Total Cost: US$ 198.00 million
Funding: World Bank
Since the start of the road construction, movement of agricultural produce to markets in Kamwenge and Kabarole has improved. Easy access to markets has greatly improved household incomes which directly translate to improved welfare of children within these households, including increased retention of children in school. The project has increased women’s participation in income generating activities such as roadside retail trading or vending of food and crafts for travelers and road construction workers. Engaging in small business has greatly empowered women to better look after their children in terms of education, access to health services and nutrition.
Despite economic benefits, a number of harmful effects were reported as a direct result of the project. The influx of workers employed by the construction company, along with those looking for jobs with the construction company, is widely associated with an increase in sexual abuse and assault of girls in the area. The sexual assaults have led to girls having to leave school: within just one school term nine girls from the same secondary school dropped out because they were pregnant. All the cases were attributed to the Kamwenge-Kabarole road construction staff, and all affected children lived in Kitonzi, Businge and Kyabyoma villages, close to the main residential areas for road construction workers.
Boys have also dropped out of school to get employment as laborers, but girls seem to be more at risk given that the impacts to them can be more devastating and permanent — including rape, sexual assault, pregnancy, and early marriage. Additionally, concerns about the safety of workers on the project and about lack of compensation for community members whose land was taken for the project, have been raised.
Sexual abuse of children
According to adult community respondents, child sex work and exploitation of the girl child are also on the increase. Because of the demand from the influx of migratory road construction workers within these communities, the price of transactional sex is inflated. The majority of the workers have migrated to work without their families. This combined with less social accountability to these new communities and increased income have led to an upsurge in the demand for commercial sex. School girls have therefore been lured to drop out of school and engage in the trade. Additionally, because of the increased charges by sex workers, the labourers now tend to prey on young girls, offering them between money for sex; or simply attacking them when they refuse. The police and community leaders are not willing to address the issue and instead insinuate that the girls are somehow to blame for the violence they face.
Lack of consultation
On September 28, 2015, a Request for Inspection was registered by the Inspection Panel, an independent complaints mechanism for people and communities who believe that they have been, or are likely to be, adversely affected by a World Bank-funded project. The Request contained allegations relating to road safety, compensation for land acquisition, road workers’ sexual relations with minor girls, and sexual harassment of female employees.
On October 22, the Bank suspended the financing for the project. After the Government of Uganda and the government contractor did not take corrective steps, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced the cancellation of funding to the Uganda Transport Sector Development Project due to “contractual breaches related to workers’ issues, social and environmental concerns, poor project performance, and serious allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse by contractors.”
Bank management stated that it will take action on the project even while the Inspection Panel continues its investigation. The Bank has committed to working with the government to support affected communities, conducting reviews to assess related risks in programs in Uganda, and commissioning its own review of the project. On January 8th, the Bank suspended the disbursement of funds for civil works in two other projects in Uganda, the North Eastern Road-Corridor Asset Management Project and the Albertine Region Sustainable Development Project. These are pending review of capacity to adhere to the required environmental and social standards.
Implications for safeguards
There are several national laws and policies in place in Uganda that are relevant to the impacts experienced by children in this case. The central government must have the contractor sign a contract that they will abide by the national laws concerning children and also follow international laws/guidelines on the rights of the child. It is evident that these policies only exist on paper and that implementation and monitoring was not done in this case. This is a significant gap that needs to be addressed to better protect the children of Uganda from impacts caused by development projects.
Governments that benefit from World Bank projects are required to implement the Safeguard Policies so as mitigate any potential social and environmental harms that could negatively impact the communities where they are working. The current Safeguard Policy however does not explicitly reference a need to protect children from potential negative effects.
This case indicates there is a need for the World Bank to include in its new safeguards a requirement that ESIAs look at the unique impacts of a project on children. The current draft safeguards leave the issue of setting the minimum age for work to borrowing countries and do not address the issue of child labor in supply chains. Although the World Bank has stated that investing in children is a clear way of eradicating poverty, with such flaws in the safeguards, children may continue to be employed as laborers.
Updates and PressWorld Bank cancels funding for Uganda road amid sexual assault claims , The Guardian, January 12 2016
World Bank cancels $265m Uganda road project , Financial Times, December 21 2015
World Bank Statement on Suspension of Roads Projects in Uganda, World Bank Press Release, January 8 2016
World Bank Statement on Cancellation of the Uganda Transport Sector Development Project (TSDP) World Bank Press Release, December 21 2015
Project Related Sites and DocumentsThe Impact of the World Bank Funded Kamwenge – Kabarole Road Construction Project on Children, BIC and Joy for Children Uganda
Uganda Transport Sector Development Project Project, Official project page
Uganda TSDP Inspection Panel Case, Inspection Panel website
Child Rights Program Manager
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