On 17 December 2020, Lord Collins of Highbury will ask the Government what assessment they have made of the report by the Baring Foundation Leading the Way: The Role of Global Britain in Safeguarding the Rights of the Global LGBTI+ Community, published in September; and what steps they are taking to secure the long-term sustainability of the global LGBTI+ rights sector.
The Baring Foundation
The Baring Foundation, established in 1969, is an independent foundation which seeks to protect and advance human rights and promote inclusion.
In September 2020, it published its report Leading the Way: The Role of Global Britain in Safeguarding the Rights of the Global LGBTI+ Community. The report states that:
- Over 70 jurisdictions still criminalise same-sex acts.
- 0.04% of all international aid is allocated to LGBTI+ causes. Of this, almost 60% was focused in Western Europe and North America, and 31% in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
- The Covid-19 pandemic had led governments, such as the UK Government, to postpone or cancel funding for LGBTI+ organisations.
- The UK currently spends 0.08% of Official Development Assistance (ODA) on LGBTI+ issues worldwide.
The report calls for the UK Government to commit an average of 0.3% of ODA per year over five years to “fund new commitments to help safeguard and protect LGBTI+ people around the world”. Other recommendations include:
- A new flexible funding mechanism to ensure UK funding commitments have maximum impact.
- Responding to the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on LGBTI+ communities globally through decisive leadership and resourcing.
- Reinstating all global LGBTI+ initiatives that were postponed due to Covid-19.
The report has been endorsed by 14 LGBTI+-focused organisations, including the UK Alliance for Global Equality, African Rainbow Family, Human Dignity Trust and Stonewall Equality.
The UK Government and global LGBTI+ rights
Official Development Assistance (ODA)
ODA is allocated by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The funding is also known as the overseas aid budget. It is used to support the Government’s 2015 Aid Strategy in developing countries.
On 4 September and 12 October 2020, Crispin Blunt, Conservative MP for Reigate and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on global LGBT+ rights, wrote to the Foreign Secretary to ask that ODA spending allocated to LGBT+ issues be increased from £14.6m to £55m per annum, to ensure the UK matched spending by other leading nations, such as Sweden, the Netherlands and Norway.
On 19 November 2020, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, gave a statement to the House of Commons on the progress of the integrated review of foreign, defence, security and development policy. Following the statement, Mr Blunt asked the Prime Minster whether the Government was able to commit to the increase in ODA spending, as requested in his letters. In response, the Prime Minister said “yes, it does”.
As part of the spending review in November 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced that ODA spending will be reduced from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5% of GNI. He said that the ODA budget will be £10 billion for 2021–22. In 2019, the UK spent £15.2 billion on ODA. It is not clear how this would affect the proposed spending on LGBTI+ rights.
Equal Rights Coalition
The UK is currently the co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition (ERC), alongside Argentina. The Equal Rights Coalition has 42 member states. It promotes inclusive development of the rights of LGBTI+ people in both member and non-member countries by engaging with civil society organisations.
In a press release announcing the UK’s role as co-chair, the Government set out its key priorities as:
- Refreshing the ERC strategy.
- Delivering an international LGBTI+ rights conference in London in 2020.
- Co-ordinating the ERC’s work plan with the Global Equality Caucus, a network of parliamentarians and elected representatives launched in 2019.
During a debate on LGBT international rights on 12 October 2020, the then parliamentary under secretary of state for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Baroness Sugg, said that the LGBT rights conference was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She stated that the UK Government was considering alternatives to allow the event to take place, and that it hopes to make an announcement on alternative plans shortly.
- On 12 October 2020, Baroness Sugg announced £800,000 of funding for the Commonwealth Equality Network (CEN). The CEN is a network of civil society organisations from low- and middle- income Commonwealth countries working to challenge inequality based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- In March 2019, the then Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, announced £12 million in funding for a consortia led by Hivos to work on LGBTI+ inclusion in five African cities.
- In its July 2020 report on human rights and democracy, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated that £10.6 million of the FCO’s International Programme was allocated to support human rights projects, which included projects focused on the rights of LGBTI+ people around the world.
- On 2 October 2020, the Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, said that the Government had recently announced £3.2 million of new funding “to help Commonwealth Governments and civil society to repeal outdated discriminatory laws against LGBT people”.
Covid-19 and global LGBTI+ services
In May 2020, Kaleidoscope Trust, a charity which works to uphold the rights of LGBTI+ people around the world, published the results of its consultation about the impact of Covid-19 on LGBTI+ people in the Commonwealth. The consultation surveyed 34 LGBTI+ charities across 37 Commonwealth countries, and found that:
- 88% were concerned about the wellbeing of their staff and volunteers.
- 85% were concerned about the wellbeing of their service users, and the organisation’s ability to deliver meaningful interventions during the Covid-19 crisis.
- 81% were concerned about current and projected losses of income.
Kaleidoscope has called for the UK Government to provide immediate funding to grassroots and civil society organisations to help tackle the crisis. It has also called for additional funding to be made available in 2021/22, to enable longer-term work that was impacted by the pandemic to continue.
Parliamentary debates and questions
- Debate on ‘LGBT International Rights’, HL Hansard, 12 October 2020, cols 862–6
- Oral Question on ‘Global LGBT Equality’, HC Hansard, 17 June 2020, col 791
- Madlen Davies, ‘Imprisoned under the cover of Covid: How the pandemic is being exploited to persecute LGBTQ+ people’, Telegraph (£), 25 November 2020
- Megha Mohan, ‘Coronavirus: Transgender people ‘extremely vulnerable’ during lockdown’, BBC News, 28 April 2020
Cover image by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash.