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NZ foreign policy and lgbt rights

Thu 16 Feb 2012 In: Comment View at NDHA

Murray McCully Foreign Minister Murray McCully has responded to earlier requests for information by Rainbow Wellington by welcome clarification of his ministry's LGBT rights stance. What should we make of this? This is a proactive move, and an adroit use of policy concession to satisfy our communities, but we should not forget that this is at the same time as continuing inertia on the LGBT domestic front. The Key administration still isn't moving on issues like transgender rights, inclusive adoption reform and same-sex marriage proper. However, tere isn't a strongly organised antigay front when it comes to an inclusive foreign policy- although we shouldn't be surprised if there are some limits to proactive LGBT and human rights advocacy. It occurs to me that there may be two streams of such advocacy. If New Zealand is trying to negotiate a free trade agreement with an otherwise repressive society that a developed economic infrastructure or is within a particular trading bloc, then there may not be as much condemnation of that nation's human rights and civil liberties record as we might like. By contrast, there will be freer condemnation and clearer remedial action should that nation not be in the above category. So, what would that mean in practise? In some instances, there are grounds for thinking that might be the case. Malaysia is an ASEAN member and Burma is at the intersection of possibly conflicting Indian and Chinese superpower anxieties. Russia is a developed economy and energy exporter and might also fall into this category. Otherwise, though... Might it not expedite a free trade agreement with the United States if we were seen as supportive of Obama administration human rights and civil liberties efforts? And doesn't it make common sense for New Zealand to play a proactive role in political stabilisation, infrastructure development, trade route protection and stable access routes for our goods and services? So what might this mean in practise? New Zealand could therefore take a stronger hand when it comes to Somalian and Northern Sudanese piracy in the Indian Ocean and more stringently condemn LGBT and other human rights and civil liberties violations in those two failed states. Nigeria may be an oil exporter, but it has severe economic inequality, spasms of intertribal warfare, Christian/Muslim sectarian violence and a record of LGBT persecution. Uganda is wracked by civil war between the Museveni regime and the Lords Resistance Army. New Zealand could also take a proactive stance here and offer peacekeeper assistance to the combatants. Given that the United States is interested in the stability of the area and LRA-backed instability in adjacent Zambia, the Congo, Sudan and elsewhere, that could pay dividends. Perhaps we could also budget for foreign aid and assistance on the condition that the Museveni regime drops David Bahati's Anti-Homosexuality Bill once and for all. Presumably, this would occur in concert with the Commonwealth, European Union, United States and United Nations. New Zealand could also work jointly with South Africa using residual good will from the anti-apartheid era. What about Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq? There needs to be a stronger hand taken with the Karzai administration, encouraging greater transparency, accountability and managed pluralism within its fledgeling representative institutions. As for Iraq, we may need to increase our refugee and asylum intake so that we can be seen to be responsible international citizens, willing to shoulder our share of the responsibilities and obligations involved. Iran is a thorny question. Compared to its wartorn neighbours, it is a relatively developed economy- but also a repressive society, which has contempt for womens rights, LGBT rights and those of religious and ethnic minorities. Again, much depends on whether there are any prospects of a free trade deal. Otherwise, though, the Ahmadinejad regime is not an attractive one. There is the matter of its worrying nuclear intentions and whether or not it may get into a nuclear arms race with the region's other nuclear power, Israel. Worse still, if either Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich end up as US President after the US 2012 election, there may be impetus toward another regional conflict in the Middle East that involves the United States- and may involve nuclear weapons. This would damage infrastructure, cause population outflow and disrupt trade routes. There needs to be a peaceful resolution and Iranian dissidents need to be cultivated and sheltered. As with UMNO (Malaysia) and Putinism (Russia), we are facing an entrenched regime that will be difficult to dislodge in this context. However, Iran executes lesbians and gay men. This has to be one of our priorities insofar as human rights and civil liberties are concerned. Fortunately, Syria has made itself into an international pariah through its murderous Assad regime's brutal repression of democratic protest. We should also draw attention to the manifold elements of its repression of human rights and civil liberties, including LGBT rights violations. Serbia is also an easy prospect, given that it is still unaffiliated and not yet a European Union member due to its human rights and civil liberties repression, ethnic cleansing and persecution of Bosnian Muslims during the Balkan Wars of the nineties. Why might the Key administration be doing this? It may be because there is no organised New Zealand Christian Right activity when it comes to preservation of abysmally homophobic regimes elsewhere in the world. The New Zealand Christian Right does use propaganda, tactics and strategies from the US Christian Right (and in the case of Family First, from the UK Christian Institute), but this is oriented toward use within the context of domestic policy, not foreign policy. Apart frpm the Catholic Right, there is also no interfaith co-belligerency evident here due to its sectarianism. Foreign policy activism is usually reserved for centre-left solidarity movements, which gives us a clear hand. The Key administration doesn't have to make domestic policy concessions, but international relations are in a different arena. Here, it can be seen to assist in Cameron, Harper and Obama administration actions in support of human rights and civil liberties, including LGBT communities. Craig Young - 16th February 2012    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 16th February 2012 - 3:07pm

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