To: Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Secretary of State for International Development
Welcome to your new job. As you know, it's a very important one and a job in which a Secretary of State constantly has to make decisions about priorities and funding. British aid is hugely important to many developing countries and it is right that we should be at the forefront of helping these nations to become more democratic and more prosperous. But we should not be afraid of using the fact that we give aid to persuade certain countries to improve their records on human rights. I would not go so far as to suggest you adopt what Robin Cook would have called an "ethical foreign policy" because you would be riding for a fall. We live in a world of 'realpolitik' where we have to deal with people we would rather not. We don't live in an ideal world. But that also means that we don't have to give money to regimes which have intolerable moral outlooks, and use these to punish their own people.
Just as we reward nations who are making obvious progress to a more democratic way of conducting their government, shouldn't we also punish countries who repress their own people for their moral outlook?
As an example, Britain gives more than £100 million a year to Malawi. And yet today we see that a gay couple has been sentenced to 14 years hard labour just for being gay and being in a gay relationship. Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20 were arrested in December 2009 after holding an engagement ceremony. Malawi is a deeply unprogressive state where religious leaders equate same-sex liaisons with Satanism. The harsh sentence given to these two gay men is more than given to some murderers and rapists and is clearly designed as a deterrent.
I am not naive enough to think that because of this one case, you would stop all aid to Malawi. That would affect perfectly innocent people in an adverse way. But I do think that representations to the Malwai government should be made, and they should be warned that unless they change their ways on these issues, future aid would be jeopardised.