World Bank against LGBTI endangerment
The World Bank is taking a stand for LGBTI rights by not funding projects in developing countries that lead to discrimination and outright endangerment of LGBTI people in those countries.
In a keynote interview for The Economist’s “Pride and Prejudice” conference in New York, London, and Hong Kong last March 3, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim discussed the international financial institution’s recent move.
Kim is the first World Bank president to openly speak out against institutionalized discrimination directed at LGBTI folk.
World Bank and Uganda
Kim described past and present challenges to his organization’s work in developing countries that have conservative views on inclusion, diversity, and LGBTI rights.
In particular, he highlighted Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that was signed into law last February 2014. Under that law, anyone suspected of being a homosexual would be reported and homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment.
The World Bank subsequently stopped a $90 million loan that was intended to support health clinics in Uganda.
“We looked carefully at this particular loan, and we found out that it was possible that not only could active discrimination happen in these clinics,” Kim said. “Medical records could actually endanger people from the LGBTI community. So we felt that we had to stop that loan.”
In response to the immediate backlash and the questions that followed, Kim had this to say: “If something that we support leads not only to discrimination but endangerment, don’t we as an institution have to stand up and say ‘no’?”
He added that the World Bank’s business “has exploded since then” and that Uganda has since repealed its Anti-Homosexuality law.
He also implied that the World Bank’s decision to pull the plug on Uganda’s loan has helped slow down the passing of similar laws in other countries.
World Bank and LGBTI
As a matter of policy with regard to the World Bank’s broader position on LGBTI-related issues, Kim said explicit language against LGBTI discrimination is in the new version of the draft safeguards and that the organization is looking into increasing its surveillance.
“As a minimum, we have to stop a loan that can either discriminate or endanger– and we’ve never had that discussion before inside the World Bank,” he said.
Kim likewise stated the World Bank is the first international financial institution to offer to LGBTI partners the same benefits being offered to their non-LGBTI counterparts, as part of their efforts to advance LGBTI rights internally.
With regard to the risk that some countries might look for alternative sources of funding if the World Bank goes too far in protecting the welfare of LGBTI people, Kim said: “We cannot argue for our value proposition just on the basis of ease of use.”
“The race is to provide so much value to our clients that, even if they disagree with some of our standards, they’ll come to us because they know that we can deliver,” he said.
Check out the video below to watch the full interview of World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim.