In a move which has surprised many, the British government has gone public on a new policy of tying foreign aid to a country’s LGBT human rights actions. The new policy has received an enthusiastic welcome in the UK, but activists in the ‘global south’ are more cautious.
The move appeared in the right-wing, anti-foreign aid tabloid the Mail on Sunday but has been confirmed to the author by a source, who says the decision on the new policy was made in the summer.
The Mail article names three African countries whose aid is under threat: Uganda, Malawi and Ghana. In all three countries, sodomy laws are relics of British colonization — and this was named as a highly relevant point by Kofi Mawuli Klu, the Executive Commissioner of Panafriindaba, an African think tank, in a heated discussion about the foreign aid move on BBC Radio on October 10.
Malawi has already had its aid cut by the UK. Although LGBT issues were not mentioned by the UK — the cut was described as being due to increasing authoritarianism — the Malawian government explicitly blamed local LGBT human rights supporters for the aid cut.
The UK is threatening to cut aid to Uganda because of the increased repression of LGBT people and the potential passage of the ‘Kill the Gays’ Anti-Homosexuality bill.
The Mail article claims that a British Minister explicitly threatened aid cuts to Ghana because of that country’s increasingly anti-gay atmosphere, which has been highlighted internationally by one regional Minister’s threat to ‘arrest all gay people.’
However a fact-sheet made available to journalists during a Media Open Day at the British High Commission in Accra on March 29 said that the UK government would increase its development assistance to Ghana in the next four years (2011-2015) to £375 million (US $587m).
He claimed that the British coalition government’s commitment to not cut its foreign aid budget despite its austerity program meant it carried “moral authority” when speaking to ‘global south’ countries about “what we expect from them.”
“I’m very proud of the fact we [put] huge pressure on the leader of Malawi about an issue in that country but I’m convinced we can do more. We have got the ability to speak to African leaders, African governments, about this issue that I know concerns everyone here tonight. And it concerns me,” he said.
Photo credit: DFID
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