Time’s Up for the World Bank?

Last weekend, tens of thousands of feminist demonstrators rallied in solidarity at women’s marches across the world. The annual march, which was originally a response to Trump’s election, this year comes amidst an entirely different presidential race – for the World Bank President.

Unlike the IMF, the WHO and the OECD, the World Bank has never had a woman in the top job, or a non-American for that matter. It really puts the “men” in gentlemen’s agreement. Strange that an organisation that purports to advance gender equality worldwide has yet to manage it in its own HQ.

Reports that self-proclaimed “advocate for the empowerment of women and girls” Ivanka Trump is involved in the selection process is hardly cause for feminists to pack up our banners. In fact, perhaps mobilising against this could even serve as our next rallying cause. Truly, patriarchy has no gender.

This is not Ivanka’s first collaboration with the Bank. Her Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), a financial intermediary facility housed and managed by the Bank, aims to leverage private finance to increase access to finance for women entrepreneurs in small and medium sized enterprises. Continue reading

Setting the bar for Dr Kim’s successor

Now that the initial puzzled excitement over Jim Yong Kim’s abrupt resignation and short notice has abated, and the fun speculating over replacements has passed, the tough work of selecting a suitable successor must begin.

Civil society and journalists can gossip about why and why now, and question whether his rumored $20mn signing bonus is appropriate for a man without any skills or experience in infrastructure, investment, or private equity. Fine, but that’s not as important as finding someone excellent to head up the Bank Group starting this spring less than two years after he was given an undeserved second term. 

Governments, I hope, are looking at suitable candidates—women and men—for these challenging, anti-multilateralism times, and civil society is watching. So are World Bank Group staff.

But first things first: let’s flesh out the criteria that the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors have announced for a transparent, open, and merit-based appointment. Yes, we’ve heard that before, and as Lant Pritchett famously observed in 2017 when Dr Kim was reanointed, “this time is last time’s next time.” Will we be fooled and disappointed again? Continue reading

World Bank president: list of reforms African states should be demanding

I have written an article suggesting that even though the next President of the World Bank will be an American, the selection of the President offers an opportunity to reform World Bank governance and making the Bank more publicly accountable to all its member states and their citizens.

This can be done if African states offer the US and their European allies a deal. They will agree to support the US nominee for President in return for their agreement to implement the following package of reforms:

  • The President will be required to issue an annual public report evaluating how well the Bank is performing against some agreed benchmark; for example, the sustainable development goals. This report will be reviewed by a committee of representatives of the Bank’s stakeholders who will issue their own public report assessing the Bank’s performance against the same benchmark. The advisory council provided for in article 6 of the Bank’s articles of agreement could perform this role.
  • The World Bank’s existing independent accountability mechanisms will be strengthened so their findings become binding. These mechanisms investigate claims by communities and groups of individuals who allege that they have been harmed by the actions of the Bank in Bank-funded projects. The Bank, however, is not bound by the findings of these investigations and so may not take the remedial actions required to resolve the problem.

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In the news

18 January

17 January

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Who will the G24 back?

We know that the USA will expect their candidate to be rubber stamped – but will it be that easy? A lot depends on the G24 – the grouping of developing countries that coordinates positions in the World Bank (and IMF). They will be engaged in an intensive process of coming up with potential alternative candidates, and seeing if they can peel away enough Western states to make life difficult for the US.

What does the math look like? Developing countries – those classified as low-income or middle-income by the Bank – have nine of the 25 World Bank Executive Directors. However, eight Executive Directors from high-income countries represent constituencies with developing countries in them (even if, in voting shares, they are normally a small share of the constituency total). They are Uruguay, Switzerland, Netherlands, Kuwait, Canada, Korea, Italy and Austria.

Can the G24 persuade enough of these EDs to side with them in the face of what will be intense pressure from the US? Continue reading