Appointing new World Bank head – campaigners demand fair selection process

Published: 15th February 2012

Reacting to the announcement that World Bank President Robert Zoellick will step down at the end of his term on June 30th, a global coalition of campaigners has called for an open and merit-based process to elect the next World Bank leader, and for developing countries to determine the selection. 

The campaigners, including Oxfam, Eurodad and the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (Afrodad), have also asked the US to announce that it will no longer seek to monopolize the Presidential position. A “gentlemen’s agreement” between Europe and the US dating back to World War II ensures that the President of the World Bank is always an American, and a European IMF Managing Director.

Elizabeth Stuart of Oxfam said: “The way the World Bank picks its president needs to change. The Bank only operates in developing countries, so any candidate not supported by a majority of these countries would plainly lack legitimacy.”

In an open letter to World Bank governors, the campaigners demanded that:

  • The new President is selected by a majority of World Bank member countries, not just a majority of voting shares - the majority of these are from low and middle-income countries.
  • The selection process is open to anyone to apply, with interviews held in public and with open voting procedures. 
  • A clear job description and required qualifications is set out, and that these include a strong understanding and experience of the particular problems facing developing countries. 

Jeroen Kwakkenbos of Eurodad said: “The next World Bank chief can’t be selected in a behind-the-scenes carve-up. The second wave of global economic crisis is almost certainly going to start hitting poor countries very hard, very soon. The World Bank needs to be geared to respond with credible, legitimate leadership in place. The US should no longer seek to monopolize this position.”

Collins Magalasi of Afrodad said: “It’s a World Bank, not a US Bank. It needs the best candidate to get the job with support of wide Bank membership, not just the US.”

The way the World Bank picks its president needs to change. Any candidate not supported by a majority of developing countries would plainly lack legitimacy.
Elizabeth Stuart

Notes to editors

  • The World Bank’ Ministerial level executive board, the Development Committee, has endorsed an “open, merit-based and transparent” selection process.

The following are quotes from World Bank Development Committee communiqués:

October 2010 - “We reiterate the importance of an open, merit based and transparent process for the selection of the President of the World Bank Group.”

April 2010 - “We reiterate the importance of an open, merit-based and transparent process for the selection of the President of the World Bank Group.”

October 2008 - “There is considerable agreement on the importance of a selection process for the President of the Bank that is merit-based and transparent, with nominations open to all Board members and transparent Board consideration of all candidates”

  • Having the new World Bank president be selected on the basis of the support of a majority of both voting shares and member countries could be agreed by the Board, without any formal changes to the Bank’s articles of agreement. To make this work, countries would need to vote independently, not through their constituencies, and declare their support publicly.

Contact information

In Washington, DC: Caroline Hooper-Box

Mobile: +1 202 321 2967

In London: Jesse Griffiths Mobile: +44 7968 041 747