Sexual orientation & gender identity – considering risk mitigation within World Bank programming

18 April 2019 | Minutes

This Civil Society Policy Forum Session was co-sponsored by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Council for Global Equality, Gender Action, BIC Europe, HRC.



"Time will tell if the ESF [Enviromental and Social Framework] provides more robust safeguards. Our that this is something civil society is monitoring"PHIL CREEHAN, NATIONAL LGBT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Session summary

Phil Creehan (moderator): LGBTI is powerful acronym, and it has allowed for significant resources to the community. But we can sometimes forget about the people involved. It’s a diverse community, with people of colour, young, old, disabilities, rich, poor and middle-class people.

This brings us to think of human rights. We might say LGBTI rights but this is not right, these are rights everyone should enjoy, regardless of our gender identity. Rights that all people have. The human rights of LGBTI people are the human rights of women, indigenous people.

Looking at international economic development, our international human rights well-articulated. We need more space to work on rights of LGBTI people through UN and others. Also there’s the question of economic development. Traditionally International Financial Institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank do not address LGBTI people outside of HIV/AIDS work. But has changed in the last year. We can look at the appointment of the SOGI advisor at the World Bank. This is something we can celebrate while prodding the World Bank to do more on these issues. The World Bank has looked at the socio-economic impact of LGBTI issues. LGBTI people experience lower economic development outcomes which has both a harsh impact on the community and loss in GDP per capita. It is incredible that the World Bank is showing the economic dimension to LGBTI issues.

SOGI is complex and is a human rights and economic development issue.

How do we mitigate risk when comes to World Bank and its portfolio? What are risks, challenges, vulnerabilities?

Irena Cvetkovijk: The Margins Coalition works on the human rights of marginalised communities, particularly on sexual health rights.

Amarildo Fecanji: We work on advancing LGBTI rights and equality in Western Balkans and Turkey, a network of 59 countries. We do capacity building on international and regional advocacy, on research and public campaigning.

Mwamba Nyanda: A lot of our work is sensitising people because transgender issues in Tanzania are newer issues. Looking at safe spaces for minorities. It’s important to look at income generating activity as most transgender people do not finish education and many end up living on streets.

Elaine Zuckerman: I worked inside World Bank as economist in 1980. My final job was working in gender unit in the late 90s. For me, a light went off that World Bank’s rhetoric and research on gender was good, but its investments were reinforcing the patriarchy. I set up Gender Action to hold IFIs to account on gender issues.

Together 4/5 organisations pushed World Bank to establish taskforce on SOGI and hire Clif in the World Bank. Gender Action has been doing research on the economic impacts of excluding LGBTI folks from projects.

Clif Cortez: My role is operations facing. There are others in the Bank who focus on LGBTI Bank staff and internal equality and fairness issues, but my focus is on SOGI inclusion in Bank operations and how we can support clients in incorporating this in their development agenda.

Irena Cvetkovijk: We’ve seen lots of change in society recently. The state was hostile to LGBTI community, then became an ally. But things are never stable. Now it’s a more friendly environment to take opportunities. When I started 10 years ago, it was more difficult, Macedonia was in a dispute with Greece. The Government was hostile towards LGBTI people and civil society in general. We were excluded from institutions and could not advocate for any kinds of reforms or changes. Many times we heard of people being physically attacked and living everyday with threats to safety.

We criticised a textbook for negative portrayal of homosexuals and we were sued and faced prison or 30,000 euros. I was expelled from the community and lost my job. Then we realised that couldn’t work with that Government. We saw civil society in other countries working with the opposition, and so we focused on that. We were advocating a lot behind closed doors. Recently, the laws have been getting better. SOGI was not mentioned in any law before. Two years ago, we passed gender identity discrimination law. Now we are working on gender recognition law.

Phil Creehan (moderator): What are some of the challenges LGBTI people face on health?

