With the resignation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a global coalition of NGOs has called for an open and merit-based process to elect the next IMF head. The early departure of Strauss-Kahn means the 187 member governments of the IMF will have to select a new managing director during a time of grave economic uncertainty. It also reopens the debate over an anachronistic and unfair selection process. The NGOs, including the Bretton Woods Project, Oxfam, and the Third World Network, are calling for an end to the have end to the “gentlemen’s agreement” between Europe and the US, which ensures that the IMF Managing Director is always a European, and the President of the World Bank an American.
“The next IMF managing director must be chosen through an open, transparent and inclusive process, where selection is based on merit, not nationality, and with an effort to facilitate a leadership role from outside the European region,” said Bhumika Muchhala of the Third World Network. “It is time for the European and US governments to finally end the sordid tacit deal between the two regions that has maintained a de facto Northern leadership at both the Fund and the Bank.”
The NGO coalition called for an end to behind the scenes deals, a commitment to make sure votes are cast in public, and a requirement for the winning candidate to have the backing of a majority of member governments. Oxfam spokesperson Sarah Wynn-Williams said: “The only way to give the new IMF head legitimacy and authority is through open voting, with the winner backed by a majority of countries, not just a majority of shares. The time has come for the IMF to accept an open and merit-based approach to choosing its leaders.” Jesse Griffiths of the Bretton Woods Project said: “The head of the IMF must be – and be seen to be – independent of powerful governments, and well versed in the problems of low- and middle-income countries, where most IMF operations take place. They should display a commitment to reducing levels of global inequality and poverty.”
In 2009, the IMF agreed to “adopt an open, merit-based and transparent process for the selection of IMF management.” This confirmed a 2009 G20 commitment made in Pittsburgh that “the heads and senior leadership of all international institutions should be appointed through an open, transparent and merit-based process.” However, since then, two Deputy Managing Directors of the IMF have been appointed without such a process, both going to G7 country candidates. In October 2010, Naoyuki Shinohara, a Japanese national and was appointed, and in February 2011, Nemat Shafik, a British-Egyptian national and permanent secretary in the UK Department for International Development was appointed. At the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington in April, campaigners from more than 20 organisations published a paper entitled Heading for the right choice? A professional approach to selecting the IMF boss. There is also a new website (www.imfboss.org) which is tracking the IMF leadership selection process.