June 25 - Issue 19 - World Bank Board Unanimously Approves Zoellick
New York, June 25, 2007 - The Executive Directors of the World Bank today unanimously approved Robert Zoellick as the next Bank president. Zoellick was the United States' nominee for the World Bank presidency and the only candidate submitted to the Board for consideration.
The 24-member Board of Directors, representing the shareholder governments of the Bank, held a four-hour informal meeting with Zoellick on Wednesday, June 20. After the meeting, a senior Bank official told the New York Times that "the Board found Zoellick to be somebody who understands the issues and the needs of the Bank. It was a very positive meeting from the Board's point of view." Sources cited the precision of Zoellick's ideas for governance of the Bank, as well as challenges with its lending programs. It was reported by other media sources that the Board questioned him thoroughly as part of an effort by some member countries to set a precedent for a merit-based process, possibly laying groundwork for a future competitive selection - one in which the U.S. is not the only nominator. Bilateral meetings on Zoellick's candidacy continued on Thursday.
On Monday, June 25, the Board formalized its support for Zoellick. The official procedure for selecting a president is to hold a vote and require an 85% majority in favor of one candidate. As Zoellick was the only candidate, however, and a well-received one, the meeting today was regarded as just a formality.
Zoellick will take office on Sunday, July 1. This allows a one-week overlap with outgoing president Paul Wolfowitz. Zoellick will hold a five-year, renewable term as the Bank's 11th president.
Wolfowitz held office for only two years of his five-year term. In the midst of high-profile charges that he abused his powers and pressure for his resignation, broader doubts about the Bank were voiced widely - both about the overall effectiveness of the Bank and the standing tradition by which the U.S. president chooses the Bank's head. Several member governments (Australia, Brazil, and South Africa) called instead for an open, competitive process. However, most shareholder governments reportedly did not desire another confrontation with the U.S., and they agreed to the selection tradition at least once more. Additionally, Zoellick is considered very well-qualified for the position, which lessened the urgency of reforming the U.S.-driven selection process, and may have contributed to countries' decisions not to put forward other nominees.
Bank observers expect that the selection process for the next president will not be a U.S. prerogative. A Brookings Institution expert said, "Change is afoot and it is very clear that it will be hard to do this again when Zoellick's term is over."
In the view of a Bank board official, "the challenge [for ending the US monopoly] will be to keep the issue in people's consciousness and approach some presentable open but well-governed process in good time before the end of this current presidency."
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