Irena Cvetkovijk: We have focused on sex workers with low access to medical services, but we have noticed that the transgender community face the worst access. There is lots of discrimination within these facilities, such as facing intrusive questions. The transgender community is excluded from health system when it comes to the very first entry point. I remember once we were celebrating Pride, we all got attacked and one transman was saying whatever happens, do not take me to the doctor.

For our first step, we created a group of specialists. We trained doctors and psychiatrists. We created core group of doctors now training general practitioners. We also focused on education as it is the best way to change narratives. For example, working on textbooks and we tried to talk with schools and universities. The new Minister of Education started a process of revising the textbook. However, it is not only about textbooks, but the overall environment. There’s a longitudinal study in Europe every four years on indicators of health on youth. We advocated for a sexuality package of questions in this research. It is the first time in north Macedonia that this has been done for 15-year-old students. Got good numbers of participation. This was only about LGB youth. It found they were struggling in terms of emotional/sexual health compared to peers. 30% of LGB youth have once in their life seriously taken into consideration suicide. Now we are trying to help schools create internal mechanisms through gender-based violence (GBV) work, including the SOGI element and ensuring there are professional services in every school.

Phil Creehan (moderator): What is the situation like in Tanzania?

Mwamba Nyanda: We still struggle. People think only about being gay and don’t want to learn about trans people. We need greater sensitisation for our country. We do not have freedom of association. The police can take you to custody for two weeks on the charge of the promotion of sexuality. We do not know about the psychological and social help. Most trans people have been taken to custody, forced to strip, and end up being traumatised and without right treatment in health systems. There’s an increase in HIV/AIDs infections because trans people don’t feel they can disclose and because of the closure of centres for LGBTI people. This makes it difficult for people to get the right treatment. People don’t know the issues LGBTI people are facing on ground, like harassment and physical attacks in the community. That’s why we create our own safe spaces. Lots of trans people are not educated, on the street, facing a lot of risks, trauma and sometimes end up committing suicide. There’s also the deregistration of organisations. Once you are registered, the Government come deregister you or make sure the funds coming from international entities do not support the LGBTI community.

Phil Creehan (moderator): I have a question for Clif. You’re hearing serious concerns about what LGBTI people face. Can you tell us about the World Bank’s approach to addressing SOGI issues?

Clif Cortez: The World Bank, as an institution, has come to understand the importance of SOGI inclusion over time, and formally took this on from 2015. Elaine mentioned the role of civil society organizations in putting pressure on the Bank, but there were also clients asking for support to address exclusion based on SOGI, and so as far back as a decade ago SOGI inclusion activities and pilots were organically bubbling up from some clients. As well, there were Bank shareholders who were advocating for this. By 2015 all of these influencing factors had come together. I was not in the Bank at the time but I can imagine that the discussions that led to the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF), and the importance of social inclusion within that discussion, played a role, too.

The World Bank is now moving forward on applying a SOGI-lens to development, just as we apply other inclusion lenses to our work. Some of the first things we are focusing on are the Bank’s Systematic Country Diagnostics (SCDs), Country Partnership Frameworks (CPFs), and the stakeholder engagement required as part of the ESF (ESS10), as these are good entry points for effectively supporting clients. But it’s early days and we are learning as we go – the way we are addressing SOGI inclusion and the approaches we are using now might not be exactly the same in five or ten years. In terms of Bank engagement on SOGI under the ESF, it’s really grounded in ESS1 and non-discrimination, and ESS10/stakeholder engagement. And supporting Bank Task Teams in their support of our clients is an important reason for why the Bank created my position. But it’s not just my role as the SOGI Global Advisor that will help ensure we move this agenda – the World Bank has a SOGI Task Force made up of representatives of Bank Global Practices and other Bank units, including the Operations Policy and Country Services (OPCS), and Chaired by the Director for Social Development. The SOGI Task Force supports operationalization of the SOGI inclusion agenda and also provides internal advice and practical recommendations to Bank leadership, as requested. Plus there’s GLOBE (the Bank’s official employee resource group for LGBTIQ staff). GLOBE works closely with the Human Resources Vice Presidency and HRVP’s Diversity and Inclusion team to work on policies that promote equality, fairness and safety for LGBTIQ staff. All of these parts of the Bank influence how we engage on SOGI inclusion, including in some of the most challenging contexts. And that brings us back to the ESF and non-discrimination, and noting the Bank Directive on vulnerable and marginalized groups – the Directive is meant to help Bank staff understand what is required when it comes to non-discrimination, including as relates to non-discrimination on the basis of SOGI. And we tie this closely to ESS10 and stakeholder engagement – because the best perspectives on the challenges faced due to exclusion based on SOGI come from the affected persons, themselves. Speaking as someone who was an external partner to the Bank before 2016, I can say that it is clear that the Bank has gotten better at stakeholder engagement. The key now is translating the information gained through stakeholder engagement into what is needed for project design so as to minimize the possibility of discrimination in project design or implementation. Will we eliminate discrimination based on SOGI 100% – no, that’s a high bar and we have to be realistic – we’re all imperfect people in an imperfect world – but the Bank is committed to do the best that we can.

