Appointment of next IMF head – campaigners demand fair selection process

Published: 19th May 2011

With the resignation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a global coalition of campaigners have called for an open and merit-based process to elect the next IMF head.

The campaigners, including the Bretton Woods Project, Oxfam, and the Third World Network, are calling for an end to the have end to the “gentlemen’s agreement” between Europe and the US, which ensures that the IMF Managing Director is always a European, and the President of the World Bank an American.

Oxfam spokesperson Sarah Wynn-Williams said: “The time has come for the IMF to accept an open and merit-based approach to choosing its leaders. Open voting, and a leader backed by a majority of IMF member governments, not just a majority of shares, are fundamental elements missing from the current process. The IMF can't continue to select its leader in such a flawed manner. Leadership must be representative and accountable if it is to be credible.”

Bhumika Muchhala of the Third World Network said: “The next IMF managing director must be chosen through an open, transparent and inclusive process, where selection is based on merit, not nationality, and with an effort to facilitate a leadership role from outside the European region. It is time for the European and US governments to finally end the sordid tacit deal between the two regions that has maintained a de facto Northern leadership at both the Fund and the Bank.”

The campaigners called for an end to behind the scenes deals, a commitment to make sure votes are cast in public, and a requirement for the winning candidate to have the backing of a majority of member governments.

Jesse Griffiths of the Bretton Woods Project said: “The head of the IMF must be – and be seen to be – independent of powerful governments, and well versed in the problems of low- and middle-income countries, where most IMF operations take place. They should display a commitment to reducing levels of global inequality and poverty.”

IMF leadership must be representative and accountable if it is to be credible.
Sarah Wynn-Williams

Notes to editors

In 2009, the IMF agreed to “adopt an open, merit-based and transparent process for the selection of IMF management.” This confirmed a 2008 G20 commitment made in Pittsburgh that “the heads and senior leadership of all international institutions should be appointed through an open, transparent and merit-based process.”

However, since then, two Deputy Managing Directors of the IMF have been appointed without such a process, both going to G7 country candidates.  In October 2010, Naoyuki Shinohara, a Japanese national and was appointed, and in February 2011, Nemat Shafik, a British-Egyptian national and permanent secretary in the UK Department for International Development was appointed. The first deputy Managing Director is John Lipsky a US national.

At the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington in April, campaigners from more than 20 organisations published a paper entitled‘Heading for the right choice? A professional approach to selecting the IMF boss’. The paper is at

Contact information

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