Since the start of the road construction, movement of agricultural produce to markets in Kamwenge and Kabarole has improved. Easy access to markets has greatly improved household incomes which directly translate to improved welfare of children within these households, including increased retention of children in school. The project has increased women’s participation in income generating activities such as roadside retail trading or vending of food and crafts for travelers and road construction workers. Engaging in small business has greatly empowered women to better look after their children in terms of education, access to health services and nutrition. By responding constructively to Panel investigations, taking proactive steps to provide assistance to the impacted individuals, and establishing preventative measures, the Bank has supported efforts to prevent gender violence on a broader scale and address the systemic failures that allowed this harm to go unaddressed. This case embodies the potential for specific instances of harm to provide the necessary catalyst for improved accountability structures and system-wide change.
Despite economic benefits, a number of harmful effects were reported as a direct result of the project. The influx of workers employed by the construction company, along with those looking for jobs with the construction company, is widely associated with an increase in sexual abuse and assault of girls in the area. The sexual assaults have led to girls having to leave school: within just one school term nine girls from the same secondary school dropped out because they were pregnant. All the cases were attributed to the Kamwenge-Kabarole road construction staff, and all affected children lived in Kitonzi, Businge and Kyabyoma villages, close to the main residential areas for road construction workers.
Boys have also dropped out of school to get employment as laborers, but girls seem to be more at risk given that the impacts to them can be more devastating and permanent — including rape, sexual assault, pregnancy, and early marriage. Additionally, concerns about the safety of workers on the project and about lack of compensation for community members whose land was taken for the project, have been raised.
On September 28, 2015, a Request for Inspection was registered by the Inspection Panel, an independent complaints mechanism for people and communities who believe that they have been, or are likely to be, adversely affected by a World Bank-funded project. The Request contained allegations relating to road safety, compensation for land acquisition, road workers’ sexual relations with minor girls, and sexual harassment of female employees.
On October 22, the Bank suspended the financing for the project. After the Government of Uganda and the government contractor did not take corrective steps, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced the cancellation of funding to the Uganda Transport Sector Development Project due to “contractual breaches related to workers’ issues, social and environmental concerns, poor project performance, and serious allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse by contractors.”
Bank management stated that it will take action on the project even while the Inspection Panel continues its investigation. The Bank has committed to working with the government to support affected communities, conducting reviews to assess related risks in programs in Uganda, and commissioning its own review of the project. On January 8th, the Bank suspended the disbursement of funds for civil works in two other projects in Uganda, the North Eastern Road-Corridor Asset Management Project and the Albertine Region Sustainable Development Project. These are pending review of capacity to adhere to the required environmental and social standards.
Broad Bank Response
The overall response from the World Bank was unprecedented. The management response admitted serious policy violations including around preparation of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), as well as supervision and monitoring. This transparent attitude resulted in proactive steps from the Bank, including hiring several NGOs to provide services to survivors and get children back into school before the investigation concluded.
After the investigation was complete, additional measures to support the affected communities were implemented, including:
- the “Emergency Child Protection Response”, which funded an international NGO, BRAC, to
- A $670,000 grant to the Supporting Children’s Opportunities through Protection and Empowerment (SCOPE) project in the districts affected by the TSDP (Kamwenge and Kabarole)
In addition to the measures put in place to address the affected communities directly, the Bank also took several steps to address systemic failures. These included:
- Publishing an examination report of Bank failures that allowed the harms from the project to go unchecked and explained the measures the Bank intended to take, known as the "Lessons Learned and Agenda for Action"
- Developed a guidance note for addressing risks relating to influxes of workers surrounding construction projects
- Created a Gender-Based Violence Task Force made of high-level experts from UN bodies and NGOs and Bank management. This task force issued its recommendations in late 2017 and the Bank has fully committed to implementing all recommendations