Thursday, 15 November 2012

A Diplomat's Dilemma

In February 2012, a letter was received by a British SMUG supporter from a representative of the House of Lords, which read:
I talked to UKLGIG about this situation and they said we had to be careful not to give the appearance of intervening, because this might even galvanise David Bahati and the anti-gays still further.

Although it is difficult to see how anti-gay campaigners could possibly get more galvanised than state-endorsed murder, the call for international support to be carefully measured has since been repeated by in-country campaigners:

This approach is a difficult one for many individuals to understand, especially those living in countries with a pro-active record on human rights campaigning.

Here is an article by Mercedes Allen (@Mercedes_Allen), which tries to elaborate on the complex political approach:

Diplomacy is a loaded game, and one nation cannot (should not) impose its worldview upon another. We can't sit aside while genocides happen either, though, so it takes a complex approach to try to address the latter without committing the former. And unfortunately, there are self-interested parties -- including other Western ones -- that will exploit any attempt at assistance as evidence of meddling, in order to deflect from or even fuel their own political games. And given that HIV assistance is a primary objective of many relief efforts, there can certainly be a potential financial benefit for exploitative parties to do so.

What needs to be done is complex, but includes networking with and empowering women and LGBT people in those nations, so that they can lead their own activism within the cultural context that westerners often clumsily don't understand enough. The reason that the accusations of colonialism and attempting to dictate resonates with the African peoples is that in the past, that is very much what governments have attempted to do. It's best countered by supporting and empowering communities to lead for themselves.
She refers to the situation in Uganda as a 'particularly difficult Gordian knot of diplomacy.'

Indeed, it is.

But many human rights campaigners remember another particularly difficult Gordian knot of diplomacy, which led to one of the worst political television blunders of all time. Let's try not to repeat it.

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