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.
We are pleased that the Board has already affirmed its commitment to an “open, merit-based and transparent process”, and that it has outlined some broad job requirement criteria. The application of these principles in practice during the present selection process is made more relevant by the World Bank’s stated commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, which call for “effective, accountable and transparent institutions” and “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.”
We think, however, that these must be significantly strengthened by including five main points:
- Candidates must have proven knowledge of – and experience working on – development issues and a commitment to the public interest. This includes a demonstrated understanding of, and experience in working to address, the challenges to transformational change faced by developing countries.
- Candidates must commit to ensuring that the World Bank engages, at all levels, with a wide variety of parties of divergent views – including critical academics, social movements and civil society organisations in World Bank programme countries – to consider approaches anchored in existing human rights law.
- Candidates must be committed to a multilateral system explicitly designed to support the poor and marginalised to avail themselves of their human rights. They must be able to articulate how they would address increasing inequality, corporate capture, erosion of policy space and related social polarisation and disenfranchisement.
- Candidates must be required to outline their strategies for ensuring the World Bank takes – as a matter of utmost urgency – immediate steps to align all aspects of its lending and activities with the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
- Finally, the selection process must also require candidates to detail how they would address the increasing exclusion of civil society from decision-making, violation of human rights, violence against environmental and human rights defenders and the ongoing erosion of social and environmental standards by states and institutions, which is exacerbated by competition for private sector finance.
The Board must ensure that the next World Bank president assumes leadership in ensuring the end of the current revolving door between World Bank staff and the private sector and related conflicts of interest.
Recognising that this process is already underway and that the US has officially announced its nominee, we strongly urge the Board to encourage and consider other nominees, particularly from the Global South.
In that regard we also reiterate the calls made by civil society organisations during the 2012 selection process and demand:
- A process that actively encourages applicants from the Global South and borrower countries in particular;
- A process that allows sufficient time for robust deliberations and includes an opportunity for an open discussion between nominees and members of civil society;
- Contrary to the requirement that candidates be nominated by executive directors, the process should be open to any applicant;
- A process that ensures the selection of the candidate who receives a double majority of votes, that is, the support from a majority of voting shares AND member states; and
- A transparent vote by member states (rather than constituencies), including a public declaration of member state preferences.
We note that the demands above reflect some of the calls made by the World Bank’s own Staff Association, which recorded its disapproval of Dr. Kim’s selection process and insisted in an open letter on January 10 that this time the Board implement “a truly open, merit-based, and transparent process—in line with calls from Governors and staff alike—with sufficient time to get the job done right.”
The world urgently needs the World Bank to assume its global responsibility and lead by example. This means supporting a transformative global development agenda rooted in international human rights law that addresses growing inequality, climate change, and social justice challenges.
We look forward to discussing the proposal above in more depth and await an opportunity to do so as soon as possible.Please click here for a full list of Signatories or download the PDF below