Selection Criteria – déjà vu all over again

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

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The curtain comes down, but the (same old) show goes on … and on

This morning we had official confirmation from the Bank that Jim Kim will not face any competitors in his bid for his tenure at the Bank to be renewed. With absolutely no intention to reduce this coronation to a farce-like procession, the Bank has indicated they will strictly adhere to the appropriate procedures.

These 2011 procedures are worth quoting:

World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim in Lima, Peru on June 29, 2013. Photo © World Bank/Dominic Chavez

World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim Photo © World Bank/Dominic Chavez

In response to the DC Communiqués calling for “open, merit-based and transparent selection of the World Bank President,” the Executive Directors have approved a process for selecting the World Bank President as an important part of the governance and accountability reforms.

Well, so much for that.

Kim will shortly be interviewed by the board and should that process determine that he is the best candidate in a field of one expect an October announcement confirming Kim’s re-appointment at the forthcoming annual meetings.

Tick-Tock

Tick-tock, tick-tock – that is the sound of time slipping away from the World Bank’s efforts to hold on to whatever remains of its legitimacy as a global development leader that lives by and values its own rhetoric about democratic governance, meritocracy and transparency.

As the minutes of 14 September 2016 slip inexorably away, so does the likelihood that any of the Bank’s shareholders will dare put forth a candidate to compete with the US’ anointed heir to the throne, as today is the deadline for nominations.

Perhaps one should not complain.  Surely a three week nomination period beginning at the height of the summer holiday season is evidently plenty of time for careful and considered discussion and nomination process for the leader of ‘the world’s pre-eminent’ development institution.  It is clear, after all, that the US found plenty of time to carefully consider the various options and to make the necessary calls. Who could possibly disagree – we mean, of those who count, excluding those pesky critics from misguided NGOs or spoiled staff crying over their lattes? Continue reading

Deadline nearing

With only about three hours to go before the close of nominations, it looks as if the flawed process is yielding but one candidate, the flawed Jim Yong Kim.

It’s not as if there’s great enthusiasm. Michael Clemens’s article in HuffingtonPost makes a strong case for breaking the US lock on the World Bank presidency. He notes that “Criticism of the Bank’s practice of putting citizenship ahead of merit in the selection of a president has been constant over the years,” as the US share of the Bank has fallen over the decades. This is not 1947.

More devastating was Devesh Kapur’s impassioned piece about the Bank’s rush to irrelevance. He flags Dr Kim’s advantage as the incumbent, ‘…to grant favors to win support: make loans that play to influential shareholders’ pet preferences, promise certain countries spots on the leadership roster, and stamp the Bank’s imprimatur on particular governments’ own domestic initiatives,” concluding that “Given the contents of Kim’s political toolkit, this match was never going to be played on a level field.” Kapur, who speaks with the authority of an ‘inside outsider’, having written the 50 years of the Bank’s history, alludes to how Dr Kim has actually managed the Bank since he took over:

His administration has been marked by authoritarianism and capriciousness, and he has forced out senior managers at unprecedented rates, sometimes requiring the Bank to reach quiet settlements with those affected. In four years, the president’s office has had five chiefs-of-staff, and several of the Bank’s senior women have left, hinting at a capricious leadership culture.

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It’s good to be back

As the deadline for nominees approaches, now less than 48 hours away, how can one take stock of a flawed process to make a flawed candidate win?

The United States behaved furtively in the heat of August to push through a hasty process when many Executive Directors and senior shareholder officials were on leave. Caught out by the Staff Association and international media (the FT, the WSJ and CNNI’s Quest on Business), Treasury forged ahead with its plan to have Dr Kim reappointed before the Annual Meetings, 10 months ahead of the end of his term. Shortly after midnight the very day the three-week nomination period opened, Treasury nominated him by email.

Preempting other candidates with this show of force, Treasury then twisted a few more arms, with calls to their World Bank counterparties in various countries, including Pakistan. China, Germany, Japan and France fell in line, as did the UK’s new, green Secretary of State for DfID, with Canada acquiescing in a throwaway remark by its Finance Minister at a G20 presser.

It is no secret in Washington that Treasury Secretary Lew is no fan of Dr Kim, so despite the formal role his office plays in the nomination, all fingers point to the White House. Rewarding golfing buddies is not exactly President Obama’s style, but the fait accompli is nearly done. Continue reading

Jim Kim’s Meager Harvest

We shall know our prophets by their fruits, and the same is true for World Bank presidents. The first term of President Jim Kim is coming to an end, the Bank’s Executive Directors will decide about his re-election in the coming weeks. In the energy sector, the president’s harvest has been meager indeed.

