As reported earlier today by the AFP, “In an open letter, 39 former managers and economists called on the Bank’s executive board to make their decision on merit, when the board considers more than one candidate for the job for the first time.”
Here is the letter in full:
An open letter to the Executive Directors of the World Bank
We are a group of ex-World Bank Group managers (Senior VPs, VPs, Directors) watching with great interest the ongoing nominating process for the next President. We are writing in our personal capacities to share our views and concerns with the World Bank Executive Board and the broader development community, as the Executive Directors are about to interview the final three candidates for President of the World Bank. We care too much for the institution and for its historic development mission not to speak up, as a “friend of the court”, when for the first time the World Bank Executive Directors will be giving consideration to more than just one candidate.
The Process. All of us agree that the World Bank and all international financial institutions would enjoy considerably greater legitimacy and stronger management if their leadership were selected in an open, transparent, merit-based, and competitive manner rather than simply appointed in line with understandings that no longer reflect the world as it is today.
Progress has been made along this road. In response to the G20 call for a more open process, the Executive Board set up new guidelines in April 2011. They call for “an open, structured, deliberate process for generating a long list of candidates.” This, however, happened only partially. While three good candidates have been identified, the process has still involved nomination by governments, based in part on nationality, and without an agreed list of qualifying criteria. We believe it is essential that progress go further and that there be a list of criteria against which the candidates would be assessed, criteria that would reflect the key challenges facing the institution as times change. The long list of candidates should then be assembled by a committee of Executive Directors based on a wide search of willing individuals best qualified accordingly.
The World Bank has evolved over its history from a project-specific institution to one that plays a unique role at the intersection among a range of areas key to progress in development: linking economic management at the global and country levels with a deep commitment to sustainable growth, poverty reduction, institutional development, and achievement of Millennium Development Goals. The President of the World Bank should play a key role as both visionary and operational leader in advancing this crucial mission that includes a strong emphasis on macro-economic management as the world seeks to recover from its crippling economic and financial crisis.
The new president needs to be able to address the central issues facing the institution and lead in defining new approaches that are both human-centered and effective across the wide spectrum of countries the World Bank serves, from the poorest and most fragile states to strong emerging economies. The President will also need to navigate international fund raising and capital markets, broker agreements on the treatment of global issues and global public goods, bring to bear experience at top levels of governments, and have a track record in the management of large international organizations with a multicultural staff. Other selection criteria would appropriately include political savvy, courage, and listening skills, as well as personal experience of development. Exceptional ability to communicate why support for development is so critical can be transformative within international circles.
We urge that such criteria and vision be fully explored by the Board as it interviews the candidates in an open manner, free –to the extent possible– of political considerations extraneous to a merit-based process.
The Candidates. The three candidates have strong qualifications. Each would also brings unique qualities to the Bank: Dr. Kim would build on his experience in successful advocacy for delivering health services to the poorest against formidable odds and as a senior manager in the WHO and President of Dartmouth College. Mr. Ocampo would bring the experience of a Planning and Finance Minister and senior manager of ECLA and the United Nations Secretariat, and the lessons of the successes of development in Latin America. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala would bring the combination of her experience as finance and foreign minister of a large and complex African country with her wide experience of working at all levels of the Bank’s hierarchy in different parts of the world, from agricultural economist to Managing Director. And she would be the first woman to head the institution.
For the first time, a choice has to be made. We believe that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala has outstanding qualifications across the full range of relevant criteria. At this time of momentous changes in the world, when the global economy remains fragile as the aftershocks of the financial crisis continue to reverberate, her deep experience in international and national issues of economic management, including links to sectoral initiatives, as well as her knowledge of the institution and how to increase its effectiveness would be invaluable assets. She would hit the ground running and get things done from the start. In a word, she would be the outstanding World Bank President the times call for.
The Executive Directors are making an important choice at a crucial moment for the future of the World Bank and of its role in a rapidly changing world. We hope that these thoughts will be of help as the Directors deliberate and decide.
Shahid Javed Burki
Dennis De Tray
Marisa Fernandez- Palacios
Alan Gelb Ian Goldin
Ann O. Hamilton
Frannie A. Léautier
Maryvonne Plessis Fraissard
Christiaan A. Poortman