In response to Uganda’s enactment of a controversial anti-LGBTQ bill earlier this year, the World Bank has announced its decision to refrain from considering new loans for the East African nation. The law, which has drawn criticism from rights groups and various quarters, has prompted the World Bank to undertake a thorough review of its projects in the country to ensure alignment with the institution’s environmental and social standards.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the World Bank Group revealed that it had dispatched a team to Uganda following the passage of the anti-gay legislation in May. This team’s assessment led to the determination that additional measures were necessary to ensure that ongoing projects adhered to the bank’s established standards. Consequently, the statement conveyed that the World Bank would not present new public financing for Uganda to its Board of Executive Directors until the effectiveness of these supplementary measures had been thoroughly evaluated.
The statement emphasized the World Bank’s dedication to safeguarding sexual and gender minorities against discrimination and marginalization within the projects it supports. The institution is currently in discussions with the relevant authorities in Uganda regarding the implementation of these measures.
The anti-gay legislation, which includes provisions that could lead to the death penalty for certain homosexual acts, was signed into law in May. Despite facing international backlash and concerns of resource withdrawal from partners like the World Bank, the legislation has garnered significant domestic support within Uganda. Some officials have asserted that the threats of funding withdrawal are inappropriate.
Efforts to obtain comments from Ugandan finance authorities, who have been actively seeking new funding from their primary multilateral lender for months, were unsuccessful at the time of reporting.
In spite of the decision to withhold new funding, the World Bank’s statement affirmed its ongoing commitment to improving the lives of all Ugandans, without exceptions, by helping them escape poverty and gain access to essential services.
Critics, including the U.N. Human Rights Office, have strongly condemned the Ugandan law, deeming it “draconian and discriminatory.” The law’s potential for systematic violations of LGBTQ+ rights and other human rights concerns has been highlighted. The United States has issued warnings about possible economic consequences resulting from the legislation.
While activists and certain scholars have taken legal action to challenge the law’s validity, the timeline for court hearings remains uncertain.
It’s noteworthy that over 30 of Africa’s 54 countries currently criminalize homosexuality, underscoring the broader regional context within which this issue is situated.