IN the first-ever meeting of its kind, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim met with LGBTI community leaders from a number of developing nations at a high-profile shareholders meeting in Washington on Friday.

Kim and other World Bank staff and delegates met with 15 LGBTI activists to learn about their experiences and discuss concerns around discrimination against LGBTI people occurring within World Bank projects.

“I want to thank the gay and lesbian activists from around the world for their courage in speaking up on behalf of others in vulnerable situations in their countries,” Kim said.

“Their stories will inform us as we move ahead with revisions to the World Bank Group’s long-standing safeguards, which were designed to protect the interests of individual people in our projects.”

The meetings were held in private to protect the identities of the activists, some of whom feared reprisal in their own countries if their identities were made public.

The group issued a joint statement praising Kim’s willingness to engage with LGBTI communities and supporting further research on the links between global poverty, and gender and sexuality.

“We urge President Kim to go further and ensure it translates into concrete changes in the way the World Bank Group conducts business in its client countries,” the statement read.

“As a start, we suggest that the World Bank Group devote substantial resources to research the links between poverty, sexual orientation and gender identity; and develop a Gender and Sexual Minorities safeguard to ensure World Bank Group projects do not harm women and sexual minorities further.”

Earlier this year Kim publicly condemned global discrimination against LGBTI people, linking it to poor economic outcomes, and specifically addressing institutionalised discrimination in organisations like the World Bank.

In response to the recent passage of a severe anti-gay law in Uganda, the World Bank suspended a $90 million health care loan.

The suspension and Kim’s increasingly public stance on LGBTI issues has provoked criticism from some quarters, with The Economist arguing the World Bank’s decision will undercut the organisation’s ability to fight poverty in Uganda.

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