Baroness Liz Barker writes: The Tory threat to UK foreign policy

Lynne Featherstone and Lindsay Northover were outstanding DfID Ministers. During their tenure, with the support of Liberal Democrats in both houses, and throughout the party, for the first time,  radical commitments such as an to end Female Genital Mutilation by 30% by 2018 were included in UK Government policy.  Furthermore, those Liberal Democrat ministers, insisted that commitments to the rights of LGBT people and people with disabilities be central to FCO and DfID policy and programmes.

They did so, not just because of our unshakeable commitment to human rights, but because the UK’s unique history with the Commonwealth nations and relationships with European partners, give an unparalleled position from which to be an influence for good in the world.

This summer, the UK government has an opportunity to attend the 2016 Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference,  which will be co-hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of Uruguay. It will involve the main international donors who support and fund LGBTI programmes.  It is a rare opportunity for the UK government to leverage the political commitment of the coalition government by involving other governments,  and the private sector,  in developing good practice guidance on funding, supporting NGOs to bring about change on difficult subjects. 

DFID already has considerable experience of working on sensitive issues that cut across national and international politics, social, political and religious values. This includes DFID’s work on female genital mutilation (FGM) and safe abortion where, through sensitive work with local stakeholders, identifying local champions and building coalitions we have been able to support changes in attitudes and locally led policy change. We would like to how they are going to take the lessons learned on and apply them to LGBT rights.

Across the world disabled people are at the back of the queue when development aid programmes are rolled out. 2.9 billion people live in 76 countries where being lesbian, gay or bisexual is illegal.  Countries such as Russia and Nigeria pass populist laws which spell hurt and harm for anyone who is LGBT.  American evangelical Christians fund church operations throughout Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America to preach homophobia and fan the flames of discrimination.

This conference is an opportunity to redress the balance in the fight against prejudice and discrimination. It is an opportunity to give hope to LGBT people across the globe who live in fear of persecution.  Liberal Democrats in government would not have thought twice about leading the fight. The question is,  do the Tories  care about LGBT rights, or just about winning seats in England? Liberal Democrat peers are on the case.

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