Saturday, May 22, 2010

Andrew Mitchell Replies...

Yesterday, I wrote an Open Letter to Andrew Mitchell, the new Secretary of State for International Development, which you can read HERE. Andrew is in Afghanistan but has still found time to reply.

Dear Iain,

Becoming Secretary of State for International Development is indeed a weighty responsibility. You and I have both seen for ourselves the difference that well spent aid can make to the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.

I too am deeply dismayed by the conviction of Mr Monjeza and Mr Chimbalanga.

The government of Malawi has signed up to international treaties on human rights. Malawi’s constitution explicitly prohibits discrimination against any of its citizens. I – and the British government – strongly believe that human rights must apply to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And respect for human rights is one of the key principles underlining the UK’s diplomatic and aid partnership with Malawi.

But we should beware appeals for us to make aid a political weapon. Malawi is a desperately poor country, where about 40% of the people live on less than 34p a day. Britain’s aid plays a vital role in reducing this poverty.

We must not let down the people of Malawi. Rest assured, we, and our major international partners, will make urgent representations to the government of Malawi to review its laws to ensure it meets its commitments to human rights.

And this conviction will remain firmly in our minds when we negotiate the way we deliver our aid in future.

Yours,

Andrew Mitchell MP
Secretary of State for International Development

15 comments:

Andrew S said...

Not acceptable. Human rights legislation is there for a reason. Too many countries openly flout it despite being signed up members.

It's time for the UN to strengthen its commitment to human rights.

Kcila said...

What a terrible, weasly reply. True to form HMG bottles it. Governments always try to hide behind the "we can't make the rest suffer" excuse which for decades has allowed dictators in Africa to crush their opponents whether for political, religous or sexual reasons. Oh, apart of course white South Africa. Malawai, Zimbabwe, Uganda are appeased at every opportunity.

Shame on the new Government and Andrew Mitchell. What an opportunity lost to show international leadership and kick Malawai out of the Commonwealth, the UN and withdraw all aid until these poor men are released (and no one else is persecuted in this way either.)

The Purpleline said...

Iain, As you obviously know Andrew Mitchell very well, can you push to have him and the overseas Aid budget transferred into the FCO and for the FO to control where and how monetary aid is distributed.

With their reach of diplomatic missions in country they can surely get to the parts other areas of government cannot. It would also ensure these oversas properties are kept in the rude health a nation such as Great Britain requires.

So no more aid to India for Nuke or space, but targeted. We know aid and politics go hand in hand, generally to get them to buy our products.
Let us be radical and change that cycle and deliver aid where it is needed.

Neil Evans said...

Can't help but think that's a bit of a spineless reply - not using 'aid as a weapon' didn't seem to stop governments ignoring the plight of people in nations under sanction did it - the ultimate weapon against the people.

I was hoping for more than this. I really was. We need to make it clear that aid comes on the back of you playing by the rules of the field... and while we're at it we need to assess where we're aiding, as I can't believe we're still supporting Singapore!

Unsworth said...

I know several people who have worked in Malawi on various international aid packages.

As but one example:
Within three months of handing over a village which had been built from scratch by an aid organisation together with school, clinic, water supplies, drainage etc, the entire village was abandoned and looted. That is the level of waste.

The real issue - apart from the all pervading corruption - is the lack of motivation at all levels. The classic picture of the African squatting in the dust, simply holding his hand out for aid is very close to the reality. Where are the indigenous movers and shakers?

trevorsden said...

This is the problem with aid. withdrawing it only hits those who need it.

But we should be much more specific about how aid is spent and certainly make sure it is distributed fairly.

The 'anti' comments are a bit daft. lets put Malawi out of the commonwealth - will that help homosexuals (or anybody else) there?

lets face it - the world sucks.

Roger Thornhill said...

"We must not let down the people of Malawi"

Dictator now, is he?

How about ASKING us, Andrew?

If you truly want to help Malawi, how about ensuring the ghastly Tariff-walled Trade Club/Clique we were tricked into joining* does not put trade barriers on the products Malawi produces, or, better still, we LEAVE so we can freely import from Malawi.

The best route out for Malawi is to end subsistence farming, urbanise and commercialise food annd other production. Does our "aid" do that, I wonder?

