SOGI Rights and the World Bank - Spring Meetings highlight need for further and deeper engagement

On April 9-14, 2019 representative of ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for the Western Balkans and Turkey and member organization Coalition MARGINS from North Macedonia attended last week the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington D.C. 

The delegates, Amarildo Fecanji (ERA) and Irena Cvetkovic (Coalition Margins) joined civil society colleagues from BIC Europe, NGLCC, Human Rights Watch, Gender Action, Human Rights Campaign, Dignity Initiative Canada and activists from Tanzania at a series of meetings with many representatives of the Bank including its CEO Kristalina Georgieva, Board of Directors, Executive Directors for Albania Mr. Patrizio Pagano and Advisor for Albania Mrs. Greta Minxhozi, Executive Directors’ Advisors for North Macedonia Nina Nederovska and Mr. Alex Gerts, and Executive Director for Serbia Mr. Werner Gruber and Senior Advisor for Serbia Cyril Prissette, Linda Van Gelder World Bank Country Director for the Western Balkans, the Trust Fund for Human Rights and Development etc.  

In addition, they participated as speakers at a panel discussion which served to highlight the main messages of civil society towards the Bank and the need for the SOGI topic to be further mainstreamed in the work of the institution.

In all these meetings, the Civil Society delegation highlighted the following main points:

  • They welcomed the entry into force of the new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF)
  • They asked for the SOGI Good Practice Note (GPN) to be published and come into force without any further delays. Civil Society has also asked at previous meetings for the possibility to provide inputs to this note, however the draft has not been circulated for comments;
  • The importance of continuing with analytical work in Latin America as well as other regions of the world (including the Western Balkans);

The delegates from the Western Balkans, Amarildo Fecanji and Irena Cvetkovic welcomed the good practice of work established in the region and the cooperation with civil society there, especially in conducting important research as well as the continued dialogue with policy makers and decision makers in the region. 

Since 2017 ERA has worked with the SOGI Unit of the World Bank and has partnered with them in what are still considered the biggest studies in our region: 1) Survey on socio-economic dimensions of LGBTI exclusion in South Eastern Europe and 2) the Survey on Income and Living Conditions of LGBTI people in Serbia. In addition, two field experiments were conducted in Serbia, looking into access to housing (for lesbian and gay couples) and education (for perceived “feminine” boys). All these data, provided the LGBTI movement (as well as other stakeholders) with excellent entry points to prove what the LGBTI movement have been saying for many years: that discrimination and prejudice leads also to economic exclusion and poverty. Onwards, during 2018 and 2019 they have joined the World Bank SOGI Unit in their dialogue and partnership building efforts with decision-makers and policy-makers across six countries of the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia). 

At the meetings, ERA strongly encouraged and recommended for these good practices already established in the Western Balkans region to continue as well as to be mainstreamed globally in all other contexts where governments have the legal framework or the political will to work on SOGI issues but lack the evidence base, technical resources and capacities to do so. ERA strongly believes that the World Bank is in an excellent position to provide this much needed leverage for LGBTI rights to be advanced globally especially as homophobia and transphobia and anti LGBTI sentiments continue to affect the lives of million of LGBTI people all over the world. 

ERA’s and Coalition Margin’s recommendations in this regard were the following: 

  1. Further improve the evidence base through research and analysis of the economic aspects of discrimination and putting a pricetag to homophobia and transphobia. Research is crucial and still very much needed in most parts of the world. Countries (which belong to the co-called “moveable middle”) are very much interested in producing evidence because that is how they can best push for policy and legal changes. This research opens doors for dialogue with stakeholders particularly those which are usually closed to LGBTI communities.  
  2. Continue to build relationships with stakeholders. In countries and regions where such opportunities exist (e.g. the Western Balkans and many Eastern European countries) this is crucial for initiating projects, exchanging ideas and empowering leaders of LGBTI cause in governments and other state institutions;
  3. Contribute to advancing equality based on SOGI in the Western Balkans region by contributing to improved policies and practices that are sustainable and resist the frequent backlashes and changes in political leadership: Contribute in the framework of EU integration (chapters 23 and 24) 
  4. Increasing resources and support for the World Bank SOGI team which has done an immense job in the Western Balkans and other regions and needs further support to conitnue their work in a systematic way. 

Following these meetings, ERA will continue to engage with the World Bank SOGI team on their work in the Western Balkans region. A webinar will be soon organized for its member organisations in cooperation with BIC Europe which will serve to provide more information to local organisations on how to engage with this institution particularly with regards to processes such as Systematic Country Diagnosis, Country Partnership Frameworks and of course the Environmental and Social Framework.