Post submitted by Tushar M, HRC Global Engagement Fellow
Today marks the final day of the World Bank’s Spring Meetings. It has been less than a month since the World Bank delayed a $90 million loan to Uganda in light of the recently enacted Anti-Homosexuality Act. In a powerful op-ed announcing the delayed loan, Bank President Dr. Jim Kim spoke out against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
After more than a decade, the World Bank is now reviewing its safeguard process as a whole, which has led to an opportunity for LGBT to propose a new safeguard that identifies and mitigates potential negative impacts of Bank projects on LGBT individuals, like keeping LGBT families together when displaced by infrastructure improvements. Such a safeguard would make it mandatory for Bank projects to be assessed on their impact on LGBT communities in the region the projects are implemented.
HRC joined coalition allies to sponsor over a dozen prominent LGBT and gender rights activists from across the world representing their communities in India, Lebanon, Brazil, Nigeria, Uganda, The Philippines, Poland, Albania, China, Russia, Mexico, Costa Rice and Guyana, to attend the Spring Meetings and tell the stories of discrimination on the basis of gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation that they face back home. In a series of meetings that involved World Bank country directors, World Bank executive directors and World Bank President Jim Kim, these activists shared perspectives of the work being done by civil society organizations in their home countries, even in the face of systematic oppression, and how inclusion of new safeguards for Bank projects can give them an equal chance to avail of development. The advocates also met with members of the U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration to advocate for inclusive development.
In many countries across the world, the World Bank funds projects in the health, poverty alleviation, and refugee assistance sectors. Due to laws that criminalize or don’t recognize LGBT citizens, such projects are nearly impossible be accessed by these vulnerable populations. The motto of the World Bank is to “end poverty,” and in a great discussion activists pointed out that the face of poverty are the sexual minorities, the excluded classes, and that lack of equal opportunity to work, to gain access to education, health services, and monetary support results in marginalizing the LGBT community even further.
Many members of the board of Executive Directors, 17 of whom attended discussions with activists, showed their support for the safeguards and acknowledged how discrimination leads to poverty. They also accepted the activists’ plea to showcase more engagement and to put their promises and support to action with the help of civil society organizations and NGOs working on-ground to ensure that the World Bank not only addresses discrimination against women and the LGBT community at a policy level, but also facilitates research regarding the effects of such discrimination and helps ensure that developmental efforts can be accessed by everyone irrespective of the country’s stance on LGBT issues.