International civil society groups are calling for an open and merit-based process to elect the new head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned from the position last week, saying he wanted to devote all his energy to fighting an allegation of attempted rape.
The sudden departure of Strauss-Kahn has left the 187 member governments of the IMF with the task of selecting a new managing director during a time of economic instability. But several NGOS argue that it also provides an important opportunity to overhaul the selection process, which is widely regarded as unfair.
Past agreements between Europe and the US ensure that the IMF Managing Director is always European and the President of the World Bank is always American. Civil society campaigners across the globe are calling for an end to this tradition, and demanding greater representation for middle and lower-income countries.
They argue that issues of debt and poverty will only be best addressed when lower-income nations are given a bigger voice in international institutions.
“The IMF must be seen to reflect the interests of all its member nations," said James Picardo, Campaign Director of Jubilee Scotland, "And this is undermined when the post of IMF Managing Director is always filled by a European".
He argued, "Voting for Strauss-Kahn’s successor must be open to all nationalities based on merit, and use an open and transparent process.”
Much of the work that the World Bank and IMF perform is in relation to lower and middle-income countries. However, the IMF post is filled by votes from its 24-member executive board – the majority of who are G7 powers.
The civil society call came as Germany’s Angela Merkel – who leads Europe’s biggest economy – called for the next IMF head to be a European candidate.
In 2009, the IMF agreed to “adopt an open, merit-based and transparent process for the selection of IMF management". However, critics say that since then, two Deputy Managing Directors of the IMF have been appointed without such a process.
Picardo demanded that the IMF “stand by their promise and elect the new IMF head through the backing of a majority of countries, rather than a majority of shares".