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Last Friday the IMF board announced that it would accept nominations to replace Rodrigo de Rato as the next Managing Director until August 31, a first and essential step in opening up the process of selecting the IMF leader. The board also announced the skills and qualities it seeks in the next Managing Director:

The IMF Executive Board has decided to adopt a process for selecting a successor to the current Managing Director, Rodrigo de Rato, by establishing a candidate profile and a selection procedure for the next Managing Director. Specifically:
The successful candidate for the position of Managing Director will have a distinguished record in economic policymaking at senior levels. He or she will have an outstanding professional background, will have demonstrated the managerial and diplomatic skills needed to lead a global institution, and will be a national of any of the Fund's 185 members.

The announcement is a welcome if slightly amazing turn of events. I've worked at both the IMF and the World Bank, and came away from my Fund experience thinking this was an institution with an almost pathological aversion to change. The World Bank, in contrast, seems to rush willy-nilly into every new idea that comes along. Every new idea, that is, except changing the way it selected its leader. With this one move, the IMF now has bragging rights as the leading reformer among multilateral organizations.
It has always puzzled me that in the aftermath of the Wolfowitz fiasco the World Bank board did not insist that the U.S. give them a choice, even if all the nominees were U.S. citizens. That move would have left the door open to a much-needed discussion of how to reform of the leadership selection process at Bank. The IMF board has not made this mistake. It has done the right thing by insisting that Europe’s designated candidate must measure up to a competitive field. The European candidate, Mr. Strauss-Kahn may well be the IMF’s next Managing Director, but if he is, he will have the right to claim a legitimacy that no other IMF or World Bank leader has had.
Does this announcement guarantee that the best man or woman will get the job? No, but it is a critical signal that at least some of the world's leading nations understand that business as usual in the governance of the world’s premier international organizations is just not ok.

Disclaimer

CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.