The World Bank announced today that it appointed Clifton Cortez to serve as its first-ever Advisor on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) issues. This is a newly created senior position and Cortez will be responsible for promoting LGBTQ inclusion throughout the work of the World Bank.
In a release about the appointment, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said, “Discrimination against any group is not only morally wrong, it stands in the way of sustained, balanced, and inclusive economic growth.”
As HRC reported in April when the Bank first announced the creation of the position, this is a crucial step to ensure protection of LGBTQ people when financing projects in the developing world. With an annual budget of more than $65 billion, the Bank has the ability to have an enormous impact on communities in countries where it works. Here are some ways in which the Bank could ensure LGBTQ inclusion:
- If the Bank helps build a school, educators should be required to welcome LGBTQ students and to address bullying appropriately.
- If the Bank funds construction of a dam that requires communities to move out of the area, they should resettle LGBTQ people in places that are safe.
- If the Bank helps fund a health clinic, they must ensure that LGBTQ people are not turned away or are made to feel stigmatized.
Cortez brings over two decades of international experience in development and human rights to this position. He has worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the last six years and for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) before that. His work has often focused on LGBTQ people, having led UNDP’s “Being LGBT in Asia” project and their HIV portfolio across Asia and the Pacific. Cortez has a law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C.
“We are very excited to work with Mr. Cortez as he starts this new position,” said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. “He brings a wealth of knowledge on LGBTQ issues and a great deal of passion and creativity to the post. Through Mr. Cortez’s leadership, and that of other senior leaders at the Bank, millions of LGBTQ people around the globe could benefit from the billions of dollars being spent on international development projects.”
HRC and other groups have also called on the Bank to take a number of other steps that would help protect LGBTQ people around the world. In particular, the Bank should:
- Fund research on the economic well-being of LGBTQ people in developing countries and on the economic impact of anti-LGBTQ laws and discrimination in those countries
- Ensure that high level Bank officials meet with LGBTQ communities whenever possible, particularly when president Jim Kim is traveling abroad.
HRC congratulates the World Bank on taking this positive step and looks forward to working with Cortez and other senior Bank leaders to protect and advance the rights and dignity of all people, no matter who they are or whom they love. Cortez will officially take up his Bank duties on November 14, 2016.