Hillary Clinton has delivered a groundbreaking speech to a United Nations summit in Geneva following the US’ declaration that its agencies will challenge the criminalisation of gay acts and LGBT identity overseas.

The Secretary of State said gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were “human beings born free and bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time”.

She said: “Some seem to believe it is a western phenomenon and therefore people outside the west have grounds to reject it.

“Well, in reality gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world.

“They are all ages, all races, all faiths, they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes.

“Whether we know it, whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends and our neighbours.

“Being gay is not a western invention, it is a human reality.”

She also spoke of a new Global Equality Fund to support the work of “civil society organisations” internationally.

She told diplomats: “This fund will help them record facts so they can target their advocacy, learn how to use the law as a tool, manage their budgets, train their staffs, and forge partnerships with women’s organizations and other human rights groups.

“We have committed more than $3 million to start this fund, and we have hope that others will join us in supporting it.”

Her speech was welcomed by Paul LeGendre of the group Human Rights First, who said: “Secretary Clinton’s work to impact the international community and its inclusion of LGBT rights will be one of her enduring legacies.

”She is right: it is time for all nations to implement policies to protect this vulnerable community from violence and discrimination. President Obama’s directive specifically advances that goal.”

The Kaleidoscope Trust, which supports efforts to protect the human rights of LGBT communities around the world, called on David Cameron to back the initiatives announced by the US.

Lance Price, Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust who is in Geneva, said: “The Obama administration has set a new benchmark for governments in supporting human rights for all. David Cameron must now demonstrate his commitment to defending LGBT rights around the world by throwing Britain’s weight and influence behind this campaign.

“For the first time America now has a government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT people abroad backed by a new Global Equality Fund. David Cameron has spoken up in defence of equality for gay and lesbian people at home and abroad, but Britain lags behind when it comes to action and practical support.

“The Prime Minister said he wants Britain to be a global beacon for reform of gay and lesbian rights. We strongly applaud that. Now is the time for him to demonstrate that commitment in practise by strengthening the government’s response in line with that of the United Sates.”

The Kaleidoscope Trust has called on the government to establish a Foreign Office unit to coordinate the defence of gay rights as a foreign policy priority, contribute financially to the international effort, and ensure Britain’s embassies and overseas commissions play a part in combating the criminalisation of homosexuality.