What to Expect of the Next World Bank President?

World Bank President Jim Kim abruptly resigned this week, and the Board of Directors has officially kicked off the search for his successor by outlining five criteria against which prospective nominees will be measured:

  1. Proven track record of leadership;
  2. Experience managing large organizations with international exposure, and a familiarity with the public sector;
  3. The ability to articulate a clear vision of the World Bank Group’s development mission;
  4. A firm commitment to and appreciation for multilateral cooperation; and,
  5. Effective and diplomatic communication skills, impartiality and objectivity in the performance of the responsibilities of the position.

While all five are important for the next leader of the world’s preeminent development finance institution, it is #3 that will most shape the course of the institution for the next ten years—and likely far beyond. While Dr. Kim articulated a strong vision of the World Bank Group’s mission that was targeted at reducing extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, the reality is that during his tenure as World Bank President, the institution frequently failed to live up to these principles. Rather than combatting inequality and targeting those living in extreme poverty, many investment projects, policy loans, and other World Bank activities contributed to inequality by supporting forced evictions, excluding persons with disabilities from project benefits, or creating conditions that increased rates of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. Similarly, Dr. Kim maintained strong rhetoric around the need to address climate change throughout his presidency, but under his leadership the World Bank continued to invest in projects that led to deforestation and land degradation and otherwise supported the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels.  

At BIC, we believe that the new Bank President must do more than articulate a clear vision of the World Bank Group’s development mission, he or she must commit to implementing that vision throughout all Bank funded activities. Any articulation of the Bank’s development mission should include the following principles:

  1. Community-driven: Projects should be selected and designed in partnership with communities, and the institution should prioritize accountability to these stakeholders.
  2. Reducing inequality: Project benefits should be equitably shared and negative impacts of projects must not disproportionately affect the poorest and most marginalized communities.
  3. Sustainable: All activities must be fiscally, socially, and environmentally sustainable for the benefit of current and future generations.
  4. Fulfilling human rights: The promotion and protection of human rights should be a key purpose and guiding principle of the institution.

These principles should inform every project and policy the Bank is associated with, and the next World Bank president should be evaluated on whether and how she or he will meaningfully incorporate them in the institution’s work.