worldbankpresident site overhaul complete, but can we overhaul the official process?

We established this site to open up the process for selecting a new person to run the world’s most powerful development institution. We covered the post-Wolfensohn selection process from beginning to end, and we’ve refreshed this site’s look and functionality to enhance our ability to track, comment on and – hopefully – influence who comes after Wolfowitz and what they say and do.

If enough of us make an effort on this blog, other blogs, and in campaign organisations, foreign ministries, newspapers etc across the world, it must be possible to shift the archaic process for choosing World Bank presidents. Tapping American politicians or business-people on the shoulder and shoving them into the Bank is clearly not sufficient to get the best person at the top of a multilateral body. And getting your position on the basis of patronage rather than competition leaves you open to attack later on when the going gets tough.

That certainly proved to be the case with Paul Wolfowitz. In March and April 2005, we helped kick up a huge fuss with letters, petitions, articles summarising Mr W’s track record and why he’d be wrong for the Bank. We feel viudicated: in just two years Wolfowitz managed to alienate so many people within and around the World Bank that he paved the way for his own downfall much sooner than we’d expected. It’s hard to say what part this site played in keeping the Riza story alive, drawing journalists’ and officials’ attention to the multiple other allegations against Wolfowitz and his coterie of senior advisers and managers. Or in casting doubts on parts of the Wolfowitz defence, including some dubious documents. But certainly many journalists have used the site to track what is going on. Others have interviewed site authors (e.g. Nova TV, FT), or even written about us as a story in ourselves (e.g. Business Week, Reuters).

We look forward to more journalist contacts as this story unfolds. The key questions for us are:
– Will another government dare to nominate a candidate for consideration by the Bank’s board?
– What will the candidate or candidates say on the record about their plans for the Bank, on policies, on projects, and on cleaning up the Bank’s internal governance?
– How quickly will Bank staff and board settle down under the new boss?
– Will the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ which has governed World Bank leadership selection for over 60 years be declared dead, following the very ungentlemanly public squabbles of recent weeks?

We pledge to bring you our best and quickest coverage of these questions as the story unfolds. Our seven bloggers, in Belgium, the U.K., Kenya, Tunisia, the USA, and Canada are well-placed to obtain and filter intelligence on what is going on, and to comment on the tit-bits that emerge. We will of course open the opportunity for readers to give their own intelligent comments on selected posts. Please also tag posts that you like (many options available now that we’ve switched to WordPress), use the RSS feeds to feature content on your websites or in your news-readers. And send us tip-offs or any news we’ve missed. We rely a lot on these readers contributions.

Thanks to Abi at Riverpath for her great design work. We have given more prominence to articles covering the current phase, archiving the 750 posts from the 2005 Wolfensohn exit/Wolfowitz entrance phase and the April-May 2007 Wolfowitz scandal and exit announcement.

4 thoughts on “worldbankpresident site overhaul complete, but can we overhaul the official process?

  1. I already miss this old look and feel of the site. It looks so “official” now. Nevertheless…keep up the good work.

  2. The WB needs to go. The concept is outdated, and the core concept is itself beyond repair. The WB most definitely DOES NOT exist to give you employment.

  3. This is a good comment, courtesy of The Gate:
    An anonymous World Bank official, “who spoke on condition that he not be named for fear of alienating his new boss,” told the Post that potential objections lie not with Zoellick personally, but with the people behind him. “People think Zoellick is highly intelligent and has a pragmatic mind-set,” the source said. “But he’s still from the same people who brought you the Iraq war, the same people who brought you Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld. There’s immediate jaundice about his country of origin. Any American appointed by this president would carry that stigma.”


    Those of you involved with and those of us at the World Bank are not always on the same side about everything. I know, for example, that some of you believe that there should, ideally, be no World Bank at all. Those of us at the Bank respectfully disagree. I think that, despite its problems (and, yes, some miserably failed projects) the Bank still does good in the aggregate, including some strong successes.

    But where many of us do agree is that there ARE severe flaws in the governance of the World Bank. The poor presidential selection process is clearly one of them–and you have taken that up as your cause. I would point out that another severe deficit is that poor people in developing countries have far too little voice in how the World Bank is run. I do think things are better than they were a decade ago, before Wolfensohn. At least now the World Bank listens a little more to civil society organizations and, through them, to the poor.

    But it is not nearly enough. How about, in addition to a Board of governors representing country governments, we also had a second Board with ordinary citizens as representatives, particularly citizens who have themselves grown up with poverty in developing countries? Including particularly vulnerable populations such as women, youth, elderly people, people with disabilities, ethnic/tribal/religious minorities, etc. And set up the by laws so that any major decisions (including the presidency of the Bank) will require a majority vote from BOTH the Board of Governors and ALSO the Board of citizens? After all, if we’re supposed to be serving the world’s poor, then shouldn’t we be reporting to them as well? And surely there must be many other ways to ensure that the poor have a stronger voice at the Bank.

    I don’t know what’s going to happen from here on out vis a vis Zoellick. I don’t know what path the World Bank will take under his leadership. But please don’t fade away into the sunset just because a new president of the Bank has now been chosen. Please continue watching. Please continue pushing for reform in how the Bank is run.

    We weren’t able to reform how the president was chosen for this round (or the last) — but maybe a PERSISTENT effort, starting now and continuing throughout the next five years, will help us in the next round. Use these five years to educate, educate, educate the general public on why the World Bank is important enough to pay attention to and why its governance needs reformation. If a few more people in the general public are better enlightened next time around than they were this time around (how many Average Joe Schmoes in the street even know what the World Bank DOES?) then we might have a little more success.

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