PANNA: Action Alert: Civil Society Denounces US Nomination of World Bank President


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Action Alert: Civil Society Denounces US Nomination of World Bank President
March 22, 2005

Act Now: Send a letter today to the World Bank’s European Executive Directors urging them to reject the US nomination of Wolfowitz as the next World Bank president.

On March 16th, George W. Bush nominated US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to serve as the future President of the World Bank. Within 30 hours, European heads of state received a multi-country petition signed by more than 1,300 organizations and individuals from 68 countries who denounced the nomination and called on European governments to reject it.

The US nomination of Wolfowitz, who is recognized as the key architect of the US invasion, war and occupation of Iraq and a strong proponent of unilateralism in US foreign policy, has elicited a firestorm of protest from development experts and citizens around the world. The civil society petition sent to European heads of state on March 18th warned that his appointment would risk “the Bank becoming seen as a tool of the current controversial US foreign policy, with aid flows becoming more dependent on strict adherence to US Administration priorities.” The petition further denounced “the untransparent and undemocratic process by which one government nominates a single candidate for Bank president” and called on European governments to “take action to reject the current nominee and press for other candidates.”

Alex Wilks, coordinator at Eurodad, the network of European development NGOs that organized the petition, noted, “The massive and rapid response to this strongly-worded petition is a sample of the anger on this issue.” In agreement, Rede Brasil (the Brazil Network on Multilateral Financial Institutions), stated that “the nomination of Mr. Wolfowitz is an outrage to all of us [who] aspire to build an international system that is more just, peaceful and committed to fostering socially and environmentally sustainable forms of development.”

In defense of his nomination, President Bush said that Wolfowitz is a “compassionate decent man, committed to development, and a skilled diplomat” with prior experience running a big organization, namely the Pentagon. But Tomasz Terlecki of the Central and Eastern European Bankwatch Network countered, “Not only is his nomination the result of a secretive, undemocratic selection process, but Mr Wolfowitz’s well-known track record of unilateralism is fundamentally ill-suited to a multilateral institution which must balance the diverse interests of its member countries.” 

Even the European Parliament weighed in on the topic. Chair of the Development Committee of the European Parliament, Louisa Morgantini, writing on behalf of her Committee, called on European governments “to open up the process to accept other candidates.” The US traditionally selects the president of the World Bank, while the Europeans select the president of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Both Boards typically confirm these nominations without much debate, although once, in 2000, the US rejected the European candidate for IMF president.

In an action alert sent out on Monday, Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) warned that Wolfowitz would be a disastrous choice. The Alert explained that Wolfowitz has little understanding of and no meaningful expertise in poverty eradication, sustainable development, environmental protection, local community empowerment, food security or human rights—all issues inextricably linked with international development. 

PAN has fought for decades against the World Bank’s undemocratic processes, lack of transparency, and addiction to unsustainable chemically dependent systems of agriculture. In recent years, civil society achieved some important advances, including the Bank’s adoption of an improved pest management policy. Yet even under the current president, James Wolfensohn, policy implementation has been weak. Furthermore, Bank partnerships with pesticide companies have exposed the industry’s powerful influence at the Bank, calling into question the agency’s commitment to environmentally sustainable development.

But should Paul Wolfowitz become the next president, the situation will get significantly worse, says PANNA—civil society’s hard-won gains over the past 10 years will almost certainly be rolled back, any remaining potential for civil society to hold the Bank accountable will evaporate and all constraints on US control over the Bank will be removed.

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors will be meeting to discuss Wolfowitz’s nomination in the coming days; a confirmation vote will follow soon thereafter. The US Director is required to support the nomination. However, together the European Directors have enough voting power to block the confirmation. PAN is joining thousands of civil society groups around the world in calling on European governments to veto the US nomination and open the selection process up to other candidates.

World Bank President,
Eurodad (European Network of Debt and Development NGOs),
Bank Information Center,
IFI Watchnet,
Rede Brasil,
CEE Bankwatch Network,

Contact: PANNA, visit websites listed above and see PANNA’s Action Alert at
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