UK government: ‘No plans’ for global LGBT rights envoy

The UK government has ‘no plans’ for a dedicated envoy on LGBT rights.

In the US, the Obama administration had introduced a dedicated envoy for global LGBT rights in 2015, to advocate for respect for human rights of LGBT people across the world full-time.

However, under the Trump administration the role has been kept vacant since November 2017, and the State Department appears to have taken little action to fill it.

Activists have called for the UK to take up the work being abandoned by the US on global LGBT rights – but the Conservative government has been resistant to the idea, and plans for an envoy were not mentioned in the government’s recent LGBT action plan .

In a response to a question in Parliament from the SNP’s Stewart McDonald, Foreign Office minister Victoria Atkins appeared to rule out such a post.

Atkins said: “The promotion and protection of LGBT rights is a UK priority.

“We work to promote tolerance and non-discrimination against LGBT people and to address discriminatory laws, in particular those that criminalise same sex relations. My Ministerial colleagues and I, and every one of our Ambassadors and High Commissioners worldwide act as envoys on this issue.

“We consider that it is more effective to promote the rights of LGBT people as part of a broader approach to equality and non-discrimination, and through the regular engagement of FCO Ministers and officials at our Embassies and High Commissions overseas. We have no current plans to appoint a Special Envoy to work exclusively on LGBT rights”.

Victoria Atkins

Labour leader Ed Miliband had pledged to introduce a global LGBT rights envoy in the party’s 2015 manifesto, with Lord Cashman set to take up the job.

Current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has not indicated who he would appoint to such a role, after Cashman ruled himself out of serving under a Corbyn government.

The UK government’s LGBT Action Plan set out last month states: “We will support countries that want help to repeal laws discriminating against LGBT people.

“The Prime Minister has offered support to Commonwealth countries wishing to reform discriminatory legislation. A £5.6 million programme delivered through civil society organisations will advance the legal equality and rights of all Commonwealth citizens, regardless of gender, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We will deliver an international conference focusing on the issues LGBT people face around the world. The conference will highlight a range of issues with governments, civil society and other key stakeholders on how best to progress LGBT equality.”

Theresa May launches her Conservative party leadership campaign in Birmingham (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

(Christopher Furlong/Getty)

It added: “We will provide better travel advice for LGBT people. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will continue to update and regularly review our travel advice for LGBT people. In particular, we will work with partners to ensure that our advice to trans travellers going abroad for medical treatment is as informative and up-to-date as possible.

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will ensure that issues specific to LGBT travellers are addressed in travel advice communications.

“We will promote LGBT rights through multilateral organisations, the private sector and international civil society organisations. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will continue to work through UK embassies, high commissions and through international organisations, including the United Nations, European institution and the Commonwealth, to protect and promote LGBT rights and to address laws discriminating against LGBT people. The UK will consider putting in a bid to co-chair the Equal Rights Coalition in 2019.

“We will provide funding to promote LGBT equality worldwide. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Magna Carta Fund for Human Rights and Democracy has committed £1.1 million to support LGBT rights projects worldwide in 2018 and 2019. The Government Equalities Office will provide match funding to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development work on reviewing LGBT inclusiveness.

“As part of the Department for International Development’s new funding mechanism – UK Aid Connect – and in recognition of the importance of global LGBT inclusion, the Department for International Development will provide up to £12 million over 4 years, from 2018 to 2022, for a consortium of organisations to work together to promote LGBT inclusion.”