Open letter UN Human Rights Council and UN Special Rapporteur on Disability Rights, Gerard Quinn

9 December 2021 | Letters

3 December 2021

Dear Special Rapporteur,

We write to you on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities as staff disabled during the course of our work for the World Bank Group to request your help in ending the discrimination and violations of our rights by of one of the world’s principal development institutions.

We write in an act of frustration and desperation. While the World Bank celebrates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and claims to fight for their inclusion in its programmes, our experience has been sadly different. Some of the challenges have been outlined in the 14 October 2021 opinion article published by Inter Press Service and a 6 April 2021 article titled “Disability Discrimination at the World Bank: Is it Immunity or Impunity?”.

As outlined in the IPS articles, staff disabled while working at the World Bank feel they have had their rights violated. While we have on numerous occasions sought to engage constructively with the institution, violations continue, and our situation worsens with increased retaliation and no whistleblower protection.

The World Bank Group is currently not accountable to any minimum disability rights standards – neither the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) nor the UN Convention on the Rights of the Disabled. In light of this situation and our long struggle for our rights, we ask that you support us in our efforts to address the situation and to ensure that the World Bank Group is held accountable to the highest International or National disability rights standards.

We demand access to information and inclusion in an ongoing review

On 1 October 2021, the World Bank Internal Audit Department issued an Internal Audit Report on the World Bank Group Disability and Workers Compensation insurance programs. Although we have not had official access to the report, we understand that it confirmed the concerns raised for years by the disabled. Despite the obvious impact of the audit report’s findings and any follow up decisions on disabled staff and despite our requests, the World Bank keeps this report secret and refuses to provide us a copy. As you may know, investigative journalists from100 reporters have noted that the World Bank lags behind many of its member states in regards to freedom of information – our experience provides further proof that this remains the case.

The World Bank Group has also created a 15-member Steering Committee to respond to the findings of this Disability Audit Report. Amazingly, for an institution that claims to prioritise the inclusion of persons with disabilities, as far as we know, not a single person on the Steering Group is either on or has been on the disability and workers compensation insurance. Staff disabled while working for the World Bank – key stakeholders – for any decisions about the institution’s disability insurance and workers compensation programmes, are excluded from this Steering Committee. On the other hand, the departments identified by the Audit as responsible for the failings and mismanagement are represented despite the conflict of interest.

We call for an independent investigation into violations of the rights of the disabled at the World Bank

It is within the context above, and as a consequence of the World Bank’s immunity that denies us other legal recourse, that we call upon you to create an independent, impartial, and effective investigation into violations that have occurred at the World Bank since 2016. We firmly believe that the creation of such a mechanism is the only credible next step that the Human Rights Council can take to address the ongoing human and disability rights crisis at the World Bank Group.

We look forward to your support.  Please feel free to contact us for any questions that you may have.

World Bank – Disabled Support Group (DSG)

PS:  We were unable to locate the email address for Dr. Samuel Njuguna KABUE from Kenya and request that this letter also be forwarded to him.