I find it interesting that a Canadian CSO, the McLeod Group, and Australian National University’s Development Policy Centre, launched similarly argued statements about what their governments ought to do in the upcoming short-listing and selection of Robert Zoellick’s successor.
In a letter to Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, the McLeod Group (which includes at least one former senior World Bank staff member, Elizabeth McAllister) writes
What was once an informal deal between the United States and Europe to always approve an American is now to be a ‘merit-based and transparent’ process. Canada, as you know, has already been a strong supporter of ‘enhanced voice’ in an unfairly balanced World Bank leadership.
We need to encourage the world’s emerging economic powers such as China, India and Brazil to put forward their own candidates. These countries have abundantly demonstrated they have highly competent leaders.
But good serious candidates, the ones needed for a re-energised and focused World Bank, will only come forward if influential leaders like you make it clear that there will really be a fair and open competition. They will not take part in a ‘done deal’.
We cannot expect such leadership from the US in an election year, but they will understand a Canadian lead.
We also want to gain their commitment to share in global leadership, including the burden of financing institutions such as the World Bank and IMF. Not least, these increasingly powerful countries, fellow-G20 members, are critical to Canada’s long-term security and economic wellbeing. Europe, the US and Canada, all need to engage them as essential partners in re-energising the global economy and in ending an already over-long financial crisis.
The new reality is a changing World Order. It is time for Canada to do its utmost to ensure shared leadership of the global financial institutions—in the spirit of cooperation and mutual accountability and for long term stability.
The public and private message from Canada should be that now is the time for change, for a new beginning in global governance, a transition to a better, shared leadership of global institutions.
The immediate need is for a public statement from Canada. This should say: Canada strongly supports a principle of rotation in Bank leadership; we encourage candidates from all member countries, including developing countries—which are among the World Bank’s principal clients and shareholders.
Your statement could also indicate Canada’s thinking on the skills needed in this very powerful figure. The Bank is already a well-run organisation, so what is needed in its President is superior leadership skills and geo-political credibility.
Meanwhile, from down under, ANU’s DPC writes
For 68 years the President of the World Bank has hailed from the United States, selected by the United States. Now, with the announcement that the Bank’s eleventh President Robert Zoellick will not seek a second term, there is a window of opportunity for change. The G20 agreed several years ago that an open, merit-based and transparent system would be used to select the heads of the Bank and the IMF. When Dominique Straus-Kahn was engulfed in scandal last year, there was a brief time when it looked like Europe might lose its stranglehold on the top position of the IMF, but in the end tradition prevailed. It would be unfortunate if history were to repeat itself in the case of the Bank.
The justification for an open, merit-based and transparent selection process is obvious and compelling. More than ever, the world needs a strong World Bank. Individual countries still need its assistance, and the globe as a whole often has nowhere else to turn when it needs a problem solver, whether the issue is climate change or Afghanistan.
The Achilles heel of the Bank is that its bona fides as an institution are constantly under question. Whatever their merits, there is very little a Larry Summers or even a Hilary Clinton – reportedly the two top US candidates – could do to strengthen the Bank’s legitimacy. Yet, despite unanimous support for a new approach for selecting the Bank’s President, it is far from clear that any non-American will stand for the position, let alone be selected. There are two main reasons.
First, it seems that the United States has no intention of relinquishing its control over a position of global influence. Especially with elections approaching, Obama is not going to want to go down as losing the Bank. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has already announced that Washington would put forward a candidate “in the coming weeks”.
Second, it is one thing to support the principle of a competitive selection process, another to make it happen. We know that the emerging economies are in favour of an open process, but whether they are willing to take on the U.S. and able to converge on a candidate is another question altogether. The timeframe is challenging. Countries only have until March 23 to nominate candidates. Australia could play a critical role. We have long supported the principle of an open, merit-based and transparent recruitment process. Now is the time to back our words with action.
Without commenting on the Canadian statement “the Bank is already a well-run institution” or the candidate the Australian writers go on to endorse (whose suitability might, frankly, be as ill-informed as their Northern Hemisphere peers’ view of the Bank), it’s interesting that the pressure from other than ‘the usual suspects’ has begun.
Timely, too, since news about credible and qualified US candidates other than Larry and Hillary seems not to have reached them yet.