If after decades you don’t succeed…

Dear readers and contributors,

Despite the professed commitment of the World Bank’s executive directors and our best efforts to ensure an open, transparent and merit-based process for the selection of the World Bank president, the multilateral institution is once again led by a US national. This follows the highly illegitimate process that saw the US candidate run unopposed, keeping the 75-year-old ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ firmly intact.

This was a “race” steeped in geopolitics with little incentive for Southern (or other) candidates to put their name forward to compete with the US nominee.

 World Bank Group President David Malpass and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde at Spring Meetings 2019
Photo: World Bank / Simone D. McCourtie

While we will say farewell for now, we hope to count on your continued support in holding Mr. Malpass and the World Bank generally accountable for their actions (or omissions).

As you also know, whatever the challenges and geopolitical realities, we strongly believe that the World Bank and IMF must change their leadership selection processes so that both institutions have leaders with the required skills and experience, selected through an open, fair and transparent process.

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World Bank president selection: ‘Gentleman’s agreement’ alive and well

After the unexpected resignation of World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in January, the selection of his successor was subject to considerable scrutiny. Over 150 civil society organisations, academics and other individuals calledon the Board to live up to its commitment following Kim’s departure to an open, transparent and merit-based process. The call was echoed by the demands outlined in a January letter by the Bank’s own staff association. These demands are not new and resonate with long-standing calls to end the so-called ‘gentleman’s agreement’, which ensures that the IMF managing director is a European and the World Bank president a US national. They also reflect the calls made as far back as 2012, not by civil society activists or ‘disgruntled’ governments from the Global South, but by senior Bank staff. Former Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz and Senior Vice-Presidents François Bourguignon and Nicholas Stern argued in a 2012 Financial Times article that the process is “not only hypocritical, it also destroys the trust and spirit of collaboration needed to manage the profound problems facing the world.”

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What does civil society want now that Malpass will be World Bank President?

Cartoon, Smiley, Questions, PuzzleIn the past, civil society has been quite forceful about what they want in terms of process for selecting a World Bank President, basically it can be summed up as anyone but an American. That battle has been lost.

But now that it is certain that David Malpass will be World Bank president, perhaps NGOs and other civil society groups should think what stance they want to take to the Malpass Presidency. Civil society organisations probably have many different opinions of this – reflecting back on the welcoming reception some of the health-oriented groups gave to the nomination of Kim in 2012. CSOs have always been a diverse bunch.

How will World Bank watchers respond? Will they turn back to 1990s style anti-World Bank opposition at all costs? Will some of them continue trying to work with power rather than against it? Will there be efforts to influence the politics at the board to reduce the harm of the Malpass presidency? Or perhaps they will step back and watch, as they hope the World Bank crumbles into irrelevance under inept and politicised leadership? Continue reading