGBTQI+ Human Rights Program include:

  • Training: Develop and deliver highly effective LGBTQI+ advocacy training programs, drawing on the deep expertise of our faculty, facilitating the exchange of best practices, and collaborating closely with LGBTQI+ advocates and practitioners in the field.
  • Research: Conduct robust, evidence-based research to challenge and dismantle myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings of LGBTQI+ people, develop policy recommendations, and investigate how LGBTQI+ advocacy can evolve with new technologies, the engagement of diaspora communities, and the adoption of innovative approaches. 
  • Events and Special Podcast Episodes: These will focus on LGBTQI+ issues and utilize the Carr Center’s convening power to raise awareness and drive important discussions for the global movement.

“LGBTQI+ rights are not secured in a large number of countries in the world, and even where things seem good, there often remains a risk of a backlash,” Risse said. “Creating a nexus of activity in this domain is precisely the kind of work the Carr Center ought to be doing. We are very fortunate to have connected with a person who has the level of talent and dedication that Diego brings to this work.”

Mathias Risse is the Faculty Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and the Berthold Beitz Professor in Human Rights, Global Affairs and Philosophy at Harvard Kennedy School. His work primarily addresses questions of global justice ranging from human rights, inequality, taxation, trade and immigration to climate change, obligations to future generations and the future of technology, especially also the impact of artificial intelligence on a range of normative issues.

The Global LGBTQI+ Human Rights Program developed out of the first LGBTQI+ Activism Summit organized by McCarthy and Garcia Blum in 2023, co-sponsored by the Carr Center and the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School, with support from the Open Gate and David Bohnett Foundations. The groundbreaking event brought together global activists dedicated to expanding LGBTQI+ rights in challenging and dangerous contexts and provided a unique opportunity for these individuals to receive training and engage with esteemed Harvard faculty members and fellows. The training sessions adapted the robust curriculum at HKS on movement building, organizing, and strategizing for human rights to the context of advancing LGBTQI+ rights and included sessions that focused on analyzing the systemic drivers of social acceptance for LGBTQI+ people.

"The 2023 LGBTQI+ Activism Summit was a timely and trailblazing convening that brought together queer activists and organizers from throughout the globe with some of Harvard’s leading thinkers and practitioners on human rights and social justice,” said McCarthy. “A product of Diego’s tireless and visionary work, the Summit was an inspiring catalyst for this expansive new Carr Center program, which we hope will bring new energy and attention to the global movement for LGBTQI+ human rights at a time of great urgency and possibility.” 

Timothy Patrick McCarthy is a longtime faculty affiliate of the Carr Center. He taught for 16 years at the Kennedy School, where he was the first openly gay faculty member and still teaches (with Garcia Blum) the school’s only course on LGBTQ+ matters. He is the recipient of the 2015 Dean’s Award for Exceptional Leadership on Diversity and Inclusion and 2019 Manuel C. Carballo Award, the school’s highest teaching honor. He is also the recipient of the 2023 Evelynn M. Hammonds Award for Exceptional Service to BGLTQ+ Inclusion at Harvard University. Since 2021, McCarthy has taught at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, where he is core faculty in the Equity and Opportunity Foundations Curriculum, online Master’s program in Education Leadership, and Higher Education concentration. A respected leader in the queer community, he was a founding member of Barack Obama’s National LGBT Leadership Council and part of the first-ever LGBTQ delegation from the United States to Palestine and Israel.

With the success of the first LGBTQI+ Activism Summit, the Carr Center plans to make it an annual fixture of the Global LGBTQI+ Human Rights Program, with the second Summit to be held in Fall 2024.

The new program is generously funded by the Open Gate Foundation, David Bohnett Foundation, and individual donors.