Decolonising LGBT equality: aid conditionality and LGBT human rights

Back to all Motions

2013 National Delegate Conference
20 February 2013

Conference notes with concern the statement by UK Prime Minister David Cameron that overseas aid should be cut to countries which criminalise homosexuality.

Conference notes that UNISON is opposed to such aid conditionality. Conference believes that it would not advance lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights or equality but rather would create a real risk of a serious backlash against LGBT communities and organisations, and against human rights defenders, particularly in the Global South. Homosexuality is strongly portrayed in some countries as somehow being a ‘western import’ and LGBT rights the result of ‘western influence’. Cameron’s announcement, made without any reference to local struggles for LGBT rights or the role of LGBT and broader social justice movements in such countries, feeds and supports these notions.

Conference recognises that the laws criminalising homosexuality in most countries potentially affected were imposed by the British colonial power. Economic threats to try to force decriminalisation smack of neo-colonialism, and there has been a long history of Northern governments conditioning development aid, usually by fixing economic strings. There is a danger in LGBT people’s rights getting lumped together with trade policy, or becoming an extra conditionality in an assistance regime that requires opening local markets to foreign products.

Conference also recognises that singling out LGBT rights in a context of wider human rights violations in some countries, reinforces the notion that LGBT rights are ‘special rights’ and considered to be ‘more important’ than other human rights

Conference believes that such a reduction in aid would penalise the poorest and most vulnerable people in developing economies – including LGBT people – affecting famine prevention, provision of clean water, education and health care.

Further, Conference recognises that development is itself a human right and aid conditionality in the LGBT rights or any other ‘single issue’ sphere pits human rights against each other.

Conference believes that a “rights-based approach to aid giving” would mean not using rights to justify cutbacks or curtail development, but using aid actively and creatively to promote rights, including funding decision-making and participation by the most marginalised communities.

Conference heeds the concerns raised by activists – LGBT and others – in the Global South that aid conditionality would lead to reprisals and scapegoating for them. It recognises that there has already been evidence of the announcement being used by some governments and political leaders to scapegoat LGBT people and exacerbate an environment of intolerance and hatred. It is essential that we listen to these front line activists, taking the lead from those directly affected in the types of action that they would like us to take.

In order to assist LGBT people whose human rights are denied, we need to engage in genuine dialogue and solidarity and get behind their initiatives, not decide what should be done for them.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council, working with the National LGBT Committee and other appropriate structures of the union, to:

1)campaign to expose the dangers of such aid conditionality and promote an understanding of international solidarity amongst UNISON members;

2)explore how UNISON’s International Development Fund can be used to support LGBT equality initiatives;

3)raise these issues with the government and also with the Labour Party, with a view to influencing future Labour policy.