and therefore LGBT rights.
“Human rights and minority rights are universal, and we cannot accept these laws. It is time for the EU to look at the restrictive measures available under the Cotonou Agreement. Trampling human rights should come with economic consequences.”
Olle Schmidt MEP, Member of the ACP-EU delegation and Member of the LGBT Intergroup.
Should the EU use sanctions?
Sanctions are used in the belief that economic restrictions weaken target regime access to the vital resources necessary to sustain their political power and domestic order.
When the regime’s coercive power is undermined by public opinion and contested by elites who benefitted from the status quo ante,it is expected that human rights conditions will improve.
The overwhelming majority of sanctions research concludes that sanctions are a largely ineffective policy tool of compelling compliance. Outlined in “Basic Principles on the Use of Restrictive Measures (Sanctions)”, the EU identifies sanctions as a last-resort instrument to ‘name and shame’ its targets. The EU takes care to minimise public suffering by issuing ‘smart’ sanctions targeting individuals wielding political or economic power. However, these elites are able to evade the costly effects of sanctions by deflecting them downward, funnelling the burden disproportionately upon average citizens.
Sanctions would undermine the Cotonou Agreement
A fundamental principle of the Cotonou Agreement is recognition of equality of partnership among EU and ACP countries.
Dictating terms and punishing non compliance neither serves European interests nor aspirations. Public opinion in ACP countries is resolutely in opposition to LGBT rights. They will, in time,come to accept the LGBT community as equal citizens not by force, but of their own volition. The EU cannot expect ACP governments to adhere to foreign demands that are unpopular among their domestic constituencies. Economically punishing ACP countries for human rights violations will impede and reverse progress toward the Agreement’s objectives of eradicating poverty and integrating those countries into the global economy. Sanctions yield an array of unintended and damaging consequences, including an increase in poverty and unemployment as well as deterioration of public health.
Sanctions increase human rights violations.
Political leaders in targeted states perceive and publicly represent sanctions as an affront to sovereignty and national unity. Facing an external threat, they are able to divert public attention and rally it against the sender. Under these conditions, leaders are able to exploit sanctions to broaden their base of support and justify further crackdown against the domestic opposition minority.
A study of the human rights effects of economic sanctions from 1981 to 2000 finds that so-called ‘smart’ human rights sanctions increase the rate of disappearances, extra-judicial killings, political imprisonment, and torture; the scope of the sanctions is positively correlated with the harm caused. Additionally, sanctions produce even more harmful effects when issued multilaterally.
Sanctions would not improve LGBT status
For the use of sanctions to be justified, the EU needs to have a reasonable probability of success. There is little reason to believe that sanctions would stimulate recognition of LGBT rights. The EU must wrest with the fact that regimes discriminating against the LGBT community are reflecting the broad popular sentiment. A 2014 Pew survey finds that 98% of Ghanaians, 93% of Ugandans, 88% of Kenyans, and 85% of Nigerians consider homosexuality immoral.
An ACP government that caves to sanctions would galvanise a majority of the population against the regime. Sanctions undermine the political stability necessary to affect human rights conditions.
For the human rights status to improve for LGBT people in
ACP countries, the people’s hearts and minds must first be won. Economic punishments and threats thereof will not attract any audience to European values and norms.
Before levying sanctions, the EU should thoroughly assess the extent by which LGBT rights violations impede collaborating to attain the objectives of the Cotonou Agreement. Furthermore, the Article 8 of the Agreement clearly specifies a dialogue, which implies a positive level of negotiation that may not result in tangible policy change.
“Recent moves to criminalise homosexuality and to impose severe prison sentences on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people constitute an unacceptable violation of the basic rights of individuals. Additionally, appropriate measures should be taken against countries who continue to criminalise homosexuality or pass even more repressive laws. LGBTI rights are human rights!”
Martin Schulz, European Parliament President, Fourth EU-Africa Summit, 2014
Some Previous posts:
African, Caribbean & Pacific Countries refuse to include declaration of gay rights in Brussels. 2010
EU Parliament human rights report addresses LGBTI criminalisation, trans rights and same-sex unions worldwide
Uganda and Nigeria: European Parliament calls for targeted sanctions over new laws