"Many people may be tempted to view the World Bank’s recent announcement that
it will freeze new loans to Uganda because of the country’s vicious
anti-LGBTIQ+ law as a harbinger of the Bank taking a more progressive approach
to human rights issues.
While the announcement is welcome, based on my many years studying the Bank and
on my research for my forthcoming book, The Law of the International Financial
, I think there are good reasons to be cautious about its
The World Bank, which has been operating for over 75 years, has 189 member
states as shareholders. It funds development projects and programmes in member
states that have annual per capita incomes below about US$12,535. The member
states elect a Board of Executive Directors that oversees the Bank’s operations
and approves all its loans.
The Bank’s Articles of Agreement stipulate that it cannot base its decisions on
political grounds. The articles state that the Bank “shall not interfere in the
political affairs” of its member states. Nor should its decisions be influenced
by the “political character” of these states.
Moreover, the Bank is instructed that it should only pay attention “to
considerations of economy and efficiency”. And that it should not be affected
by “political or other non-economic influences or considerations.”
The articles don’t define these key terms. They also don’t identify the
criteria the Bank should consider when deciding if a particular issue should be
excluded from consideration because it is “political” rather than “economic”.
This means that this decision is within the exclusive discretion of the Bank’s
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics