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Law and Regulation

Let love rule: Same-sex marriage in the U.S. and the world

Nicholas Menzies's picture

Celebration in front of the White House on
Friday, June 26.
By the World Bank Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Taskforce*

This past Friday, June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court issued an historic decision in favor of equality – recognizing the rights of same-sex couples to get married across the entire United States. This is a moment of personal joy for thousands of families but also a momentous declaration of what equal protection of the law means. As a global development institution, the World Bank has an international workforce that reflects the diversity of its member countries. We welcome this decision of the US Supreme Court - not only for the justice it brings to LGBT staff, but also because it exemplifies principles that are fundamental to inclusive and sustainable development.

Along with the recent referendum in Ireland, same-sex marriages are now performed or recognized in 24 countries across every region of the globe, except for most countries in Asia – from South Africa to Mexico; Argentina to New Zealand.

Why is marriage important? In the words of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who wrote for the majority in the historic decision of the US Supreme Court, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. ” And through the institution of marriage, LGBT families become visible to the state, and thus entitled to receive the benefits and protections that come with such recognition.

However, the decision on Friday is bittersweet.

Progress in the US and elsewhere comes against a backdrop of continuing – and in some cases worsening – discrimination in many parts of the world. 81 countries criminalize some aspect of being LGBT. ‘Anti-gay propaganda’ laws have rekindled ignorance, fear and prejudice in too many countries, and in 10 countries you can legally be killed simply for being who you are.

Beauty and the beast: Comparing the law on the books with the law in practice

Klaus Decker's picture
 

Who has not faced a situation wherein the law on the books in a particular country looks just beautiful but things seem to be going horribly wrong in practice?

Whatever the gap between the law on the books and the law in practice, how does one even go about assessing it in the first place before starting to bridge it? What is feasible, given the budgets that we are likely to work with when carrying out these diagnostics?

Process maps may be just what you are looking for. As part of a Judicial Functional Review in Serbia, our team was tasked with assessing the implementation gap between the provisions in the codes and the practice in the courts. Time was limited and resources scarce.

So what did we do?

When less is more: How Serbia could deliver better justice with fewer judges

Georgia Harley's picture
When less is more: How Serbia could deliver better justice with fewer judges
 
In courts across Europe, there is a common refrain: “we need more judges!” Your court has a backlog? Many hands will make light work. Your courts are out of touch? Let’s bring in some new blood.
 
Serbia, however, has the opposite problem. Serbia has too many judges. And the implications for system performance, service delivery, and justice reform are significant.
 
How many is too many?
 

Can Court Fee Waivers Open the Door for Justice in Serbia?

Georgia Harley's picture
The courts are open and justice is blind, or so they say. But if you’re poor, the courts may be beyond your reach. How can you protect your rights if you cannot afford to walk through the door of the courthouse?

In many countries, courts offer to waive their fees to anyone who can demonstrate that they cannot afford them.

Whilst it is true that fee waivers will not overcome profound barriers to access to justice, they do provide an important safety net for the poor to access essential services. And by helping the poor to pursue their rights, the courts can help to level that unequal playing field that is the courtroom.

In Serbia, providing court fee waivers are particularly pertinent.
 

World Bank Helps With Flood Recovery Efforts in Serbia

Laura Tuck's picture

Laura Tuck, Vice President for the Europe and Central Asia region for the World Bank, discusses the World Bank's role in assisting Serbia with recovery and reconstruction following recent floods, and other economic reforms in the country.

In Armenia, Perception Matters For Tax Reforms

Jean-Michel Happi's picture

Would you be more willing to pay taxes if you didn’t have to spend hours doing it, or if you see that money being used in the right way? Well, you are not alone.
 
Armenians, like people around the world, feel the same. According to the recently conducted Tax Perception Survey in the country, easier tax compliance and more visible link between taxes paid and public services received was found to be particularly important.


















Between 66 percent and 75 percent of respondents said they would be more willing to pay more taxes if the procedures were easy and less time-consuming, if they saw more useful social and other public services, or if they saw less corruption.

