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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Open letter to the World Bank Group Board of Executive Directors

Appointment of the new World Bank Group President

The selection of the new World Bank president takes place amid a crisis of multilateralism reflected in the ascent of anti-establishment and nationalist parties and increased trade tensions. These arise from persistent challenges to the world economy ranging from the growing inequality crisis, the increasing importance of finance, financial markets, and financial institutions in the economy, a looming debt crisis and increased corporate capture that is resulting in the erosion of states’ sovereignty and their ability to meet their human rights obligations. These trends are exacerbated by the quickly evolving climate change crisis, which threatens the livelihoods of the poorest around the globe.

The World Bank requires a leader able and willing to critically assess the role the Bank can play in challenging the failed model that has led us here. The next president must ensure the institution leads by example and uses its privileged position to articulate the need for radical change. More than ever the World Bank requires a president who is qualified to lead what is still the world’s principal public development bank.

It is therefore imperative that the selection process results in the appointment of the best candidate, chosen from a wide-ranging pool of people with the background and experience required.

One thing is certain, at a time when the legitimacy of international institutions is increasingly under attack, reliance on the previous process, where the US and its European allies work behind closed doors to ensure the selection of a US World Bank president in exchange for the European leadership of the IMF will only further erode confidence in the multilateral system. It is of vital importance therefore that the next president has the support of the majority of low and middle-income countries, to which World Bank lending is restricted. Continue reading