Global Policy Forum

Oxfam Calls for End to US Control over


By Graeme Wearden

May 18, 2007

Oxfam has called for an end to America's control over the appointment of the president of the World Bank, following Paul Wolfowitz's long-awaited resignation from the World Bank. Mr Wolfowitz's departure, which also sparked further criticism from staffers and speculation that Tony Blair could replace him, is a rare opportunity to make changes at the Bank, the development agency argued. It wants his successor appointed on merit, rather than hand-picked by George Bush.

"Wolfowitz's resignation shows that even the office of the president has to play by the rules," said Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam. "The US and other rich countries must now show that they are serious about good governance by reforming the recruitment process to allow the next head of the Bank to be appointed on merit and commitment to alleviate poverty, rather than being the choice of the American president." Oxfam had called for Mr Wolfowitz to resign after the affair became a distraction from efforts to fight poverty. "This affair has been hugely damaging to the credibility of the Bank, it's vital that the organization quickly pulls its focus back onto poverty reduction," Ms Stocking added.

The US government, though, shows little desire to change the status quo. Treasury secretary Henry Paulson said last night that the US would move quickly to identify its choice, and also indicated that the nominee would be an American. "I see no reason why that should change and I see every reason why it's important that the World Bank continue to be run by an American," Mr Paulson told NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

The World Bank Staff Association, which has insisted for weeks that the embattled president must go, attacked the deal bashed out with the bank's executive board. Rather than leave on June 30, it wants Mr Wolfowitz to leave immediately. "While Mr Wolfowitz has finally done the necessary thing by resigning, he has damaged the institution, and continues to damage it every day he remains as its president," said Alison Cave, head of the association, in a statement. Ms Cave added that the board had "attempted to save his face, and in so doing have destroyed that of the institution they are entrusted to protect."

Professor Joseph Stiglitz, a former Word Bank chief economist, believes the Wolfowitz drama has shown that the mechanism is flawed and must be fixed. Speaking to BBC Radio 5, he suggested that Tony Blair was being considered as a possible nominee, although he would personally favour someone with a background in economics and development.

Hilary Benn, British development minister, commented that he was "relieved that this damaging time for the Bank is finally over". "I acknowledge the achievements of the Bank over the past two years. It has helped to deliver debt relief to the poorest countries, agreed a new African action plan and is investing more in education, health and clean water. "The Bank's task now is to renew its efforts to lift people out of poverty," Mr Benn added.

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