Archive for the 'The World Bank' Category

World Bank: It’s Time to Stand Up to Economic Discrimination

Jim Kim, World BankThe World Bank’s website professes two primary missions: to end poverty, on the one hand, and to “promote shared prosperity by fostering the income growth of the bottom 40% for every country.”

Those clear and lofty goals are undercut, however, by the Bank’s slowness thus far to confront economic realities that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, along with other marginalized and disfavored populations, face in a vast preponderance of countries around the world.

In most of the world’s countries, LGBT populations are well within “the bottom 40%” that the World Bank wants to uplift. So are a disproportionate number of women. Yet still today the Bank has no “safeguard” – a World Bank term for a set of internal guiding regulations – requiring that sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity be considered when designing new programs, or when entertaining host government requests for new loans.

The Bank, too, has devoted little attention to commissioning the research needed to document, with greater precision, how inattention to inequality only hampers the economic progress that governments should be seeking, and that citizen-funders of the Bank’s programs are right to expect. What little research has appeared on this topic, indeed, has been startling.

For over two years, the Council has engaged alongside other civil society partners in efforts to urge that the World Bank adopt new safeguard language that would challenge governments to meet the needs of their full populations – male and female, lesbian and gay, transgender and queer. We’ve now written to World Bank President Kim to urge immediate action.

We’ve been impressed with Dr. Kim’s personal leadership in speaking to the moral and economic imperatives of addressing LGBT and gender inequalities. We know that he and other Bank leaders understand that countries are only as strong as their economic empowerment, sound health policies, and social inclusiveness allow.

So when World Bank officials hold important meetings in Lima October 9-11, will the Bank’s leadership fight for, and achieve, an overdue commitment to serve the needs of ALL populations, in line with the Bank’s professed mission?

Dr. Kim’s personal convictions and leadership need to translate into concrete progress in reforming the Bank’s sterile inattention to that bottom 40%. We ask that the Bank make its programs relevant to the goals it has proclaimed by addressing – over national government objections if necessary – the economic discrimination that so many LGBT populations face.

The time for action is now.

President Kim’s Clarion Call

Repost from Huffington Post by Maria Burnett (Human Rights Watch)

In February, the World Bank delayed a $90 million loan for health care in Uganda out of concern over its new Anti-Homosexuality Act. Since then, the Constitutional Courtnullified the law for lack of a parliamentary quorum during the vote. But the government quickly filed a notice of appeal. Members of parliament are also pressing to bring the law back to the floor, swearing they can gather the constitutionally-required numbers.

Just as troubling, another law came into force in July that criminalizes even unintentional HIV transmission and requires HIV testing of pregnant women without their consent, and forced disclosure.

In a personal and thought-provoking Washington Post op-ed earlier this year, World Bank President Jim Kim said that discrimination is bad for economies, societies and individuals. It can prevent people from fully participating in the work force and discourage multinational companies from investing or locating activities in countries with discriminatory laws, he said.

Implicit in the message was that discrimination is bad for governments receiving development assistance too. It would appear that President Yoweri Museveni is alsostarting to understand the economic cost of anti-equality policies, but his rhetoric has been inconsistent. The World Bank/International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Washington this week give President Kim a critical opportunity to stand up for these concerns and push Uganda’s government to take meaningful steps to address discrimination in health services.

The frequently reported discrimination in Ugandan health centers against sex workers and gay men discourages people from seeking care. Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, the former health minister, in August admitted to two groups that discrimination exists and that the government is not equipped to monitor or respond to it.

Last week, in a letter to President Kim, 16 Ugandan and international organizations laid out enforceable steps the bank should take to see that discrimination in care for marginalized groups ends before releasing the loan. Steps include requiring the government to prohibit discrimination in healthcare delivery on grounds of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and all other grounds articulated under international law, and requiring government health care workers to respect patient confidentiality, privacy and informed consent to all treatment.

The World Bank should also fund activities to promote patients’ rights, including providing patient advocates and legal counsel for people who face discrimination, breach of confidentiality or other abuses in health settings and training for Ugandan health workers to respect these rights. The groups also pressed the bank to urge the government to guarantee that it wouldn’t interfere with independent monitoring of health services.

It is crucial for the World Bank to urge the Ugandan government, publicly and privately, to repeal all discriminatory laws and end discriminatory practices. The bank should emphasize the importance of non-discrimination for health and economic development.

After 28 years in power, President Museveni is gearing up to run again in 2016. Aid has continued to flow despite large-scale corruption scandals, but this time should be different. The bank’s decision on the loan will affect the bank’s credibility in Uganda and beyond.

