Open statement on steps to democratize the World Bank and IMF

1 April 2003

Please endorse this statement – see instructions at end – and also circulate it to your colleagues and contacts.

Following the Monterrey conference on Financing for Development a number of official discussions are underway about changing the governance regime of international institutions. Civil society organisations and others have long pointed out that the World Bank and IMF wield enormous power over developing country governments, yet have severe shortcomings in their legitimacy and effectiveness. The undersigned organisations and individuals hereby put on record a statement of some of the key problems with World Bank and IMF governance and their demands for minimum steps to improve it.

1) rebalancing board composition and voting power

The Executive Boards of the World Bank and IMF do not give all countries an equal opportunity to represent themselves. Seats and votes are allocated to countries according to their economic size or historical significance. The 46 Sub-Saharan African countries have just 2 Executive Directors on the Bank and Fund Boards to represent them all, while 8 countries have a single Executive Director each. Rich country Executive Directors currently control over 60 per cent of the votes at the World Bank and IMF. The US government has a veto on decisions requiring a super-majority. The dominance of the richer countries remains the case despite the increasing levels of income to the Bank and Fund from borrowing country loan repayments.

We demand that:

a. There be a reallocation of Board seats and votes to ensure that all member countries are fairly able to represent themselves and that creditor and borrower countries have an equal allocation of votes;

b. There be no more than 10 countries per constituency, and rotation of Board members among different countries in the constituency;

c. No one country should have a veto on any decisions.

2) making governing bodies transparent

The World Bank and IMF have made progress in recent years in the transparency of some of their documentation. This has not, however, extended to the Boards of the institutions. We believe that, as these institutions make decisions which affect the welfare of people across the world, citizens have a right to know what positions their representatives are taking within their governing structures.

We demand that:

a. The agenda, transcripts, summaries and minutes of World Bank and IMF Board meetings be published so that parliamentarians, civil society groups, academics and others can see who is taking what positions at these important institutions. Exceptions to this principle should be narrowly drawn and based on a clear indication of harm that would result from disclosure of specific information.

b. Board members should express their position with formal votes rather than informal indications of position.

3) opening leadership selection

The leaders of the World Bank and IMF play an important role in defining the directions of their institutions, chairing their boards and representing them publicly. They are currently selected in an non-transparent process which limits applications on the grounds of nationality. The European countries nominate the IMF Managing Director while the USA nominates the World Bank President and the IMF Deputy Director. This is unacceptable. The minor steps agreed recently to improve the selection processes have not gone nearly far enough.

We demand:

a. the introduction of a transparent process for selecting the heads of both organizations. This should involve all member countries and significant stakeholder groupings and assess candidates on merit, regardless of their nationality. In fact geographical diversity in top positions should be actively encouraged.

4) reversing mission creep

The World Bank and the IMF have taken on so many roles that they have branched out to cover areas and issues way beyond their mandate and competence. By encroaching on the mandates of other multilateral institutions. By doing so they have increasingly deprived UN specialized agencies and bodies with expertise in particular fields of the freedom to propose effective policies. Indirectly this has also undermined the participation of developing countries in global policy-making and agenda-setting.

We demand:

a. the renegotiation of the Relationship Agreements between the IMF, World Bank and the UN to clarify the responsibilities of the IMF and World Bank to the UN, and enhance the ability of the UN to ensure that international financial institutions fully respect the jurisdiction of other agencies, funds and bodies.