By the way, it is not just about addressing the most challenging contexts as relates to SOGI. We also have clients who address or want to address SOGI inclusion as part of their sustainable development agenda. Some of these have already been asking the Bank for support on this. And that’s where building the evidence base, including data generation, comes in, as well as capacity building of clients. We’re also beginning to see clients who ask for a project to include a SOGI component – in projects related to social protection and education in South America, for instance. So yes there are challenges but there are also opportunities.

Phil Creehan (moderator): Let’s focus on data question, we need knowledge. The role of World Bank is to facilitate data questions. LGBTI people face hypervisibility in the community but also invisibility in terms of data. The Bank is doing a lot, but we are expecting it to be doing more. Can you speak to data collection in Western Balkans?

Clif Cortez: Recently, the World Bank has engaged on SOGI-specific data generation in the Western Balkans and in Thailand. In the Western Balkans this included a regional survey. In the regional case, we took an existing EU survey on LGBTI discrimination, tweaked it a bit, and replicated it in Western Balkans countries. At the same time, in Serbia, we went for a closer look at economic outcomes for LGBTI people, by taking the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC), tweaking it a bit and targeting survey respondents who were self-identified sexual and gender minorities. So now we have a SOGI dataset to compare to Serbia’s general population SILC dataset. That analysis is being finalized now, with the report to go public in the next couple of months. But data, as important as it is, was not the end goal. We followed up the data generation and analysis with meetings with CSO stakeholders, and then discussions with the clients. All of this is helping us understand better how we can do data generation that’s SOGI-specific, and understand better the role the Bank should play in this.

Phil Creehan (moderator): How did you take part and how did that inform dialogue with the Government?

Amarildo Fecanji: LGBTI activists are still faced with a lot of hard questions. However, sometimes information goes in front of walls, prejudice still exists. It is hard to convince people of how hard the lives of LGBTI people are, and that this discrimination leads to violence, hate speech but also poverty in terms of access to employment, opportunities in workplace. E.g for a trans person, exclusion has huge economic cost, such as being able to access employment freely without discrimination. When you don’t have right to family or legal recognitions, it can be difficult to access loans and other things. When the World Bank came with research in region, we were excited. We think this is a must, to continue to produce more evidence, analysis on the price tag of discrimination. Shows LGBTI people feel threatened by institutions, out of all the people who have suffered discrimination/violence, only 17% have taken case to police. People don’t have support for most basic thing like seeking help when being attacked.

Also LGBTI people suffer from attacks in the workplace. The World Bank does help to strengthen ability to speak to stakeholders. When you have research – and this research is strong backup. Data important for sensitisation and helping Government to make right choices.

