As you've probably already heard, Paul Wolfowitz has announce he's resigning from the World Bank at the end of June. While some are still lauding his 'accomplishments' and others pondering the man's next career move, mostly folks are anxious to know who's replacing him.
Daniel, one of our political advisors, has a few ideas. Here's his two cents:
In 2005, I was asked what I would say to Paul Wolfowitz, if he called for my advice as the new president of the World Bank. I could only think of one word: "Resign". Last week, he finally did. The champagne having been drunk, the chase is now on for who shall replace him on July 1st.
Tradition has it, that the World Bank president is always American, personally chosen by the US president. Of course, this "tradition" simply reflects global power relations when the Bank was founded 60 years ago. It has no place in the 21st century.
Together with over 200 other organizations, I therefore think that - shock, horror - the World Bank President should be chosen by merit.
What could that mean? As the world wakes up to climate change, the World Bank needs to deliver climate-friendly development. Otherwise, it will continue to be part of the problem. So why not put someone who knows something about sustainability in charge of the Bank? It would be a first, but here are a few people who come to mind.
Some good candidates
How about Dr. Muhammad Yunus, for example? Yunus is famous for microcredits, the extension of small loans to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. For this method, which has lifted many out of poverty, Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. He was praised "for [his] efforts to create economic and social development from below." The World Bank could benefit from his real experience of helping the poor. At a World Bank meeting in Berlin this week, he called on the Bank to learn from the Grameen Bank experience. If he was in charge, he could make sure the Bank does!
Or what about Gro Harlem Brundtland? She chaired a group in the 80s that published Our Common Future - which everyone knows as the "Brundtland report". It was this report, which made sustainable development the buzzword of the 90s. As a former Prime Minister of Norway, and Director General of the World Health Organization, Brundtland has the experience it takes to run a big institution like the World Bank. She is also currently climate envoy for the United Nations - what better qualification could there be, to lead the Bank as it faces up to the reality of climate change?
Wangari Maathai is also an option. She is the founder of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. In 2004, she too was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for, "her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace". She has experience in government and could help deliver the World Bank's self-proclaimed focus on Africa. With her experience in forestry, she could help the Bank move towards equitable and sustainable forest management – and end their support for industrial logging.
Over the last year, the climate debate has been transformed by a report a certain Sir Nicholas Stern produced on the economics of climate change. So why not ask Stern to ensure that the massive economic disaster he warns climate change could be is avoided? As Stern was the Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank from 2000 to 2003, he should be more than qualified - certainly more so than the other Brit rumoured to want to follow Wolfowitz - Tony Blair. However, Stern would first have to give up on his support for the illusion of "clean coal", if he wants to be truly credible in fighting climate change.
If it has to be an American, finally, why not Herman Daly, one of the world's first and best environmental economists!? He too has already worked at the Bank - as Senior Economist in the Environment Department from 1988 to 1994. He helped to develop policy guidelines on sustainable development and was engaged in environmental operations in Latin America. Back in the 90s, the Bank wasn't ready for Daly's ideas, which reportedly made him give up and flee to the University of Maryland. Now could be the time to come back and deliver an environment-conscious economics at the world's premier economic research institution!
I am not suggesting, in case you are wondering, that choosing any one of these individuals will suffice to make the World Bank a credible institution. But these individuals are certainly more likely than Paul Wolfowitz ever was to end World Bank support for climate damaging energy projects and industrial logging. A prerequisite for the Bank to at least stop being part of the problem! Is that too much to ask?
p.s. Here's a list of candidates being mentioned in the press.