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27/06/2003 | Survey Says: Discrimination at the IDB

Martin Edwin Andersen

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the U.S. taxpayer-supported institution that is Latin America's biggest lender of investment capital, appears systematically to discriminate against blacks and women in hiring at senior management levels, a study conducted by Insight shows. The survey came in response to complaints to the magazine that Uruguayans occupy more of the 86 executive positions surveyed than do African-Americans. The IDB president, Enrique Iglesias, is from Uruguay, one of the smallest countries in Latin America (see "'Friends of Enrique' Enjoy Advantages," April 1).

 

Conducted with the help of bank human-resources personnel, the Insight survey shows that only two blacks, Euric Bobb, a senior adviser to Iglesias, and Richard Fletcher, a middle manager in the strategic planning and budget department, reasonably could be considered part of the IDB management team. 

At the same time, women hold only 19 positions in the bank from which real power is wielded, such as the posts of division chief, manager and deputy manager, as well as senior staff at the IDB legal department and other functional offices. "The bank talks about diversity and all that - how about diversity at the IDB?" complained a well-placed source, adding that "even the human-resources department is lily white."

Critics complain that the bank's often-touted commitment to racial and gender "diversity" - a buzzword in IDB programs throughout Latin America and the Caribbean - is exposed as a fraud by the actual numbers. They note that African-Americans are one of the largest minority groups in the United States, and that countries ranging from the English-speaking Caribbean to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Brazil and several other nations in the region have significant black populations.

In addition to the 86 executive posts, there are 28 IDB country representatives - only one of whom is black (Suriname), and one female (Ecuador). In contrast, nearly 12 percent of the country reps come from Iglesias' Uruguay.

Asked about the survey results, Mirna Liévano de Marques, the IDB press chief, says that the bank "has a long-standing commitment to promoting the rights of ethnic minorities and of women, both in the programs it finances and its internal operations and hiring." She stated: "The IDB has a merit-based hiring system in which applicants for each position are interviewed by a panel of bank employees. Panelists are expected to identify the best-qualified candidate based on specific criteria that reflect IDB's unique operational requirements. The IDB does not employ a quota system in hiring, because quotas of any kind would undermine the impartiality and effectiveness of these panels."

But, says the IDB press chief, "When faced with equally qualified candidates, the IDB makes a deliberate effort to favor racial minorities, women and candidates from IDB member countries that may be under-represented at the bank." Apparently Uruguay is not considered to be one of those countries.

Jose Fourquet, the U.S. executive director at the bank, was unavailable for comment. Bank sources say, however, that Fourquet has not been at the lead in pressing the IDB to hire more blacks or women generally, and African-Americans from the United States in particular. As for the survey: Res ipsa loquitur (the facts speak for themselves).

Martin Edwin Andersen is a contributing writer to Insight.

Insight Magazine (Estados Unidos)

 


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