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Factsheet November 3, 2017

Diversity and Claims of Former Staff Member

Diversity at the World Bank Group

  • The World Bank Group’s staff come from more than 170 countries, making it the most diverse workplace in Washington. 
  • Nearly two-thirds of our employees (+60 percent) come from developing countries, and some 15 percent are from Sub-Saharan Africa and Caribbean countries.
  • 40 percent of our managers come from developing countries, 11 percent come from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, and half our top managers are women.
  • As a global organization that has embraced the twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, we are committed to fostering and strengthening diversity and inclusion in both our work and our workplace.

Internal Justice at the World Bank Group

  • The World Bank Group has a robust internal justice system to preserve fairness in the workplace, ranging from counseling to formal review of concerns.
  • The apex of the Bank’s internal justice system is the independent Administrative Tribunal, an impartial judicial body composed of international judges of recognized repute and competence.  
  • The Tribunal was established in 1980 for the final and binding resolution of employment disputes at the Bank.
  • In all Administrative Tribunal cases, the Bank respects the Tribunal's decision whether it finds in favor of the Bank or against.

Former Staff Member Claims

Over the past several years, a former staff member named Mr. Yonas Biru has availed himself of the internal justice system several times to resolve his grievances, including a successful case before the Administrative Tribunal that provided him with a substantial financial reward

  • To date, Mr. Biru has taken five cases to the Tribunal:
    • Case 402, filed in 2008, claiming breach of promise to appoint him to a position in 2006 and alleging racial discrimination and retaliation;
    • Case 437, filed in 2009, claiming wrongful termination for unsatisfactory performance; and
    • Cases 495, filed in 2013; and 510, filed in 2014, each requesting to revisit previous rulings.  
    • A fifth case filed in 2015 (Order No. 2015-4) was summarily dismissed.
  • The Tribunal ruled as follows on:
    • Case 402Against Mr. Biru, finding a lack of evidence to support Mr. Biru’s claims of discrimination and/or retaliation and noting behavior on Mr. Biru’s part that was “arguably per se grounds for dismissal” (p. 52);
    • Case 437In Mr. Biru’s favor, awarding him three years' salary plus $10,000 for cost. However, the Tribunal found no evidence of discrimination or retaliation, and they chose not to reinstate him, noting “Neither the Tribunal’s Statute nor its Rules require that the Tribunal must order reinstatement when it finds a termination decision to be arbitrary….He has made no secret of his contempt for the institution where he now seeks reinstatement. In these circumstances, the Tribunal does not consider reinstatement to be an appropriate remedy. Instead, the Bank must pay compensation to the Applicant.”
    • Cases 495510, and Order 2015-4: Against Mr. Biru.
  • In sum, the Tribunal supported one of Mr Biru's claims and rejected the others. Mr Biru refuses to accept the decisions against him while accepting the decision that rewarded him financially.

Subsequent actions by Mr. Biru

  • During his attempts to re-litigate the Tribunal's decision, Mr. Biru has resorted to seeking the support of United States government officials, politicians and civil rights leaders, as well as some elements of the media, to vilify the World Bank, while at the same time pursuing a case before the Tribunal seeking more than $1.2 million dollars.
  • On July 23, 2013, Mr. Biru sent an email to the President of the World Bank, stating, “I intend to cut my finger on October 11 in front of the Bank during the Annual Meetings….My finger will be delivered to your office the same day by a carrier in a jar with chemical preservative.”
  • Out of concern for Mr. Biru – and possibly others – we informed public safety officials of this threat of self-maiming.
  • While the HR decision he disputes was taken in 2006, over a decade ago, Mr. Biru continues to seek the decision’s reversal or redress.

Regarding Discrimination 

  • Mr. Biru's first case before the Administrative Tribunal alleged racial discrimination.  
  • The Tribunal did not find in his favor. In Case, no. 402, page 20, The Tribunal notes that the person selected for the position that Mr. Biru wished to be hired for was also from Africa.
  • The Administrative Tribunal which heard and rejected his allegation of racial discrimination is itself diverse. A former Justice of Appeal on the Supreme Court of Uganda served on the Panel reviewing Mr. Biru’s first two cases.
  • We acknowledge the strongly held views of Mr. Biru, but we vigorously dispute his assertions about the environment at the Bank.
  • We believe we are diverse, and we continually seek to make progress in becoming more diverse.

“I am still waiting for the Tribunal’s decision on my discrimination and retaliation charges.  I will abide by the Tribunal decision when it is rendered.”

– Yonas Biru, in an email to the World Bank Group’s President, 1/26/2010