Dialogue with representatives of foreign governments is an important part of the work of United and Strong Inc. Although not always willing, these offices are well placed to assist in lobbying on local policy for protection of the rights of vulnerabilised communities such as LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex) persons. With the US government under President Barack Obama, demonstrating an interest in advancing LGBTQI rights, United and Strong took the opportunity while in Barbados to speak with Political and Economic Officer covering the OECS and Barbados, Sarah Gjorgjijevski. While in Barbados for the 11th Caribbean Institute in Gender and Development- CIGAD, the team visited the US Embassy’s offices at Wildey Great House, Wildey, in Bridgetown on September 10, 2015.
The meeting discussed the situation of LGBTQI people and women in Saint Lucia with regards to recognition of rights and discrimination in areas that include labour, healthcare, housing, security, law, education and political/community engagement. How prevailing attitudes translates within Saint Lucia’s tourism industry, and the real and potential effect on gay tourists was touched on as it continues to be a concern for nations such as the US, which are more progressive in recognising the rights of their LGBTQI citizens who may encounter difficulties overseas. The situation as it pertains to access justice, gender based violence and youth engagement, were also discussed. The team also gave it’s views on the government of Saint Lucia’s efforts to recognise and/or protect the rights of LGBTQI Saint Lucians.
The organisation maintains a close relationship with the British High Commission representative in Saint Lucia and in July the year met with UK in Barbados representative Martin Robinson, Head of Political, Press and Public Affairs. Among other diplomatic staff engaging with U&S in the past are representatives of the Principality of Lichtenstein, and the government of Ireland, who visited United and Strong’s safe space in Saint Lucia.
The information shared with foreign government representatives can be used to help shape programmes delivered to countries such as Saint Lucia and can be included in annual country reports that are made available around the world.