Opinion: Lib Dems promoting human rights abroad

As a Liberal Democrat member*, I’m proud of the fact that our  party is in government, with ministers making tough choices about the UK.

While most attention is on electoral reform and tuition fees, I want to steer your attention towards foreign policy. In the Foreign Office there is one Lib Dem minister, Jeremy Browne MP. He takes the responsibility in the FCO for human rights policy among other things.

Mr Browne recently made an excellent Q&A video on YouTube last month, focussing on the UK’s action on promoting foreign policy abroad:

It’s encouraging to see a minister directly answering questions, especially with Browne’s optimistic tone. One can tell that the UK has a positive stance on promoting human rights abroad, helped by the fact that we have a Lib Dem in this position.

Another common denominator within the video is realism. Browne’s emphasis on checking progress shows good sense, with the 2010 report on human rights prioritising countries based on the degrees of turmoil.

On homosexual rights, he says that ‘people should be able to love who they want, live their lives as they see fit, it’s not for the state to tell them those things.’ Indeed, gay rights campaigner David Kato was murdered for his views, with the national press in Uganda condemning homosexuality as a ‘national scandal’. The only scandalous thing here is a national newspaper ‘reporting’ this sort of nonsense:

Uganda newspaper front page

Since the mid-20th century the Lib Dems (as the Liberal Party) have promoted gay rights, and it’s heartening to know that, as a government, we’re doing work abroad to stop regimes from clamping down on homosexuality. Indeed, religion is a barrier to full gay rights in some countries, but I hope that with time this can change.

It’s inspiring to see in the last couple of days that Ugandan gay activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera has been given the prestigious Martin Ennals rights award. International pressure should hopefully guide Africa towards great rights for homosexuals. (In addition, see gayuganda.blogspot.com for inspiring words on promoting gay rights in Africa.)

Browne touches on a more subtle issue, where society impinges on human rights where de jure the law does not. I spoke to a Kenyan  student last year at my university, who said he was ‘horrified’ by the amount of gay integration in the UK. In his home country, being gay comes with enormous social stigma, and won’t win you many friends. It’s these sorts of problems that the UK should be providing leadership on.

‘Gradually bringing about change’ is a phrase that particularly strikes me in this video. It’s indicative of Lib Dem influence on human rights policy in government, with Browne ensuring that people in other countries enjoy the same abundance of rights that we do in the UK. Let’s hope that the trend continues.


*Update July 2011: Jonathan Baldie has since ceased to be a member of the Liberal Democrats.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • dave thawley 8th May '11 - 4:27pm

    nice article but there are other things on my mind at the moment like Clegg still running the party after he has destroyed it

  • It’s a shame that human rights and civil liberties for us here in the UK have been forgotten (IMO) by the LDs since the formation of the Coalition. You’ve said nothing about the increasingly heavy-handed tactics of the police. Arresting squatters because they “might” commit a crime. I don’t think “pre-crime” arrests are very British. Arresting republicans in Soho Square because monarchists “might be offended” isn’t very pluralist. Plain clothes “snatch squads” were also in operation during the royal wedding weekend. I am not being hyperbolic; all three of these examples have been uploaded, in video form, to YouTube. Yet there’s been nothing but silence from the LDs. Which is a shame, as only a year ago you used to be the true champions of civil liberties in the country. Now it seems the Greens are the only party speaking out against questionable police tactics.

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