The World Bank, one of the world's largest providers of global development funding, announced this week that they have launched a search for a high-level staffer who will advise the Bank on protecting LGBT people and communities in areas where the Bank conducts its work.
This is the first time the World Bank has created a position with exclusive focus on LGBT people, for which HRC has long advocated.
"This is a very important step," said Ty Cobb, Director of HRC Global. "The World Bank has an enormous impact on the people and communities where they fund and advise projects, and it is crucial that the needs of LGBT people be addressed sensitively, to ensure they receive benefits from the Bank's programs and - at the very least - are not harmed by them."
Founded in 1944 to help rebuild Europe after World War Two, the World Bank now has an annual budget of over $65 billion, funding development projects primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America that aim to lift the world's poorest out of poverty and create more economic opportunities for everyone.
Given the size of their budget and their engagement in countries that often have checkered records on LGBT human rights, it is essential that they ensure that LGBT people are considered in the projects they fund.
- If the Bank helps build a school, educators should be required to welcome LGBT students in the school, 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 LGBT people in places that are at least as safe as their previous communities, if not safer.
- If the Bank helps fund a health clinic, they must ensure that LGBT people are not turned away or are made to feel stigmatized due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The creation of this position at the Bank therefore helps to fill a critical need to ensure that the rights of LGBT people are considered in projects it funds. Given the breadth of activities under the new official's purview, it is crucial that the Bank also provide funding for the position so that they are able to accomplish the tasks set out for them.
HRC and other groups have also called on the Bank to take a number of other steps that would help protect LGBT people around the world. In particular, the Bank should:
· fund research on the economic well-being of LGBT people in developing countries, and on the economic impact of anti-LGBT stigma in those countries;
· include LGBT people in the new "safeguard" policies the Bank is writing; and
· ensure that high level Bank officials meet with LGBT communities whenever possible, particularly when president Jim Kim is traveling abroad.
HRC congratulates the World Bank on taking this very positive step and looks forward to working with Bank officials in the future to expand their work to protect and defend the rights and dignity of all people, no matter who they are or whom they love.