Over 95 percent of respondents felt the tax burden is heavy or very heavy, while almost 50 percent reported that evading tax payments was not justified under any circumstances.
 
About 57 percent noted that high taxes or desperate financial situations were the main reasons for avoiding or evading tax payments.
 
The data unveiled by the latest Tax Perception Survey,  carried out with USAID support and World Bank Group technical assistance covered around 1,500 households and 400 business taxpayers.  The analysis strengthened the need to modernize the tax system, which has remained a major challenge for Armenia. Despite Armenia’s ranking as 37th in Doing Business, the taxation system, at 103rd on the list, still requires a lot of work.
 
To be sure, there have been some improvements to the system in the past few years. They include the introduction of electronic filing of tax returns, e-government applications, risk-based audit principles, and taxpayer service centers and appeal system. These achievements contributed to increasing the tax to GDP ratio from 19.5 percent in 2010 to 22.8 percent in 2013.
 
But much remains to be done to further streamline and simplify tax procedures, modernize the tax administration, and enact a tax code.

President Kim on Discrimination’s Hefty Human and Economic Costs

Elizabeth Howton's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Jim Yong Kim knows something about prejudice. When he was growing up Asian American in Iowa, kids would make “kung fu” gestures and hurl racial slurs at him. In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, the World Bank Group president writes that his experiences are “trifling indignities” compared to what gay and lesbian citizens of Uganda and Nigeria are now experiencing, in the wake of new laws making homosexuality a crime punishable by up to life in prison.

Institutionalized discrimination goes far beyond those countries, he notes; 81 other countries also criminalize homosexuality. It also goes beyond sexual orientation to encompass laws that discriminate against women and members of minority groups. And aside from being wrong, Kim writes, “Widespread discrimination is also bad for economies. There is clear evidence that when societies enact laws that prevent productive people from fully participating in the workforce, economies suffer.”

He points out the irony that AIDS activists, many of them gay, fought to ensure access to life-saving drugs for people with AIDS, most of them African. Kim concludes, “Eliminating discrimination is not only the right thing to do; it’s also critical to ensure that we have sustained, balanced, and inclusive economic growth in all societies.”

Read the full op-ed here.

Tax Lessons From Peers

Munawer Sultan Khwaja's picture

Read the first of this two-part blog post here.

The idea of a peer learning network for tax administrators came when I realized that tax authorities in different countries had many of the same questions: How do we initiate risk management? How are other countries dealing with compliance issues? How do countries ensure speedy VAT refunds and yet prevent fraudulent claims? And so on.

So why not get the tax officials from different countries together and provide a platform to discuss their challenges, experiences and innovative ways of solving problems. Mix them with a dose of tax experts from developed tax systems, et voila! That’s how TAXGIP (Tax Administrators eXchange for Global Innovative Practices) was born – it provides opportunities to exchange knowledge and good practices, and share experiences.
 

Celebrating 25 Years of the Montreal Protocol - and Looking Ahead

Rachel Kyte's picture

Ozone depletion reached its highest level in 2006, NASA monitoring found.
The world’s leaders set a high bar when they adopted the Montreal Protocol, which has helped protect the Earth’s protective ozone layer for the last 25 years. Even with its ambitious goals, the treaty won universal ratification – 197 parties have agreed to legally binding reduction targets to phase out ozone-depleting gases, and they have stuck to them.

 

The result: we, as a global community, have almost completely phased out the use of 97 substances that were depleting the ozone layer.

 

It’s a success worth celebrating, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We phased out CFCs, once used for cooling most refrigerators on the planet, but some of their replacement gases have become a climate change problem we still have to contend with.

Putting Nature at the Heart of Economic Decisions

Rachel Kyte's picture

Read this post in Français

To put nature at the heart of economic decisions, government, the private sector & the conservation community must reach across the aisle.

Look around the world, and you’ll see abundant reasons to worry about nature and its capacity to sustain us. Over 60 percent of ecosystems are in worse shape now than 50 years ago; 85 percent of ocean fisheries are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted; half of all wetlands have been destroyed since 1900; and climate change is changing everything.

But at the same time, if you look carefully, there are reasons for cautious optimism.

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