The World Bank is pausing approval for any new public finance projects in Uganda over the nation’s adoption of a widely criticized anti-LGBTQ law earlier this year.
A statement from the Bank says further funding is being frozen until authorities in Uganda provide adequate policy to protect minorities, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other groups commonly categorised as LGBTQ+.
“Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act fundamentally contradicts the World Bank Group’s values. We believe our vision to eradicate poverty on a liveable planet can only succeed if it includes everyone irrespective of race, gender, or sexuality,” the Bank said on Tuesday.
“This law undermines those efforts. Inclusion and non-discrimination sit at the heart of our work around the world.”
The World Bank had deployed a team to Uganda after the law was enacted in May and determined that additional measures were necessary to ensure projects align with the bank’s environmental and social standards.
“No new public financing to Uganda will be presented to our Board of Executive Directors until the efficacy of the additional measures has been tested,” the World Bank Group said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Our goal is to protect sexual and gender minorities from discrimination and exclusion in the projects we finance. These measures are currently under discussion with the authorities,” it added.
The anti-gay legislation, which prescribes the death penalty for some homosexual acts, was signed into law in May. It has widespread support at home, and Ugandan officials have been defiant amid concern that partners such as the World Bank and others might withdraw resources over the legislation.
Some officials have suggested that the funding threats are inappropriate.
Ugandan finance authorities, who for months have been trying to secure new funding from the country’s top multilateral lender, are yet to comment on the matter.
The World Bank statement noted that despite the latest decision it remains “committed to helping all Ugandans — without exception — escape poverty, access vital services, and improve their lives.”
The UN Human Rights Office has said the Ugandan law is “draconian and discriminatory,” describing it as ”a recipe for systematic violations of the rights” of LGBTQ+ people and others. The U.S. has warned of economic consequences.
Activists and some academics have challenged the law in court, but it remains unclear when hearings will begin.
Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries.