- August 5, 2014
Each year, the World Bank disburses loans for billions of dollars to countries for a variety of projects to help eradicate poverty and boost shared prosperity by, for example, building infrastructure that will create jobs and bring greater wealth into a community. Countless countries have increased their standard of living due to these loans.
Imagine that you live in a country that recently received a loan to build a large hydropower dam that will supply power for a major mining operation, which will create jobs and provide a new energy source. The country does not have strong protections for LGBT citizens, but has a “live and let live” mentality, except for the northern region of the country, which is actively hostile toward LGBT people. You are informed that you will need to move your family to the northern region since the dam will be built in your community. As an LGBT individual, you are concerned for your safety if the government requires you to relocate. What do you do?
It is for this reason that the World Bank and other international finance institutions created so-called “safeguards,” or mandatory policies, that are meant to prevent and mitigate undue harm to people and their environment in the development process. These policies provide World Bank staff and governments seeking investment in their country with clear social and environmental guidelines during the identification, preparation, and implementation of projects and programs. In other words, the safeguard policy requires a country to identify the communities that would be affected by, say, the building of a dam, and implement a policy to help them relocate – or risk losing the World Bank loan.
Currently, the World Bank’s social and environmental policy protects several disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, including ethnic and religious minorities, but does not protect individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s why the World Bank’s review of its social and environmental safeguard policy is welcomed news to the LGBT community.
Recently, the World Bank released a draft version of their revised social and environmental safeguard policy. The draft articulates a country’s responsibility to individuals and communities if a project disproportionately affects a disadvantaged or vulnerable population, and now includes the LGBT community as a disadvantaged population. Moreover, the policy requires a country to implement measures to mitigate those risks. With this policy in place, the government would be required to relocate you to another part of the country that is not hostile to LGBT people. Although the draft is not as robust as the safeguard proposed by HRC and coalition allies earlier this year, it is a step in the right direction for including the human rights of LGBT people in international development discussions/decisions.
The draft has been released by the World Bank and will be open for input by the public and stakeholders from September 1 to November 30, 2014. The World Bank will also host consultation with civil societies in countries around the world over the upcoming months. The overall consultation plan, timeline, schedule of meetings and all relevant information are available on the consultation website.
HRC looks forward to continuing to work with the World Bank to create an inclusive development process that creates robust protections for the LGBT community and other disadvantaged groups around the world.