1. Andrea Cornwall Institute of Development Studies – University of Sussex UK
2. Shirin Tejani Development Studies Institute, LSE India
3. Patricia Armstrong Independent Human Rights Consultant USA
4. Collins Magalasi Malawi Economic Justice Network Malawi
5. Henry Northover CAFOD UK
6. Heather Marquette International Dvlpmt Dept, School for Public Policy, University of Birmingham UK
7. Nancy C. Alexander Citizen’s Network on Essential Services USA
8. Kristin Hawkins Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy USA
9. Bob Welch North Staffs World Development Action Group UK
10. Liz Parker Banana Link UK
11. Kalonga Stambuli, PhD Surrey Institute of Global Economics Research UK
12. Delores Mullings Wilfrid Laurier University, Faculty of Social Work Canada
13. Mary Keynes Leeds Central World Development Movement UK
14. Eric Jethro UK
15. Sara Humphreys PhD Candidate, Department of English, University of Waterloo Canada
16. Deb Foskey Australian Greens Australia
17. Maria Suoheimo KEPA – Service Centre for Development Cooperation Finland
18. Laura Frade Rubio Women’s Eyes on the Multilaterals Campaign Mexico
19. Juan Carlos Perez Castro Vasquez Women’s Eyes on the Multilaterals Campaign Mexico
20. Chelsea Jani, Australia
21. Ann-Katrin Schneider WEED Germany
22. Alan Whaites World Vision International UK
23. Bruno Gurtner Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations Switzerland
24. Robert Cyglicki Green Federation Gaja Poland
25. Daniel Bradlow USA
26. Hetty Kovach One World Trust UK
27. Longgena Ginting WALHI -Friends of the Earth Indonesia
28. Ayman Jallad HGSD – Humanitarian Group for Social Development Lebanon
29. Maria F.Perez, Solla International Protection Austria
30. Raphaelle Gauthier, CAN – Climate Action Network France
31. Peter Mihok CEPA – Center for Environmental Public Advocacy Slovak Republic
32. James E. Hug, Center of Concern USA
33. Jo Marie Griesgraber, New Rules for Global Finance Coalition USA
34. Willemign Nagel Friends of the Earth Netherlends/Milieudefensie The Netherlands
35. Eileen Petrie UK
36. Vipin Chaudhary India
37. Joan Mencher Graduate Center at the City University of New York USA
38. Fergus McInnes UK
39. Harris Kornstein Student USA
40. Tyrell Haberkom Student USA
41. Carlos M. Pérez-Vélez USA
42. Damien Millet Comité pour I’Annulation de la Dette du Tiers-Monde France
43. Ken Knowlton USA
44. Jary Stavely USA
45. Vincent Brisard France
46. Linda Farthing USA
47. Ben Kohl USA
48. Marie Clark Jubilee USA Network USA
49. Nicolas Guihard Agir ici pour un monde solidaire France
50. Floyd Hall III USA
51. Tim Tucker UK
52. Filka Sekulova A SEED Europe The Netherlands
53. Karen King UK
54. Susannah Hinman USA
55. Jon Corlett USA
56. Ari Neulight USA
57. VS Gurumani, CARE India
58. Cyrus New, New Zealand
59. Karl Harder, Via3.net UK
60. Ben Niblett, UK
61. Sofia Walan, Christian Council of Sweden
62. Pablo Solon, Fundacion Solon, Ecuador
63. Antonio Tricarico, Campagna per la riforma della Banca mondiale Italy
64. Diana Bohn Nicaragua Center for Community Action Nicaragua
65. Bongkyoo Choi Dept. of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts South Korea
66. M.A. Jama SOCDA Somalia
67. Teodosio Uate Mozambique
68. Diana Bohn San Francisco Bay Area Jubilee Debt Cancellation Coalition USA
69. Mary Keynes Leeds Central World Development Movement UK
70. Sara Robin Onetel UK
71. Inger Bjoerk, Secretary General Forum Syd Sweden
72. SOCDA, Somalia
73. Teodosio Uate, Mozambique
74. San Francisco Bay Area Jubilee Debt Cancellation Coalition, USA
75. AITEC, France
76. Sara Robin, UK
77. Steve Herz, Friends of the Earth, USA
78. Grigor McClelland, UK
79. Bo Forsberg, Diakonia, Sweden
80. Rakesh Rajani, Executive Director, HakiElimu, Tanzania
81. Nicaragua Center for Community Action, USA
82. Fédération Artisans du Monde, France
83. Karin Alsén, Vice chairman, Africa groups of Sweden
84. Nuria Molina Gallart, Spain
85. Brian Bunton, Alotau Environment Ltd, Papua New Guinea
86. Seydina Senghor, International Coordinator, Jubilee 2000 International Campaign
87. Barbara Paleczny, SSND Shalom Network, Dallas Prov, USA
88. Ann Semel, SSND Shalom Network, Dallas Prov, USA
89. Glyn Everett, Bristol University, UK
90. Rick Rowden, ActionAid USA
91. Milena Tanusheva, Executive Director, TIME Foundation, Bulgaria
92. Liliana N. Proskuryakova, International Unit, St.Petersburg Center for Humanities and Political Studies, Russia
93. Kim Petersen, Canada
94. Yang Ming, China
95. Robert Faris, Canada
96. Augusta Muthigani- Kenya
97. Alex Wilks Bretton Woods Project UK

Sign-up instructions and further information

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The statement is also available in French

Please send your endorsements by 10 April 2003 if possible, though supplementary endorsements will be accepted after this date. Please state if you would NOT like to be added to an email list for occasional announcements on IFI governance (max. 6 per year).

See also:

Window of opportunity on IFI Governance, (Bretton Woods Update 32), plus further links.

Increasing clarity on limitations of IFI governance debate (Bretton Woods Project, 10 Mar 03)