We are happy with the meeting taking place in Western Balkans, happy with ESF and processes at country level such as SCD and CPF important tools to influence work of country offices. The message I have here is that the World Bank is operating in a tough space, it is hard to open minds. Some countries are progressive on LGBTI rights and others horrifying like in Brunei. So the World Bank has an important task in working with all these countries, especially those countries in the middle that are open to LGBTI rights but don’t know how to work on it.

Phil Creehan (moderator): Elaine, can you tell us about how the World Bank left has out LGBTI people?

Elaine Zuckerman: For two decades Gender Action has been doing gender analysis of World Bank portfolio. For first time, instead of doing for binary women and men, we decided to do for LGBTI folk. Looked at Haiti, took the World Bank (and Inter-American Development Bank) portfolio sample, which covered 6 out of 19 projects 47% of World Bank grants in the country over 5 years. In Haiti, there is severe discrimination against LGBTI people. It is illegal to be an LGBTI person in Haiti.

I’ll walk through the six projects quickly. Firstly, we looked at two water and sanitation projects that World Bank financed in Haiti. The first one after the 2010 earthquake, and additional financing from hurricane Matthew in 2016. Both projects had big focus on eradicating cholera and building water and sanitation infrastructure. We found no acknowledgment of sexual minorities who would have been affected by calamities and suffered from issues arising from loss of livelihood. I visited the area of hurricane Matthew in 2017 and everything was destroyed. The Bank’s projects were to help people affected by these disasters but LGBTI people not listed as a vulnerable group.

LGBTI people must be included in resettlement many do not get compensation when forced to leave.

On projects where there’s an influx of construction workers, LGBTI people would have been affected by gender-based violence (GBV) or sexual based violence (SBV), not just the women who were listed. Transportation project in the middle of Haiti, also involuntary resettlement. This was strongly sensitive from women’s rights perspective but negligent of LGBTI folk. There were incentives to hire women construction workers but not LGBTI folk. We talk of subsidies for the poorest, but LGBTI people were not included. The Bank did not require contractors to hire LGBTI workers or even protect from harassment which it did for women. Also, there’s a big industry of tourism in Haiti, particularly sexual tourism. This affects not just women but also LGTBI people, who are strongly vulnerable to sexual tourism. The Bank should have taken steps to address LGBTI people’s needs. They were not even targeted for consultation.

Another World Bank health project for Haiti was a maternal and child health project, but it was broader than that. Also lesbian women get pregnant and should get help through project. Only talked about barriers that women faced, not LGBTI people, even through talked about people with disabilities or from indigenous groups. The World Bank’s CPF for Haiti was also negligent. The health project discussed influxes of labourers, but not LGBTI people.

I’ll end by talking about an energy project that the World Bank did. No project documents talked about LGBTI people. I assume they were excluded from jobs from projects. Our report recommended that they be offered benefits for projects.

Haiti is a typical World Bank country example. We are happy that the World Bank is positively engaging in the Balkans. But these are the exceptions. The vast majority of projects do not have anything in portfolio for LGBTI people. This discrimination is reinforced when you exclude them from projects. I’ll conclude by saying that World Bank needs to expand budget for SOGI. We are glad Clif was hired, but he can’t cover entire World Bank portfolio of projects. We’d like every region, even country to have SOGI experts. We’d like to see project analyses with a SOGI lens.

Phil Creehan (moderator): the bulk of financing from Nordic trust fund. We are expecting this public institution to be giving more resources programmatically and projects. The World Bank has massive sectoral loans. The opportunity for LGBTI people to partake in that is tremendous.

We have been talking about ESF which replaces the World Bank safeguards. When huge loans go from World Bank to clients, loans can exclude or hurt environment. Clif, what is your strategy to engage country offices so they are doing due diligence on SOGI issues. What are the implications in countries where there is a surge in discrimination on ESF?

