The opportunity to democratize international organizations

By Rafael Moreno (for Safe Democracy)

Rafael Moreno believes that the resignation of Paul Wolfowitz as President of the World Bank opens up an opportunity to democratize the selection process of the leaders of International Organizations: a system which up until now has been manipulated by the great powers of the world.

Rafael Moreno Izquierdo, professor in the department of International Public Law at Carlos III University in Madrid as well as in the Department of Journalism at the Complutense University of Madrid. He is an expert in Peace Operations, Management of Conflicts and Communication in Crisis Situations. He has published “The Spanish Military around the World” as well as numerous articles in journals such as Polí­tica Exterior and Foreign Policy (Spanish edition). He lives in Madrid.

THE RESIGNATION OF PAUL WOLFOWITZ as President of the World Bank opens up an opportunity to democratize the selection process of the leaders of International Organizations: a system which up until now has been manipulated by the great powers of the world, in the name of rights earned during a now obsolete era of geo-strategic maneuvering.

Those in charge of the World Bank (one of the more avant-garde international organizations created after World War II) should have the courage to avoid a senseless continuation of the past, in favor of on open and free election process. All countries that contribute economically to the World Bank and that benefit from its credits have the right to decide who should lead the International Organization. The World Bank is, after all, the most important organization in leading the fight against poverty and stimulating sustainable economic development on the planet.

Although it may seem like a small step, the resignation of neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz has set the precedent for the turnover of leadership in International Organizations, proving that these leaders are not as untouchable as many assumed.

And despite Wolfowitz’s proven traffic in influences to benefit his girlfriend (which in any other case would be called corruption), his resignation is being handled very smoothly. He will continue in his position as President until June 30th, at which time he will step down and be recognized for all of his merits as a leader.

The international system should therefore propose a process to permit the same opportunities for any candidate with the necessary qualifications to be elected through a democratic and free system of voting. It makes no sense, above all because it is not written in any foundational treaty, to maintain this tacit agreement on both sides of the Atlantic to designate the leadership of the World Bank to an American elected by the White House, and the leadership of the International Monetary Fund to a European (currently the Spanish Rodrigo Rato). Change is difficult, but a more open system of selection is essential.

And although this future system will not guarantee a monopoly on leadership for the United States, it is important that the United States not break its ties with these International Organizations. The European Union too must at the very least participate in this process of change, even though it may be unwilling to pressure for the breaking of this unwritten rule. Also important is the inclusion of the rest of the so-called developing world in the decision-making process of the World Bank and the selection of the leader who will be given the enormous power to lend money to those who are in need.

The most recent election of South Korean Ban Ki-Moon as Secretary General to the UN, can serve as a guide. In the election of Secretary General, the candidates are made official with their presentation to the President of the Security Council, with sufficient time to be able to study their profiles, and learn their opinions and positions on important issues. And although the exact votes within the Security Council are not made public, (the voting preferences of countries with veto powers are not made official) the generalized results of the votes are revealed in order to choose the next leader.

The recent election of the Chinese Margaret Chan to the position of General Director of the World Organization of Health represents a step in the right direction towards greater transparency and clarity in election processes. Now it is time for the World Bank to begin to reform. We hope that they don’t disappoint us.