Randy Berry, special envoy for the human rights of LGBTI persons, updated reporters on the status of his office’s mission, saying he’s engaged in "challenging conversations with foreign government officials."

Berry, the U.S. State Department’s point man on persons who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex, said those challenging talks centered on discriminatory legislation, stigma and violence. Nearly 80 countries criminalize LGBTI status or conduct, Berry said. Of special danger is Saudi Arabia, which still imposes the death penalty for LGBTI persons.

The governments in Nigeria and Russia, Berry said, are moving in a hostile direction by passing draconian laws that "undermine human rights for all people, not just LGBTI individuals." 

Berry’s remarks were delivered at a United Nations press conference last week in Geneva, Switzerland.

Positive developments, mentioned by Berry, included the decriminalization of adult same-sex behavior by the African country of Mozambique, a meeting with the Secretariat of State at the Vatican and the addition of Argentina as the 12th partner in the Global Equality Fund.

The Global Equality Fund, Berry said, is a multi-stakeholder fund to support civil society organizations to advance LGBTI rights. Berry, a foreign service officer since 1993, was appointed to his special envoy position by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in April of 2015.

"I am confident that our collective efforts will help support a world in which everyone is afforded the dignity, the freedom and the equality they rightfully deserve," Berry said.