How can lessons learned from disability inclusion inform SOGI inclusion in World Bank projects?

The World Bank recognizes the importance of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) inclusion within its Environmental and Social Framework but must develop and execute a plan to advance SOGI inclusion in Bank-funded projects. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Intersex (LGBTQI) organizations can be a key resource to help the Bank and governments design inclusive projects, while lessons learned from civil society efforts to mainstream disability inclusion highlight the need for different accommodations for different marginalized groups. 

Around the world, LGBTQI populations face discrimination, exclusion, and violence despite legal and social advances in recent decades. Through the World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework (ESF), the Bank recognizes the importance of designing and implementing non-discriminatory projects that provide LGBTQI individuals with access to project benefits. Although this recognition is a key first step, the Bank must develop and execute a plan to effectively promote the inclusion of LGBTQI individuals throughout the project life cycle. 

Given the Bank’s focus on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) inclusion started in the last five years, the Bank and government implementing agencies lack the capacity to properly identify barriers and mitigate them so that LGBTQI individuals benefit from a project. Engaging with civil society organizations (CSOs), particularly LGBTQI organizations, is an important step for the Bank and government to build understanding around how to advance SOGI inclusion. Through their direct connections to LGBTQI individuals, these organizations can best identify challenges and opportunities to SOGI inclusion and help design projects that will benefit gender and sexual minorities. 

The Bank can also draw upon the lessons learned from civil society efforts to mainstream disability inclusion in Bank projects to guide greater SOGI inclusion. BIC and our partners worked to monitor an education project several years ago in Peru that exemplifies the importance of referring specifically to particular groups in project documents and demonstrates how policy dictates which groups will receive the necessary accommodations to benefit from a project. In this project, a significant portion of children with disabilities received no accommodations to assist their learning or were left out of the education system entirely. On the other hand, the Bank and implementing agencies identified that Indigenous Children and Youth faced potential barriers accessing education and provided the necessary accommodations to help them stay in school and encourage family participation in the school system. The key determining factor for the inclusion of Indigenous Children but not children with disabilities was policy. At the time, the Bank had a policy on the protection and inclusion of Indigenous Peoples, whereas the Bank did not have a policy regarding persons with disabilities.

Drawing from lessons learned from advocacy around disability inclusion, the Bank should take the following actions to operationalize its commitment to SOGI inclusion: 

  1. Engage LGBTQI CSOs to implement SOGI inclusive projects. In-country LGBTQI organizations and individuals are best equipped to identify challenges, barriers, and mitigation measures needed to allow LGBTQI individuals to access project benefits. The Bank and its clients should prioritize engaging CSOs with SOGI expertise throughout the project life cycle as a valuable resource to help design and inform project implementation. These conversations will support project teams and implementing agencies in implementing projects which are truly inclusive.
  2. Explicitly identify how LGBTQI individuals will be impacted by projects in project documents. Different groups require different accommodations and provisions to meaningfully engage and access project benefits. When the Bank does not reference specific groups within project documents, it risks overlooking the differentiated needs of certain groups and failing to mitigate potential project-related harms or addressing obstacles to accessing project benefits. It is vital that Environmental and Social Impact Assessments explicitly reference impacts on LGBTQI individuals and that Resettlement Action Plans, Stakeholder Engagement Plans, and other Bank documents similarly reference LGBTQI individuals and contain specific provisions addressing their needs.
  3. Create a safe space to meaningfully engage with LGBTQI individuals and organizations. Due to the discrimination and violence that can prevent LGBTQI individuals from participating in public consultations, the Bank should work with the government implementing agency to create a space for these individuals, and organizations that represent them, to safely and meaningfully offer their input and raise concerns. In some cases, this might entail separate consultations with LGTBQI individuals convened by the government. Or in other cases where it is unsafe for the government to do so, the Bank should host these consultations so that LGBTQI individuals can raise their concerns around a project and help to identify ways in which the project can adequately address their needs.  

The Bank has an obligation to prevent the further marginalization of LGBTQI individuals and extend project benefits to them. Creating a safe space to work directly with LGBTQI individuals and organizations to facilitate their input is key to building the Bank’s capacity to achieve greater SOGI inclusion.