IFI governance


Civil society demands the end of the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ and calls for merit-based, open and transparent World Bank presidential selection process

29 March 2023 | Letters

Via e-mail

To: World Bank executive directors

Cc: World Bank President, David Malpass; Managing Director of Operations, Axel van Trotsenburg; Managing Director and World Bank Group Chief Financial Officer, Anshula Kant; Managing Director and World Bank Group Chief Administrative Officer, Shaolin Yang; Acting Managing Director, Development Policy and Partnerships, Mamta Murthi; Senior Vice President and WBG General Counsel and Vice President, Compliance, Christopher Stephebns; Senior Vice President and World Bank Group Chief Economist, Indermit Gill

The undersigned organisations and individuals write to demand that the World Bank use the opportunity of the resignation of President David Malpass to heed long-standing calls from global civil society and countries from the Global South, and ensure the next World Bank president is selected in accordance with a merit-based, open and transparent process, underpinned by well-defined and publicly available selection criteria and civil society engagement with the candidates. The time has surely come to put an end to the archaic gentleman’s agreement, which has its origins in the times of empire and continues to damage the institution’s standing and legitimacy. 

The selection of the World Bank’s next president takes place at a time of mounting global challenges, such as the existential climate and nature crisis, rising inequality, increasing debt distress and the related increase in social and political instability. It also occurs against the backdrop of increasing threats of fragmentation of the multilateral order. The proposed expansion of the BRICS grouping and the establishment of the New Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank are clear evidence of the frustration with and consequences of the continued lack of democratic legitimacy of the Bretton Woods Institutions, and the need for an urgent change in their governance structure. 

Discussions about the World Bank’s evolution roadmap, the G20 MDBs’ capital adequacy frameworks, alongside the Bridgetown Initiative and commitments made at COP26 to meet global goals for nature, climate and people, are signs of a recognition that the World Bank must change if it is to rise to the occasion, meet its development mandate and gain the trust of the population and states of the Global South.  

The next president must have the qualifications, experience and commitment to integrity to ensure that the Bank’s policies and approaches seriously engage with the vast academic and civil society literature that documents the need for urgent reform. The president must ensure reforms are the result of a clear, critical and evidence-based analysis of the serious flaws and shortcomings of the World Bank’s approach to date. 

As the world commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 50th anniversary of the UN General Assembly Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order, we demand that the criteria for the next World Bank president include: 

  •  Minimum of 20 years of professional work experience in the field of sustainable economic and social development, including at international and country levels; 
  • A demonstrated commitment to international human rights law and standards, to ensure that  the World Bank does not work against human rights but to advance prosperity for all, including by developing a human rights policy for the institution and helping to deliver the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment; 
  • A demonstrated understanding and commitment to urgently tackle climate change and ensure development supports nature, peoples and the planet;
  • Sufficient experience in development issues to lead a critical analysis of the Bank’s development approach and private sector bias to date; 
  • An understanding of and commitment to feminist principles, equitable development and the green and just transition; 
  • A commitment to ensuring that World Bank policies and programmes advance community-led development, are truly country-led and support ending poverty, reducing inequality and creating shared prosperity for all, as well as the economic transformation necessary for a global green and just transition; and 
  • A commitment to engagement with global civil society and, importantly, civil society at the country and local levels, and with under-represented communities, as core to its mission. 

We also demand that the selection process be open and transparent and includes an opportunity for civil society to engage with the candidates. In that regard, we demand that: 

  • The World Bank publishes the revised and detailed selection criteria, including the minimum standards outlined above; 
  • Shareholder votes are made public; and  
  • The World Bank hosts exchanges between candidates and civil society at the upcoming Spring Meetings in Washington DC. 

The process used to select the next World Bank president will speak volumes about whether the reforms undertaken under the banner of an ‘evolution’ of the Bank will result in urgently needed change in policies and approach, and thus enable it to play a positive role in supporting an equitable, feminist, green and just transition, or will rather result in a little changed, but marginally better resourced, institution. 

