AFRICA: Big Three asked to fight racism at World Bank

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Ministers of finance from three leading economies in Africa have been urged to use their positions and influence to fight deeply entrenched racism against black employees at the World Bank.

The World Bank’s Annual Meetings are scheduled for October 11-13, 2013 in Washington DC.

The campaign group Justice for Blacks, composed of serving and former World Bank employees, has asked the ministers of finance from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, who are members of the World Bank Board of Governors with the highest voting rights amongst African countries, to table the issue of racial discriminations at the Annual Meetings.

Justice for Blacks is pushing for establishment of a high-level external commission to investigate charges of systemic and prolonged human rights violations against staff members of African heritage by the World Bank and its Administrative Tribunal.

“Racism in the World Bank is the big elephant in the room whose existence is acknowledged, but whose assault is not addressed,” the group said in an open letter to the ministers. “Racial discrimination remains systemic and victims of discrimination continue to suffer without access to justice.”

Racism has been established in over a dozen World Bank-commissioned and independent reports and raised in dozens of articles published in the media around the world.

A Staff Association report in 2005 said racial discrimination was “systemic”, and that the majority of the staff had no confidence in the internal justice system and “would never use it if they experienced racial discrimination.” The report concluded: “One thing is for sure: for black staff in the Bank, a workable solution to discrimination is definitely needed, and soon.”

In 2009, Bea Edwards, Executive Director of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), noted: “Eleven years have passed since the Bank’s 1998 Task Force quantified the impact of discrimination on Blacks. Indications are that nothing has changed for the better. If anything, the situation has worsened.”

The issue of systemic racial discrimination was formally discussed by the World Bank Board of Governors in 1979 at the Bank’s Annual meeting in Belgrade. “Thirty-four years later, the problem remains systemic and protracted. When it comes to addressing racial discrimination, the Bank’s history is replete with debris of failed band-aid therapies and aborted reforms,” Justice for Blacks says.

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