President Kim’s statement about the deleterious economic impact of discrimination was a precedent-setting decision to stand up for human rights. Pushing for real safeguards could significantly contribute to mitigating discrimination against LGBTI patients, women and other marginalized populations who are at disproportionately high risk of negative health outcomes and poverty.

Releasing the loan without meaningful safeguards, while Uganda’s parliamentarians continue to pass discriminatory laws and urge more discriminatory measures, would show a profound disregard for President Kim’s clarion call.

Joint CSO Letter to World Bank on Discrimination in Uganda’s Health Sector

Dr. Jim Yong Kim
President
The World Bank
1818 H St. NW
Washington DC 20433

Dear Dr. Kim:

We write to follow up on our letters of April 1 and May 6, 2014, regarding concerns about discrimination in Uganda’s health sector and the World Bank’s delay of its US$90 million loan.

We, once again, welcome your commitment to ensure that there is no discrimination in World Bank financed projects in Uganda and public recognition that discrimination is not only wrong, but undermines economic growth.

Six months after your decision to delay the health sector loan, we remain concerned that there are still not sufficient safeguards in place to prevent discrimination in health service provision for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) patients, or for women, among other groups in Uganda. In this letter, we share recommendations for the World Bank’s next steps in Uganda and request a meeting with your office as you chart a strategic way forward to ensure that World Bank funding does not entrench discrimination via its loans and other financial instruments. On August 26 during a meeting with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Uganda’s former minister of health and new prime minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, made comments that reinforce this concern: he agreed that there is discrimination in the health sector, and that the government is not equipped to monitor the health sector for discrimination or to respond to discrimination when it occurs. Continue reading ‘Joint CSO Letter to World Bank on Discrimination in Uganda’s Health Sector’

The World Bank: Why It Should Consider Gay Rights

The Council for Global Equality participated in the set of meetings referenced in the article below. The Council also helped bring LGBT human rights activists to Washington DC to attend the week long set of meetings.

Repost from The Economist

THE ECONOMIST ran an editorial recently arguing that “the World Bank’s focus on gay rights is misguided” (“Right cause, wrong battle“, April 12th). We received a lot of letters on the subject, some of which appear in this week’s issue. The following letter is from some of the gay activists who attended the meeting to discuss gay rights with Jim Kim, the World Bank’s president:

SIR – On behalf of the LGBT activists that were at the World Bank spring meeting and who had the opportunity to engage with the president of the bank, Jim Kim, we would like to respond to your leader arguing that Mr Kim’s attempts to address discrimination against gays in Uganda and elsewhere will hurt the bank’s objectives regarding development. You argued against the World Bank’s involvement in “gay rights”, and perpetuated several misconceptions, inaccurately describing the courageous activists that met Mr Kim, and oversimplified their campaign for more effective safeguard policies.

You criticised the bank’s postponement of a loan to Uganda in response to the government’s passage of its Anti-Homosexuality Act, and asserted that the bank was prioritising “gay rights” over poverty alleviation. Although you attempted to downplay the importance of addressing discrimination in Uganda by citing the pervasive discrimination found against women and others around the world, it is precisely this prevalence of discrimination that makes this problem too big to ignore.

In fact, the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) activists you referred to have asked the bank to address both gender and SOGI together in its efforts on discrimination. These communities face similar structural discrimination and marginalisation that lead to the inability to escape the poverty cycle. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that discrimination can lead to extreme poverty. In India, estimated costs of homophobia could be near 2% of GDP. The bank simply cannot afford to ignore discrimination if it hopes to achieve its goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

You also quoted the bank’s Articles of Agreement, which outline its purpose as an institution focused solely on “economic considerations” and “not a place for political advocacy.” Limiting the bank’s mission to what is written in the Articles, however, would mean that it should still be focused on rebuilding Europe after the second world war. Neither “poverty” nor “shared prosperity”—both goals the bank has adopted over the past two decades—appear in the Articles. The institution has evolved since they were first drafted. The past 70 years have provided a wealth of research and lessons learned that demonstrate the links between poverty and discrimination.

The World Bank has already adopted several social and environmental safeguard polices that “condition” its funds on certain procedures that both it and borrowers must follow. They require due diligence and action plans when a country anticipates having to resettle people for a project, or when indigenous peoples might be affected. These policies have been replicated at nearly all development institutions, and although not perfect, are essential in preventing harm and providing opportunities for affected communities to engage in the development process and share in its benefits.

You think that the safeguards should be eliminated in order to be a more attractive lender. Such a race to the bottom would, however, be counterproductive, and would ultimately undermine the World Bank’s efforts at poverty reduction. Instead it must work in countries to ensure safeguards are effective and responsive to the needs of marginalised communities.