Sincerely, the undersigned:

International and regional networks

  1. 11.11.11
  2. AbibiNsroma Foundation (ANF)
  3. ActionAid International
  4. African Coalition on Green Growth 
  5. African Sovereign Debt Justice Network (AfSDJN)
  6. Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA)
  7. Alternative Law Collective (ALC)
  8. Amis des Etrangers au Togo (A.D.E.T.)
  9. Arab Watch Coalition
  10. Articulación Salvadoreña para la Incidencia en las Instituciones Financieras Internacionales
  11. Association LaSiesta pour la protection de l’environnement 
  12. Association Tunisienne de Droit de Développement
  13. ATED .Association Talassemtane pour l’Environnement et le Développement 
  14. ATGL
  15. Bank Information Center
  16. Both ENDS
  17. Bretton Woods Project
  18. Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)
  19. Centre for Financial Accountability
  20. Corner House
  21. Debt justice Norway
  22. Debt Justice UK
  23. Debt Observatory in Globalisation 
  24. Department of Trade, Industry and Competition and Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, University of Cape Town
  25. Derecho Ambiente y Recursos Naturales 
  26. Dibeen For Environmental development 
  27. Emmaus International 
  28. Erlassjahr.de 
  29. Espace de Solidarité et de Coopération de l’Oriental
  30. Eurodad, European Network on Debt and Development
  31. Fight Inequality Alliance
  32. Forum Tunisien pour les droits Économiques et sociaux 
  33. Friends of the Earth United States
  34. Fundacion Arcoiris
  35. Fundeps 
  36. Gatef organization
  37. Gender Action 
  38. Génération anti marginalisation 
  39. Global Alliance for tax justice 
  40. Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP)
  41. Global Justice Now
  42. Global Peace and Development Organization
  43. Global Policy Forum 
  44. Global Social Justice 
  45. Global south Coalition For Dignified Menstruation 
  46. GoAcT Tunisia
  47. Green Advocates International
  48. Haitelmex Foundation
  49. Inclusive Development International 
  50. Indus Consortium 
  51. Innovations for Development
  52. International Accountability Project 
  53. ITUC-CSI
  54. Jamaa Resource Initiatives
  55. Jubilee Australia Research Centre
  56. Lumiere Synergie pour le Developpement
  57. Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN)
  58. National Coalition of Civil Society Organizations of Liberia
  59. NGO Forum on ADB
  60. Observatory of food sovereignty and environment
  61. Oil and Gas Action Network
  62. Oxfam International
  63. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum 
  64. Partners In Health
  65. Peace Point Development Foundation (PPDF)
  66. PF2D Congo
  67. Phenix Center for Economic Studies
  68. Plateforme nationale des Citoyens Unis pour le Développement (PCUD) 
  69. Recourse
  70. Right to Education Initiative
  71. Ripess Intercontinental
  72. Shirakat – Partnership for Development
  73. SOAS University of London
  74. Society for the Improvement of Rural People
  75. Southern Africa Climate Change Coalition 
  76. Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN)
  77. Sustentarse 
  78. The African Women Communications and Development Network (FEMNET)
  79. The Iraqi Institution for Development
  80. Trend Asia
  81. Ukana west 2 community based health initiative
  82. Urgewald
  83. WACI Health
  84. WECF France
  85. Wedyan Association For Society Development
  86. Wemos
  87. WIDE Austria
  88. Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF) 
  89. Women’s International Peace Centre
  90. World Economy, Ecology and Development (WEED)
  91. Yemen Organization for Promoting Integrity
  92. Youth Association for Development (YAD)
  93. Zimbabwe Climate Change Coalition
  94. اتحاد التونسيين المستقلين من اجل الحرية


  1. Ana Saggioro Garcia 
  2. Ben Samuel
  3. C P Chandrasekhar
  4. Charith Gunawardena
  5. Christopher Cramer
  6. Daniel Sellen
  7. Dario Zuddu
  8. Elisa Van Waeyenberge
  9. Francisco Cantamutto
  10. Gabriele Koehler
  11. Ibtihel Abdeltif 
  12. Jamie Mcdonald
  13. Jessica Mandanda
  14. Kenneth Ochwer
  15. Kerim Yildiz
  16. Lena Lavinas
  17. Manasi Karthik
  18. Michael Galant
  19. Patricia Schulz
  20. Paulo Nogueira Batista
  21. Rick Rowden
  22. Ronald Labonte
  23. Shepard Forman