Secretary of State for international development, Andrew Mitchell, today held a meeting with leading gay-rights groups in the UK and confirmed that foreign aid to countries that fail to recognise human rights will be redirected away from their governments and into other areas.
The initial proposal to stop aid to anti-gay countries was unclear and resulted in backlash both within the countries and by aid and LGBT supporters. There was uncertainty about who would be most affected by the changes and mixed reactions to the feasibility of its goals. One British friend of mine was recently asked in Uganda why his government “is promoting homosexuality”. In an attempt to clarify the intentions of this proposal, it has been determined that there will be no cuts in the amount of aid given to these countries, but rather the governments will lose the power to control these resources unless they change their attitudes towards human rights.
Last month Mitchell stated that “Taking money away from Governments does not mean you do not support that country. You find other mechanisms for trying to help the poorest with food, education and health care as well as building up business structures”.
Leading human rights and gay rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell explained why a simple cut in aid would be counterproductive:
“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.”
He went on to explain the need for proper profiling around the intentions of this action, and to “counteract the negative LGBTI backlash that this misreporting has generated in some African countries.” The association of cuts in aid with the gay community and/or Western impositions of values is certainly not going to help the cause, but rather worsen homophobic attitudes.