For the first time, the bank is undertaking a comprehensive review of all of its social and environmental safeguard policies. Despite its efforts in recent years to “mainstream gender” in its work, the World Bank has never adopted a mandatory policy on how to ensure its projects and programmes are gender inclusive and avoid exacerbating inequalities that lead to poverty. Furthermore, it has entirely overlooked the inclusion of sexual and gender minorities in its broader agenda.

The Uganda loan demonstrates that the bank currently has no way to ensure its projects avoid inequalities on the ground or contribute to possible human-rights violations on the basis of gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. Rather than being cancelled, the loan has been put on hold to allow the bank time to research the effects that the loan would have on SOGI communities. To make this research systematic prior to this stage in loan disbursement, the World Bank must adopt a safeguard policy on gender and SOGI that would prevent exclusion and recognise these individuals as important stakeholders in its work.

Despite your implication, the activists who visited Washington are not asking the bank to divest from countries like Uganda. Rather they are asking it to go into complex, discriminatory societies with their eyes open and to anticipate the risks before further marginalising vulnerable communities.

We continue to believe that the World Bank should do everything in its power to ensure that its investments are not creating or exacerbating existing inequalities, that it uses its power and influence to encourage its clients to ensure equitable distribution of economic growth benefits, and that the institution itself respects the rights of individuals, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Andrea Quesada
Bisi Alimi
Hasan Abdessamad
Mirosława Makuchowska
Xiaogang Wei

Deep Currents of Prejudice Against Sexual Minorities in “The Economist”

Fabrice HoudartGuest blog by Fabrice Houdart, The World Bank.

In my opinion, The Economist article Right cause, wrong battle: Why the World Bank’s focus on gay rights is misguided” is guilty of what it is accusing the Bank of: its focus is arbitrary, capricious and misguided. It seems to be motivated by the prejudice that sexual minorities in the developing world are less deserving of development efforts than other minorities.

  • First, it is sensationalist to refer to the “World Bank’s focus on gay rights” to reinforce the claim that the Bank is pushing “Western values. Frankly, it is is quite a journalistic leap when President Kim actually stood up against all discriminations (see Feb. 27th, Washington Post oped).  Additionally, the Economist knows not to use “Gay” when referring to the multitude of sexual identities in the developing world;
  • Secondly, the author should have spoken with the representatives President Kim met last Friday before assuming that the topic was “how best to […] overhaul the bank’s lending policies” when its purpose was to listen for the first time in Bank’s history to sexual minority (see Washington Blade April 15 article on the event). Again this misrepresentation of a long overdue meeting is only intended to strengthen the allegation of a “western gay lobby” effort;
  • The second and third paragraphs omit to mention the crucial links between the Bank’s mission of “tackling extreme poverty” and inclusion. This poverty trap is best described in the 1990 Turk Report: “one might wish to describe impoverishment – i.e., the road from relative poverty to extreme poverty […]- as a succession of passive discriminations, or discriminatory omissions in respect of recognized fundamental rights, and the impossibility of securing justice”. In short, for the World Bank to reach its goal to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030, it needs to start raising systematically the difficult topic of discrimination with its clients;
  • The arguments that the focus on Uganda is “capricious” and the focus on “gay rights” is arbitrary are weak. The Economist is not able to point out to any other loan that the World Bank could legitimately have postponed in Nigeria or Ethiopia as it suggests. But more importantly, what seems arbitrary, capricious and misguided is for The Economist to focus on a single sexual minority inclusion effort when the Bank routinely makes similar efforts. In August 2013 as an example, it required Uganda to carry-out a social assessment on the impact on Batwas people (“pygmies”) of a proposed Education project (see IPP656 v3, August 2013). The Economist failed to denounced this “misguided” effort to protect this minority;
  • The argument that “anti-gay laws are [not] the most harmful to the poor” is strange. First of all, the lack of attention to sexual minorities by development organizations has led to such penury of data that nobody can assess the impact of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Secondly, the World Bank has devoted substantial staff and financial resources to address Roma issues, as an example, in the context of its work on poverty and economic development in Eastern Europe. Under The Economist worse discrimination” test, was it also a misuse of resources?
  • As for the “perverse results” of the postponement of the Uganda loan, The Economist did not do its homework. The World Bank has not cancelled but postponed the approval of this additional financing pending an assessment of barriers to quality health services for marginalized populations, interventions and corrective actions needed to overcome those barriers, and due diligence to determination of whether and how the project can achieve its development objectives in the wake of passage of the new legislation. This is far from the drastic cut in its support for the Health Sector in Uganda, The Economist tries to make it appear;
  • Finally, the argument that the World Bank should avoid mentioning the links between inclusion and development in order to remain competitive with Beijing’s conditions free aid is ludicrous. If the Bank was to follow this proposed strategy, it should also eliminate its environmental and social safeguards as well as its procurement rules. Obviously such a “race to the bottom” would be disastrous. But more importantly, the Bank’s strategy is to carve itself out a role in poverty eradication which would make it relevant to developing countries even though their governments might not need its money any more.

