The World Bank’s board published its timeline and criteria for selection last week and it’s a cut and paste from the last time there was a proper selection process in 2012 (we won’t count 2016 as there was no pretense that anyone other than the incumbent should apply).
The main critique I made of the process in 2012 still stands now:
But here’s the most damning point. The list of qualifications for the job does not mention the need to know anything about developing countries, or anything about poverty reduction.
The obvious reason for this is that the US has a track record of finding it difficult to rustle up candidates who have this kind of experience – in this regard Jim Kim was a rare exception, even if his experience was very thin on other elements of the job description.
Prior to Kim, we had:
- Bob Zoellick (2007-12): US government trade rep, Goldman Sachs banker etc. Development experience: very limited
- Paul Wolfowitz (2005-7): US government official, academic, neo-con etc. Development experience: very limited
- James Wolfensohn (1995-2005): Investment banker, cello player etc. Development experience: extremely limited
- Etc etc
Disclaimer: this blog is about the World Bank President, not Hilary Clinton
It’s obviously (well past) time to end the US stranglehold on the job, but surely it’s also time to end the male stranglehold too. Lant Pritchard from the Center for Global Development’s blog notes that he can think of five well qualified women candidates, just among people he’s met.
The UN Secretary General selection process is also going on at the same time, and depressingly, after three rounds of informal Security Council voting, men are in top positions. There’s an active Campaign to Elect a UN Secretary General that’s trying to change this for the UN. Time to start a similar campaign for the World Bank?
So, the blog is back, now that the World Bank board has officially launched a selection process for the next World Bank President. A task this big takes a bit of time, right? Not according to the Bank’s board who leave a little over three weeks for accepting nominations. Three weeks! When we’re selecting interns, we leave at least a month, normally 6 weeks to give good candidates the chance to think about it and submit a decent application. But apparently selecting the head of one of the world’s most powerful International Financial Institutions is a less rigorous process…
It’s already clear that the US is trying to stitch up a second term for the US-backed incumbent, Jim Kim. Do we really need to by emphasise that in 2016 it’s not acceptable for the US to choose who gets to be the head of the World Bank – an institution that only operates in developing countries?
What should the correct selection process look like? This is what I wrote last time round:
“If the Board is serious about making the process truly transparent and merit-based, here are the bare minimum things that should happen:
- Public interviews. It will simply not be credible if the Board selects a candidate behind closed doors with no one else able to see how the candidates stood up to questioning.
- Manifestos for candidates. Every candidate should be required to set out what he or she think the main challenges facing the Bank are and how they would deal with them as President.
- Public debates. Candidates should submit themselves for questioning to a variety of forums, including public debates.
- Transparent voting. All countries should vote individually, not through their constituencies, and should announce who they are voting for and why.
Of course, none of this would prevent the backroom deals that the US will use to ensure its candidate gets in, but at least everyone would be able to judge who the best candidate really is, and learn a lot more about what they stand for. None of these are difficult to organise, and all of them take place routinely at national level for senior public servants. Why not for the World Bank?”
These seem to me to still be extremely reasonable demands (set out in much more detail in this paper on selecting the IMF boss.) The first demand we should all be making is a significant extension to the application process: 3 months (or more) would be much more appropriate than 3 weeks.
With the dust settling after the first contested World Bank Presidential selection process, this blog will be bowing out. We hope we’ve added some transparency to a pretty intransparent process, and will definitely be back next time to demand more change, share ideas and open space for public debate.
The final word goes to the G24 group of developing countries at the World Bank. This is from the communiqué they issued last Friday:
We recognize that for the first time in the history of the World Bank there was an open process for the selection of the President that involved a debate on the priorities and the future of the institution.
Future selection processes must build on this process, but must be transparent and truly merit-based.
African telecoms billionaire and sponsor of prizes for good governance, Mo Ibrahim made – rather succinctly – some key arguments about why a flawed process is not in the interest of the Bank or even the US. Here’s what he had to say
“The world is changing. Continue reading
A great op-ed in the Guardian by fellow blogger (and former colleague) Peter Chowla – he’s perhaps too modest to post if for himself, so I’ve done that for him below. Also signs that the inevitable backlash against the winner’s legitimacy – given the lack of transparency of the process – has begun, with critical comments from Oxfam and Save the Children in this piece.
Here’s Peter’s op-ed Continue reading
Yesterday Russia joined the US, Canada, Mexico, Korea, and Japan in saying they will back Kim. They have only 1.7 per cent of the votes at the Bank, but they do have one of the 25 board seats. And they’re the first BRICS country to come out for him. Perhaps tellingly, their statement didn’t explain why they preferred Kim to his more experienced challenger, Okonjo-Iweala. I expect this is the route those backing Kim for (misguided) geopolitical considerations will go. Praise Kim, don’t mention the alternative, or how they decided his merits were better than Okonjo-Iweala’s. We shall see soon enough.