Clif Cortez: I have a small team supporting me on the SOGI inclusion support to Bank teams and our clients. We’ve begun trainings on SOGI and the ESF for our Bank Social Development Specialists, and it is they who have eyes on projects in preparation and know what is in the pipeline. This is especially important in terms of how the Bank engages with our clients in discussions that may lead or are leading to new projects. So it’s at that level that is critical that the Bank is able to apply a SOGI lens. This is all still new so we aren’t going to be doing this perfectly at first, we likely still have big gaps. But the ESF will help us reduce these gaps. We recently conducted a training for all Africa-based Social Development Specialists, focused on the ESF, SOGI and also disabilities. So now when Bank Task Teams are engaged in supporting discussions with clients on new operations, the ESF has been the trigger for those teams to reach out for support on SOGI. As opportunities come, we can respond and support teams, and we were able to do this recently for new project designs for Tanzania, for instance.

The new ESF allows us to move from just mitigating risk in design of projects to supporting clients on a robust social inclusion development agenda. That is reflected in projects on social protection in the employment sector in Argentina, higher education sector in Chile, and others. By the way, the Argentina and Chile projects have as their major focus addressing gender inequality but they also include a focus on SOGI inclusion.

Phil Creehan (moderator): I have a question for Mwamba. In Tanzania, what was it like to engage with World Bank when law on the books? What can be done?

Mwamba Nyanda: In Tanzania, when the crackdown was happening, the World Bank issued a statement, which helped us but also the Government of Tanzania and they talked to President. The World Bank should continue to advocate for inclusivity and non-discrimination for sexual minorities in its programming. In its support for financial inclusion, the World Bank could have inclusive policy in programming. When we talk about economic empowerment and LGBTI, there’s a big gap. But also issues in terms of freedom of assembly, association and speech. It should promote the economic development of LGBTI groups through funds to support livelihoods. Many are not considered when it comes to the economic sector, education sector and heath sector.

Audience questions

-I’d like to push back on the data point about a dearth of quantitative data. It’s very important for making cases for funding,  but it is not true that there is a desert of data. There’s a tonne of data but it is qualitative. How do we include qualitative data? The ESF and gender analysis is important for clients, other donors and helps us consulting in other places.

-I’m happy to hear a human rights framework mentioned here. It’s usually not mentioned in development environments, poverty is human rights issue, especially violations. We need to think beyond just no harm, but to next steps.

-In Haiti illegal to be LGBTI, how does it work in terms of World Bank engagement?

-You mentioned that the World Bank is not necessarily where it could be in five or ten years time on this issue, so where do you think the World Bank could get to in five or ten years time?

Mwamba Nyanda: We have a new country framework. It’s about health, education, empowering women. How will the World Bank address LGBTI in the economic development framework coming up? In terms of qualitative indicators, we do not have census, so now are the first steps.

Clif Cortez: In terms of working in situations in which aspects of SOGI are criminalised, it’s important to remember that this is not only specific to SOGI and is not new for the Bank or other multilaterals. We’ve often worked in such situations and still found ways to advocate for and move the agenda of inclusion. Good examples are addressing gender inequality in contexts in which the law placed or still places great restrictions on women and girls, as well the great HIV work that has been supported and has led to such great successes, often in spite of bad laws related to HIV and/or to HIV key populations.

On the SOGI inclusion work, where we are now is not where we’ll be in 5 years. And at every IMF-World Bank Annual and Spring Meetings, we should keep meeting and discussing this and this also helps progress the work. We want to effectively move the ESF implementation related to non-discrimination, such that more and more clients will have SOGI inclusion on their own radars and will consider it as one of the important approaches for economic and social inclusion. For instance, perhaps at the moment in Haiti we are limited to ensuring good stakeholder engagement that informs project design, and ensuring we’re minimizing the possibility of discrimination in project design and implementation. As long as this is the most that the client wants or will allow, then that’s what we will focus on there. But if things on the ground change, and the client asks for more, the Bank will be there to respond.

Phil Creehan (moderator): Time will tell if the ESF provides more robust safeguards. Our message to OPCS is that this is something civil society is monitoring. We expect a document on the SOGI good practice note.