Assuming the rumour mill is right and World Bank president Robert Zoellick will shortly announce that he’ll step down after one term (his time’s up in June) then, what happens next?
Well that depends on whether the Bank’s board lives up to its promises or not. At least since October 2008, the World Bank development committee (Ministerial level executive board) has endorsed an “open, merit-based and transparent” selection process, “with nominations open to all Board members and transparent Board consideration of all candidates.”
You’ll notice the elephant though – no specific reference to ending US customary control over selection (so far there have been 11 World Bank Presidents – all men, all with US citizenship.) Rumours are already circulating on who the US government might be lining up as their candidate – Larry Summers now supplanting Hilary Clinton as the supposed front runner. But will the other 186 countries that are members of the Bank let this happen, or will they (or at least the developing countries who are the only ones who will have to live with World Bank policies and programmes) try and force the genuine contest that they’ve promised so many times?
The nitty gritty
Last spring, the Bank’s executive board endorsed a paper – summarised below – on Presidential selection [it was then ‘welcomed’ by the Ministers of the Bank’s development committee]. It is very short and fairly disappointing, detailing a very secretive process with no opportunity for external input, and a large amount of the detail – including the length of the process – left to be decided by the Board each time.
So surely it’s time to revisit this process and make some real improvements…. But where to look for ideas? Thankfully a coalition of organisations published a comprehensive blueprint last year for IMF selection – nattily titled Heading for the right choice?
For the wonks – here’s the highlights from the April Board paper:
- “A proven track record of leadership;
- Experience managing large organizations with international exposure, and a familiarity with the public sector;
- Ability to articulate a clear vision of the Bank’s development mission;
- A firm commitment to and appreciation for multilateral cooperation; and
- Effective and diplomatic communication skills, impartiality and objectivity.”
- “Governors may nominate [candidates].”
- “the length for the nomination period be clearly defined and communicated by the Board of Executive Directors in the context of a particular selection process.”
- “The WG recommends a shortlisting process in circumstances where the number of candidates exceeds three … through … an informal straw poll … prior to formal voting.”
Confidentiality / secrecy
- “The list of nominated candidates “would be held in confidence by the Board of Executive Directors”
- “Once the Board arrives at a shortlist of candidates, the WBG would publish the names of those shortlisted candidates, with their consent.”
Interviews and selection
- “formal interviews by the Board of Executive Directors be conducted for all shortlisted candidates”