Alister said...

What about our money going to India and China?

JGS said...

"Malawi is a desperately poor country, where about 40% of the people live on less than 34p a day. "

There are lots of "desperately poor" countries in the world; if Malawi doesn't abide by its international obligations on human rights, we ought divert the aid to a country which does.

Bryan M Rose said...

We need to stop going along with the Human Rights brigade, political correctness and this perverse social liberalism agenda. The UK needs to get rid of the Human Rights Act.

On the issue of Malawi we shouldnt be sticking our noses where it doesn't belong. They are a more democratic Nation then us, they govern themselves why we are governed by Brussels.

Shall we kick Iran out the UN, or Saudi Arabia, or Iraq, or Afghanistan? they all kill homosexuals, whereas Malwai send them to prison and all hell breaks loose.

We need a New Conservative Party, the Conservative Party been hijacked by the social liberals, so if your liberals why don't you just join the Lib Dems? Conservative party is for Taditional Family Values.

Goodwin said...

".. found time to reply"? Err no, found time to fob you off with a stock response. So much for change.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

As a by the way, Richard Gowan, writing over at Global Dashboard
http://www.globaldashboard.org/
reports that Malawi has been invited to the June meeting of the G20 in Toronto, much to the chagrin of the Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon. Cannon is a Conservative and belongs to a party that have been labeled homophobic in the past.

Gowan concludes:

But the gay rights movement has a golden opportunity to put Malawi on the spot by creating a rumpus around the G20… which would be far more interesting than the usual anti-globalization protests.

I agree. Where is Peter Tatchell when you need him?


Cannon said:

“Cases like this are cases we condemn,” Mr. Cannon said Thursday, hours after the two men were sentenced. “We will be following this case as every other case. Canada has a great reputation internationally because we stand up for human rights, and speak out on … things that need to be denounced.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canada-blasts-malawi-over-jailing-of-gay-couple/article1576456/

Paul Canning said...

Iain

I'm so pleased to see you lobbying on this but he's right about being careful because of the real danger of a backlash.

The aid withdrawal threats have been a source of major debate in Africa and it is a good idea to listen what African gays and their allies are saying on this.

Look at what appears to have worked in Uganda, gentle diplomatic pressure - particularly reminding the dictator there of the potential impact on trade.

I really think we need to listen to Africans here on what will actually help them, rather than act in anger thinking that we're doing the right thing.

One other thing. These guys need practical help and this is the info from Peter Tatchell who has been in constant touch with them >

~~~~~~~~

Send a letter or postcard of support to Steven and Tiwonge. In this difficult time, they need to know that people around the world love and support them. Get all your friends to do the same. Write to:

Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, Prisoners, Chichiri Prison, P.O.Box 30117, Blantyre 3, Malawi

Make a donation by post or BACS electronic transfer to OutRage!'s Malawi Defence Campaign. OutRage! will use all money donated to support Tiwonge and Steven with food parcels, medicine, clothes, blankets etc. and to help fund the campaign for their release.

By BACS electronic transfer:
Account name: OutRage!
Bank: Alliance and Leicester Commercial Bank, Bootle, Merseyside, GIR 0AA, England, UK
Account number: 77809302
Sort code: 72-00-01

For electronic transfers from overseas (outside the UK), please
ADDITIONALLY quote this code:
IBAN: GB65ALEI72000177809302

By cheque:
Write a cheque payable to “OutRage!” and send to OutRage!, PO Box 17816, London SW14 8WT. Enclose a note giving your name and address and stating that your donation is for the Malawi Defence campaign.

Scipio said...

so......what he is saying is that 'your point is noted, we will talk to the Malawian Government, but that is all'!

That is a weak response and one which the Malawian Government will laugh at.

I am angry therefore that my taxes go to fund aid in a country which discriminates in this disgusting way.

I believe that if Malawi wants my money, then it should observe the basic human rights of all its citizens.

Roger Thornhill said...

"because of the real danger of a backlash."


So we are being held to ransom with our own money?

Feed the wolf to stop it attacking us, eh?

You know where that leads. If it is the case, end the money now and let the people decide with voluntary contributions.

Then the dictators will have to slum it in last year's Mercedes for once.