In summary, The Economist article reflects nothing more than deep currents of prejudice against sexual minorities even among socially liberal journalists. It also shows how uneducated and ignorant of the global sexual minority plight, Western publications are. It should be read as an encouragement for the Bank to continue its efforts to raise awareness on the disastrous consequences of discrimination against sexual minorities on their development outcomes.

From St Patrick’s Day to the “Anti-Gay” Laws: The Common Theme of the Invisibilization of Homosexuality

Guest Blogger:  Fabrice Houdart, President World Bank GLOBE

As St Patrick’s Day parade organizers in Boston and New York were arguing today that the parade “isn’t a sexually oriented parade” to justify banning LGBT people from marching with signs indicating their identity, I was reminded of conversations on the “anti-gay” laws in Uganda, Nigeria and Russia.

The reasons why LGBT Americans are so eager to be visible in this parade is the same that drove homophobic parliamentarians to push “anti-gay” laws: visibility is key to greater acceptance of homosexuality. Tolerance of homosexuality is not only correlated with high visibility of LGBT people in the media and their communities, it is its single most important predictor even more than economic development. This transformative effect is what St Patrick’s Day parade organizers and Ugandan, Russian and Nigerian lawmakers want to avoid by locking the closet doors.

The historical tragedy and blessing for gay people is that they can avoid discrimination and violence provided they do not reveal their sexual orientation. But in exchange they must relinquish hope of progress and greater equality for their community. This was never an option for most other marginalized communities: such as racial minorities, people living with disabilities or women.

However, for LGBT people to be out in the workplace, in the medias or in community parades can have a transformative effect. The “contact theory” is now accepted as the main explanation from the sudden change of attitude towards homosexuality in the United States. As Herek and Glunt famously expressed in 1993 “heterosexual men and women who report knowing someone who is gay express generally more positive attitudes toward lesbians and gay men then do heterosexuals who lack contact experiences”.

In France or Spain, a mostly hidden gay population, particularly in very conservative workplace environments, has been a key impediment to greater acceptance. As a result France, which was well positioned culturally to be inclusive, remains today the least tolerant country in Western Europe towards homosexuals, with 28.8 per cent of the population responding that they would not want a homosexual neighbor in the World Values Survey (WVS) On the other hand, Nepal (which was not part of the WVS) where sexual minorities are increasingly visible is apparently showing clear signs of greater acceptance of homosexuals.

One of the most surprising aspects of our conversation on the “anti-gay” laws has been the perception by many that the impact of these laws is blown out of proportion and instrumentalized by western LGBT groups to their benefit. They point to the fact that there have been few reports of arrests, imprisonment and lynching. Similarly, they remind us that people who experience same-sex sexual attraction in these countries reject themselves the idea that such feelings make them “gay”.  A prominent African decision-maker – who has been silent publicly on the “anti-gay” laws passed in her own country – even called in a private conversation for patience with Africa reminding her interlocutor that it took centuries for western countries to experience this rapid rise in acceptance of homosexuality.

These arguments ignore the fact that “anti-gay” laws will actually prevent this cultural evolutionary process to even start. Ever. But beyond that, it is important to remember that this greater invisibilization is a step towards deshumanization, reinforcing the message that gays are outsiders. By deshumanizing LGBT people, politicians legitimize the violence, bullying and discrimination that many LGBT people experience everyday paving the way for a  possible more radical and systematic persecution.

I have no doubt that LGBT Americans will succeed in ensuring that the St Patrick’s Day parade becomes inclusive: it is too late in the United States to send back the LGBT community to the closet. Hopefully, the Russian community is too at the tipping point and they will find the courage and resources to overcome legal challenges. For Ugandan and Nigerian sexual minorities, the impact of the laws is tragic, reinforcing the existing widespread homophobia and annihilating hope for change.

Comments Of Senator Patrick Leahy On Uganda President Museveni’s Signing Of The Anti-Homosexuality Bill

February 25, 2014 – I am deeply concerned by the decision of President Museveni of Uganda to sign into law the anti-homosexuality bill. I support Secretary of State Kerry and others in calling for its immediate repeal. Much of U.S. assistance to Uganda is for the people of Uganda, including those in the Ugandan LGBT community whose human rights are being so tragically violated. But we need to closely review all U.S. assistance to Uganda, including through the World Bank and other multilateral organizations. I cannot support providing further funding to the Government of Uganda until the United States has undergone a review of our relationship.

Senator Leahy D-Vt., President Pro Tempore, Chairman Of The State Department And Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee


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