Andrew Mitchell

The UK has explained that it won’t cut aid to countries because of human rights abuses but will instead redirect its funding.

This according to human rights activist Peter Tatchell who met with Britain’s Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, on Monday.

At the meeting, Tatchell presented a statement signed by over 100 African social justice activists, criticising the UK’s widely reported new aid policy of cutting aid to repressive nations.

“Instead of cutting aid, Britain and other donor countries should divert aid money from human rights abusing governments and redirect it to grassroots, community-based humanitarian projects that respect human rights and do not discriminate in their service provision,” said Tatchell.

“By redirecting aid in this way, abusive governments are punished but poor people are not penalised. They continue to receive the aid they need,” he added.

At the meeting, however, Mitchell told Tatchell that his government’s aid policy had been “misrepresented by some media”.

He explained that the UK government has not threatened to cut aid but has said it would “channel it in new directions” if recipient governments failed to meet four requirements: reduce poverty, adhere to human rights, demonstrate good financial management and show accountability to their citizens.

In the case of countries that violate human rights, Britain is, he said, committed to maintaining aid but will divert it from abusive central governments to good practice NGOs, civil society organisations and local government bodies, as it has done in Malawi. There would be no net reduction in aid, he pledged.

Tatchell welcomed the clarification of Britain’s position but urged the government to make it widely known.

“Perceptions are important. It is very damaging to LGBTI communities in developing countries if cuts in vital aid are associated with LGBTI people and western demands for LGBTI equality. This inflames homophobia,” he said.

In October, more than fifty African human rights organisations expressed concerns that the threatened aid cuts would result in a backlash against LGBTI people on the continent.

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