UK won’t cut aid over human rights abuses
UK International Development Minister says policy has been misrepresented: UK foreign aid will not be cut, but switched to NGOs and civil society organisations; On Monday, Nov 21, the Tatchell Foundation presented African social justice activists’ statement to UK government.
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A statement signed by over 100 African social justice activists, criticising the UK’s reported new aid policy, has been presented to Britain’s Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell MP.
The presentation of the African statement to UK International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell was made human rights lobby org the Peter Tatchell Foundation at a meeting at the headquarters of the UK Department for International Development in London on Monday, November 21.
Mr. Tatchell urged the International Development Minister to “heed the concerns of grassroots LGBTI and human rights advocates in developing countries” and to work to “empower them.” Mr. Mitchell promised to give the African activists statement careful consideration.
It has been widely reported in the media that the UK government was planning to cut aid to regimes that abuse LGBTI rights.
The Peter Tatchell Foundation has previously called on the UK government to “switch aid, don’t cut it.”
“Instead of cutting aid, Britain and other donor countries should divert aid money from human rights abusing governments and redirect it to grassroots, community-based humanitarian projects that respect human rights and do not discriminate in their service provision,” urged Mr. Tatchell.
“By redirecting aid in this way, abusive governments are punished but poor people are not penalised. They continue to receive the aid they need,” he said.
At the meeting, Mr. Mitchell said that his government’s aid policy had been “misrepresented by some media”.
He added that the UK government has not threatened to cut aid but has said it would “channel it in new directions” if recipient governments failed to meet four requirements: reduce poverty, adhere to human rights, demonstrate good financial management and show accountability to their citizens.
In the case of countries that violate human rights, Britain is, he said, committed to maintain aid but divert it from abusive central governments to good practice NGO, civil society organisations and local government bodies, as it has done in Malawi. There would be no net reduction in aid, he pledged.
Contrary to media reports, Mr. Mitchell confirmed that this aid conditionality was “never primarily based on a recipient government’s respect for LGBTI rights. Human rights adherence is one of the four pillars of UK aid conditionality and LGBTI rights is just one dimension of respect for human rights,” he said.
Commenting on the Minister Mitchell’s clarifications, Peter Tatchell said: “The commitment of the UK government to global human rights, including LGBTI rights, is welcome and commendable. I am pleased to hear that no cuts in aid are planned.
“Although human rights abuses are unacceptable and violate international humanitarian law, any reduction in aid would penalise the poorest, most vulnerable people in developing countries. Many are dependent on aid for basic needs like food, clean water, health care and education. They should not be made to suffer because of human rights abuses by their governments.
“I look forward to Andrew Mitchell and David Cameron making high profile public statements in the coming weeks to refute the misreporting of government aid policy and to counteract the negative anti-LGBTI backlash that this misreporting has generated in some African countries.”Perceptions are important. It is very damaging to LGBTI communities in developing countries if cuts in vital aid are associated with LGBTI people and western demands for LGBTI equality. This inflames homophobia,” noted Mr. Tatchell.
Fear arose about cuts to HIV funding after Prime Minister David Cameron announced in October that the UK would deliver foreign aid only to states whose record on LGBT rights was satisfactory; while the pressure tactic was originally praised as progressive, activists in the global south, particularly Africa, feared that much-needed HIV medication and prevention work would suffer from the cuts. The issue nonetheless confirmed a concern that the UK government’s desire to appear progressive for domestic voters would trump the needs of HIV-infected people in former colonies and in the Sub-Saharan African where almost 66% of the world’s HIV positive population. In 2009, around 1.3 million people died from AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and 1.8 million people became infected with HIV. Since the beginning of the epidemic, 14.8 million children lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.