Open letter from civil society to the WBG Board: Make commitment to climate action a prerequisite for next WBG Prez

NB: The below text is from a letter submitted by 31 civil society organisations to the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors on 14 March. A PDF version of this letter is available here.

Dear World Bank Group Executive Directors,

We write to call upon you to prioritise the Bank’s role in combating climate change in the selection of the next World Bank Group president.

We feel strongly that the appointment of the World Bank’s next president will greatly affect, positively or negatively, the Bank’s implementation of its commitments to take effective climate action, and to bring its lending and technical support into alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement.

As you well know, climate change poses an existential threat to societies around the world. A landmark IPCC report released in 2018 lays bare the scale of the challenge: Global CO2 emissions must be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels to keep global average temperature rise at 1.5°C compared to preindustrial levels.

As the climate crisis continues to bite, many of the Bank’s borrower countries will be among the most severely impacted. The Bank’s own research shows that 100 million people could be pushed back into poverty by 2030 due to climate change impacts. In short, climate change is a direct challenge to the Bank’s organizational mission of eliminating extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Aaaand we’re back! Kim announces surprise departure, kicking off a sooner than expected leadership challenge

Jim Yong Kim announced on 7 January he is leaving the World Bank for the private sector. Credit: World Bank.

World Bank Group (WBG) President Jim Yong Kim announced his resignation on Monday, 7 January, to the apparent surprise of the World Bank’s Board of Directors and senior staff.

In a letter to staff, Kim indicated that his departure was “unexpected”, and that he would be joining a private investment firm, stating that “this is the path through which I will be able to make the largest impact on major global issues like climate change and the infrastructure deficit in emerging markets.” On 9 January, it was announced that Kim will join Global Infrastructure Partners as a Vice Chairman and Partner.

Since Kim’s shock announcement, questions have swirled about why he chose to depart with more than three years remaining on his second term – he was re-appointed in September 2016 – and indeed whether his new role represents a potential conflict of interest, given the Bank’s aggressive promotion of mobilising private finance for infrastructure projects under his leadership. Continue reading

Campaigners demand fair selection process as Zoellick finally says he will step down

Increased rumours this week proved to be right as Zoellick just announced today that he will step down at the end of his first term as World Bank president, on 30 June. Reacting to the announcement, a global coalition of campaigners has issued an open letter to World Bank governors calling for an open and merit-based process to elect the next Bank president, and for developing countries to determine the selection: Continue reading