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Let us applaud the decision of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, to open up the process of recruiting his No. 2 -- by appointing a search committee of Bank staff to be supported by an outside search firm. (See Lesley Wroughton’s fine Reuters report: Wolfowitz Starts Search for World Bank Top Officials
Could this be the first step in introducing transparency and competition into the selection of senior officials at the World Bank, disrupting forever the longstanding custom of politically crafted sharing of top positions among, mostly, the rich country members of the Bank? More dramatically, might it be a sign that President Wolfowitz is testing the waters, including in U.S. political circles, for greater transparency in the appointment of his own successor?
Such a move is long overdue. A broad coalition of U.S. and international civil society groups urged the World Bank Board of Governors to move in this direction in a statement titled Democratizing the World Bank and IMF last February. In June, a CGD Working Group that included civil society representatives, former U.S. and other governments' officials and former senior World Bank officials made a similar recommendation in our report The Hardest Job in the World: Five Crucial Tasks for the New President of the World Bank
Other international organizations are leading the way. In June the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) used an open process to select Kemal Dervis, former minister of economic affairs of Turkey from among four candidates for this important post. (Full disclosure: Kemal was a CGD non-resident fellow at the time, and is the author of a CGD book: A Better Globalization: Legitimacy, Governance, and Reform ) Just today the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) formally announced its choice, following an open selection process, of Jose Angel Gurria, a former minister of finance and foreign affairs in Mexico (and a CGD board member), as the next secretary general of the Paris-based club of mostly rich nations.
These are signs that the global community is finally entering the new century by recognizing the importance of transparency in the selection of top officials and the growing relevance of the developing countries to the task of addressing global challenges. Might the World Bank be taking the first tentative steps towards catching up with its smaller sister institutions?
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.