Jim Kim’s first term coincided with the global breakthrough of wind and solar power. From 2011 to 2015, these technologies accounted for two thirds of all the renewable energy capacity added throughout the world. In 2015, the added wind and solar power capacity for the first time outpaced all other sources of electricity – including fossil fuels and hydropower – combined.

Wind and solar power have not only become cheap and ubiquitous. They can also be deployed quickly, have a low social and environmental footprint, and are effective at reducing energy poverty in rural Africa and South Asia. In other words, wind and solar power are ideal investment opportunities for a development bank.

When Jim Kim took over at the World Bank, he knew that he had to shift his institution out of climate destroying fossil fuels. Yet the new President didn’t have the courage and foresight to prioritize emerging renewable energies. Instead, he personally championed the return of his institution to the mega-dam projects which had been popular in the 1960s and 70s. Continue reading

The case for a feminist World Bank President

Calls are increasing for a first female World Bank President in the current Bank presidential selection that happens every five years. A female Bank President would symbolize the increasing power of women. But a woman President alone will not be enough to right the Bank.

The same can be said for a feminist President although s/he likely would laudably promote Bank policies and investments that equally benefit men and women.  S/he likely would strive to eradicate remaining patriarchal mindsets among some Bank staff and Board members.

Without doubt women’s rights and gender diversity promoters, myself among them, believe the Bank should select a feminist non-American President, preferably a woman of color.  The American male monopoly on the Bank’s top job must end.  The Bank’s non-democratic presidential selection process must end.  The US, the largest Bank shareholder, has hand-picked all 12 past presidents, every one of them an American male.

A New Bank Development Model

Not only should the World Bank have a first feminist President, but even more importantly for achieving the Bank goals of poverty reduction and shared prosperity, its next President must radically transform the Bank’s development model.

Many of the Bank’s current projects are large-scale polluting infrastructure investments that are contributing to our planet’s climate destruction.  These projects usually harm rather than benefit women, men, girls and boys.

Bank leaders have talked the talk on gender diversity and climate change but its policies and investments often do not reflect the talk.  Watchdog reports documenting women’s rights violations in Bank-funded projects include: forced labor by pregnant women in agriculture projects such as in Uzbekistan; project highway construction workers sexually assaulting and impregnating school girls such as in Uganda; and forced homelessness of city slum dwellers and farmers alike whose homes are bulldozed, causing women and girls to turn to sex work to survive such as in Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Georgia, Nigeria, Togo, and other countries.

The Bank’s first feminist President must end this pattern of investments that harm vulnerable women and girls and impoverish communities.

Despite the Bank’s widely-publicized commitment to do its part in combatting climate change, the Bank’s new Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) approved by its Board in August 2016 weakens its longstanding environmental and social safeguards protecting communities from harm.  The ESF will harm everyone but particularly women in low-income countries who depend on forest products and other natural resources for medicine, food and fuel, carry water long distances, and do most farming (an estimated 70 to 80 percent of African farmers are women).  The ESF hardly mentions gender, women and LGBT groups.  It fails to include a freestanding gender safeguard to protect women, girls, men and boys from detrimental impacts.  It guts the Bank’s environmental safeguard policies, which sheltered forests, land, water, biodiversity and indigenous peoples from the negative consequences of forced resettlement and polluting infrastructure investments.

President Jim Kim failed to keep his promise that the ESF would not dilute existing standards.

The first feminist Bank President must ensure that Bank projects stop clearing tropical rain forests for biofuel export crops that dispossess poor farmers, mostly women, of land; halt oil, gas and coal investments that eliminate women’s farming livelihoods and force some women and girls into sex work to survive; and end investments in big dams by instead supporting small local renewable energy sources.

The first feminist Bank President must ensure that the Bank adheres to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other international human rights treaties ratified by the overwhelming majority of member countries.

Selection Process

In 2011 the Bank Board initiated a presidential nomination process by establishing merit-based selection criteria.  Nevertheless the US prevailed in installing Jim Kim in 2012 despite competing Colombian and Nigerian candidates of at least Kim’s caliber.  Now that Kim is serving his final year of a five-year appointment, the Bank Board launched a three week Presidential nomination period that will close on September 14, 2016.  The US has already weighed in for a second Kim term.  As Eurodad’s Jesse Griffiths stated on this website, three weeks is an unreasonably short nomination period.  The US is likely to prevail with a second Kim term unless the nomination period is extended, the selection process becomes transparent, and the voices of key stakeholders — including most Bank staff, global civil society leaders, major media and think tanks — calling for Kim to resign, are heeded.

Stakeholders, reach out to your World Bank Executive Director and/or Ministry of Finance to demand an extended selection process and nominate feminist changemaker candidates from developing countries!