ERG/AOP says ‘Bumps on the road won’t affect relationship’

It is perhaps a notable coincidence that, at the same time as government issued a press release accusing Equality Rights
Group/Action on Poverty of ‘irresponsibility’ and lacking in comprehension for its decision not to participate in Pride 2022, Pope Francis issued a message entitled ‘For the Sixth World Day of the Poor’, Chair of the group, Felix Alvarez, stated.

The Pontiff clearly puts the emphasis on placing the poor at the centre of our concerns, saying ‘no one must say that they cannot be close to the poor because their own lifestyle demands more attention
to other areas…None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice.’

The Chief Minister’s recent audience with the Pope would certainly have encompassed concerns of this tenor. It is therefore far from ‘incomprehensible’ that a human and civil rights organisation, with a
long, arduous and successful track record of fighting for and defending human,civil and LGBT+ rights over twenty-two years, would have casually taken the decision we did.

It was disappointing to see how government’s press
release, whilst singularly commenting on ERG/AOP, said nothing at all about the very heart of the issue: the situation of those in our community experiencing hardship, poverty, and vulnerability. This was, after all, what our press release and Opinion article were all about; and yet it is telling that government had no comment to make on the substantive questions.

The issues, in fact, had been laid out in long detail in documentation provided to the Administration ahead of discussions
with the Chief Minister. To suggest there was something incomprehensible about our public position afterwards is either to have not paid attention for whatever reason or to deliberately wish to spin reality to suit. We prefer to think the former not the latter as we do not ascribe bad intent on this matter.

And yes, we were fully aware when we spoke of three different planned events (Cavalcade, National Day and Pride) that different
cost models applied across them. That is why at no point did we state that government was fully funding all the costs. Indeed, our point was how the economic belt-tightening messaging was dissonant with the easy flush of money being encouraged from private sources.

Whilst others might consider moments like these to be destructive, experience has taught us differently. We will continue to work
with the Chief Minister, the Minister for Equality and government in general for the betterment of this society, wherever we can contribute. And where bumps are met on the road, this will only lead to redoubling our resolve to talk, to dialogue, and to reach ways forward. We are experienced enough through decades of negotiation and navigation to know that, in good faith and with good will, nothing in the search for justice is impossible.

And as a people’s rights organisation that embraces all sectors, and favours none over any other, it is in the interconnecting
humanity between us all that we engage. Because human and civil rights are themselves indivisible.

Over the years, we have learnt to move forward through close collaboration and cooperation with both Chief Minister Picardo
and Minister for Equality Sacramento; and the positive track record of results is there for all to see. Both have played pivotal roles in the progress we’ve made on social rights, and our relationship with them will continue regardless of differences along the way. Indeed, we have recently agreed to soon meet with Minister Sacramento on advancing further legal rights.

As we said in our press release: the Chief Minister faces a test. And that test comes at the end of this month of June, when he
will be presenting a new Budget. We continue to believe it will be a moment of truth for the administration in putting right what is wrong in our current policies and approaches for those sectors of our community who are economically or differently vulnerable.

In closing, Alvarez concluded by saying ‘We look forward to further progress on all the fronts which have remained pending for too long’.