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!

Time for a woman president

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?

Developing Countries must propose their own World Bank candidates

The US government is strongly backing the re-appointment of Jim Kim for a second five-year term as president of the World Bank. Historically, only two presidents in the past few decades have been reappointed (as Paul Cadario notes). Kim’s likely reappointment reflects his backing by the Clintons for his initial appointment, and the likely US president and her husband’s wish to have a personal friend and dependent as president of the World Bank.  The Bank is a very useful organization for the US administration to have privileged access to in late night phone calls.   

Still, US backing reflects surprising nonchalance about the effect of Kim’s rule on staff morale. Staff have complained about every president, and especially at the time of major reorganizations and for several years thereafter (and Kim engineered a very major reorganization). But the anger at Kim and his authoritarian mode of management (“Off with his/her head”) has been exceptional.  It was prefigured by the relief on the part of Dartmouth faculty to see him go (he was president of the college), and surprise that the Bank had taken him.

Kim’s reappointment raises again the systemic question about the US monopoly of the presidency, ever since the founding of the Bank.  Last time, when Kim was appointed, president Obama missed the historic opportunity for the US to support one of two very plausible candidates from developing countries.  One was an African woman with a long track record to top-level management (including in the World Bank itself and as minister of finance in a borrower-country government. 

As the deadline for nominations for who should become president in 2017 draws near, developing country governments should press their own candidates — even if only to make sure that the precedent of having developing country candidates becomes well-established, so that eventually the US government will have to give way (and the Europeans will have to give up their monopoly of the managing-directorship of the IMF). Developing country governments should also step up pressure for a sizable reallocation of quota and votes in their favour, and/or threaten to cut back their participation in the World Bank and boost their participation in regional development banks.  After all, we are no longer in the post-Second World War era, when western governance of the world economy seemed as natural as gravity.

Robert H. Wade is professor of political economy at the London School of Economics.
Blog corrected 16/9/2016 at 16.08pm

3 week application period – are you kidding?

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.