World Bank withholds new lending for Uganda

26 September 2016

In mid-September the World Bank announced a decision to “withhold new lending to Uganda …while reviewing the country’s portfolio in consultation with the government of Uganda”. The decision follows the December 2015 cancellation of a road project in Uganda due to “multiple failures” cited in a September 2015 complaint to the Bank’s accountability mechanism, the Inspection Panel (IPN), including allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse by contractors (see Observer Winter 2016). The Bank stated that it will “continue to actively work with the Ugandan authorities to address the outstanding performance issues in the portfolio”, including “weaknesses in safeguards monitoring and enforcement”.

In mid-August, after the IPN’s report on the complaint was released, Bank president Jim Yong Kim announced that the Bank is in the process of setting up a Global Gender-Based Violence Task Force “to advise the institution on best practices for reducing risks to community safety in connection with our development projects.” According to Kim the task force will specifically focus on “strengthened approaches to identifying threats and applying lessons in World Bank projects; more robust gender assessments; and improved approaches to both raising awareness and taking action to prevent gender-based violence.” Elana Berger of the US-based NGO Bank Information Center, commenting to the Wall Street Journal, said: “When we first raised concerns, everyone at all levels at the Bank denied that there was a problem … The question is, why wait until now, nearly two years after the initial complaints and when the Inspection Panel is handing in its final report? Nothing in that report should be a surprise.”