The first test of the Africa Commission

The report of the Africa Commission, whose members include Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said just 5 days ago (p75) :

Appointments of the heads of international institutions should be decided upon by open competition which looks for the best candidates rather than by traditions which limit these appointments by nationality.

One international appointment of enormous significance to the nations and people of Africa is the President of the World Bank. Whatever you think of the merits of the nomination today of Paul Wolfowitz for this position, it would be hard to argue that the process is consistent with the Africa Commission’s recommendation for an open competition. In his speech to launch the report, Tony Blair said:

All this is possible. Whether it happens, as this report demonstrates, is down to all of us. It needs a new partnership: A partnership, between the developed world and the continent of Africa that goes beyond old donor/ recipient relations….The report itself is only a first step – it is nothing if we don’t use it to achieve change. …Success is in our hands. If we resolve to act, we will succeed.

Quite so. For the vision set out in the report to succeed, we are going to have to start to take decisions which reflect our long term interest in reducing poverty in Africa, and not just our short term political and commercial interests. The Commission has set out clearly and persuasively what those decisions need to be, including ensuring that international organisations are well led, and seen to be more responsive to the needs of all their members. President Bush’s announcement of his nomination of Paul Wolfowitz lays down the guantlet. The nomination was made with no competition, and as far as we know, little consultation. To accept this appointment without an open, transparent and consultative process is therefore to ignore the recommendation of the Africa Commission. As I mentioned in my earlier post when Wolfowitz’s nomination was first rumoured, the US has only a minority of votes on the board of the World Bank. The Europeans could veto this appointment, just as the US prevented the appointment of Dr Koch-Weser to be Managing Director of the IMF five years ago. Shall we put our traditional alliances and short term strategic interest ahead of Africa’s needs yet again, or shall we live up to the recommendation in the Africa Commission report? We will see.

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