Biden’s Policy to Condition Aid on Protecting Rights Sparks Pushback in Africa

Biden’s Policy to Condition Aid on Protecting Rights Sparks Pushback in Africa


The Biden administration has renewed a range of priorities from the Obama years, expanding engagement worldwide to include conditioning U.S. foreign aid on protections for gays and lesbians.

On Feb. 2, President Joe Biden announced to African leaders in a virtual summit conference on Zoom that the United States was “promoting” the rights of LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) individuals. Biden emphasized to the African Union that diplomacy would stress multilateral agreements, shared interests in democracy, health security against COVID-19, and helping nations adapt to climate impacts.

Two days later, Biden told State Department employees, “America is back, Diplomacy is back,” as he indicated he would be halting or reversing a wide range of foreign policy initiatives by former President Donald Trump. An executive memorandum issued that same day spelled out his administration’s broader vision, including the protections for LGBTQI individuals.

“Agencies involved with foreign aid, assistance, and development programs should consider the impact of programs funded by the Federal Government on human rights, including the rights of LGBTQI+ persons, when making funding decisions, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law,” according to a memorandum for executive heads of agencies and departments listed on the Federal Register.

The memorandum included a comprehensive list of agencies that contribute billions of dollars of aid to African nations annually.

“For the purpose of this memorandum, agencies engaged abroad include the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, and such other agencies as the President may designate,” according to section seven of the document.

“My Administration is committing to rebuilding our partnerships with nations around the world and reengaging with international institutions like the African Union,” he told the 34th Annual African Union Summit conference in Addis Ababa.  “We must all work together to advance our shared vision of a future of growing trade and investment that advances the prosperity for all of our nations… a future committed to investing in our democratic institutions and promoting the human rights of all people: women and girls, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities and people of every ethnic background, religion, and heritage.”