Press Center

 Statement by U.S. Nominee for the World Bank Presidency Dr. Jim Yong Kim to the World Bank Board of Directors


Our Shared Goals

It is an honor for me to be part of an open and merit-based election process. I’ve had the opportunity to listen to, and engage with most of you, and to visit a number of your governors since my nomination.

These interactions have underscored the reality that all countries share the goal of generating robust economic growth that is both inclusive and sustainable. We are bound together by our shared priority of creating jobs, especially for young people, and addressing inequality. All countries share concerns about new and unpredictable risks to the global economy that can reverse progress against poverty.

In helping to address these concerns, the Bank is an unparalleled resource for its members, not only for financing but also knowledge and convening power. These strengths were apparent in the Bank’s timely response to the recent financial crisis. The Bank must remain an effective partner in strengthening the foundations and fairness of the global economy, and in ensuring that the benefits of growth are widely shared.

Among shareholders there exists a strong consensus about the Bank’s future role. The Bank must maintain a sound financial structure that lends credibility and capacity to respond when called upon. Shareholders do not expect the World Bank to do everything, but they insist that it remain a preeminent platform for attracting and leveraging global knowledge and capital. They rightly admire World Bank staff and are committed to harnessing the talents of an increasingly diverse and decentralized team of talented professionals.

As a testament to their commitment to this institution, Governors recently recommitted to the Bank with a nearly one-third increase in capital to restore its risk-bearing capacity and ensure continued lending. Countries also supported a record, $49 billion replenishment of the International Development Association, which is particularly striking at a time of financial constraints. Together, these investments can support country-led efforts for achieving inclusive growth and poverty reduction.

Countries continue to call on the Bank for not only country-level financing for improvements in financial markets, infrastructure, agriculture, governance and other sectors, but also at the global level to help address shared challenges like gender equity, climate change, green growth, trade finance, job creation, and food security. They also want support for attracting more private investment and building competitive private sector environments.

The Bank’s shareholders have demanded and embarked upon an ambitious modernization agenda to make the Bank a more open, accountable, and responsive partner. This effort has demonstrated significant progress so far on openness and transparency, on defining and delivering results, and on initial efforts to simplify and streamline operations. This is an agenda that must continue and become even more deeply embedded in the practices of this institution.

The World Bank has taken steps to realign voting power to increase the voice and responsibility of developing countries in the governance of this institution. The Bank is gearing up for the challenges of the future, which will increasingly call for greater South-South exchange and engagement. Providing greater voice and representation to the developing world is an imperative for the effectiveness and global legitimacy of the institution.

Our Shared Challenges

And yet, as I’ve spoken to executive directors and governors, I’ve also heard about several challenges pertaining to the Bank’s future, and concerns regarding whether this latest round of reforms and reorientation is sufficient to enable the Bank to rise to meet the next set of challenges facing its members and clients.

Some countries, struggling with, or emerging from, conflict, want the Bank Group’s help to bring stability and meet basic demands for jobs and security. No “fragile” country is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, especially the goal of improving maternal health. These countries want an institution that is far more responsive than it is today, and capable of delivering the right financial and technical support at the right time.

Many of the Bank’s IDA clients want help in building their own high-quality institutions. While they continue to seek concessional resources, they want an institution that doesn’t seek to set their priorities for them and is faster and easier to work with.

Many small countries appear worried that high overhead costs will result in the Bank ceasing operations in their countries altogether. But demand in these countries for Bank services remains high. They need resources for forging greater regional integration and building resilience to shocks and disasters. They want a Bank that’s lean enough to serve them in a cost-effective manner and capable of quickly assembling the best advice and ideas from around the world.

Middle-income countries have an increasing number of options for development financing, but continue to look to the Bank for critical support and expertise. In particular, they need a more flexible partner to help them address deficits in infrastructure and planning capacity. They seek greater innovation in financing mechanisms. They want a partner in reducing high unemployment levels and uneven growth that, in many cases, has left millions of people in poverty even as their countries’ overall income levels rise. In turn, middle-income countries have a lot to offer the Bank and to other members based on their own development experiences.

High-income countries value the financial leverage and forum for knowledge exchange that the Bank Group offers. At a time of domestic fiscal constraints, they value the Bank’s capacity to maximize impacts within a limited resource envelope. They need to demonstrate to their taxpayers the Bank’s effectiveness and want the Bank to lead in finding solutions for a growing number of transnational challenges. They believe in the value of IDA and underscore the importance of finding ways to strengthen its long-term sustainability. They seek more innovative and cross-border partnerships.

A strong and common theme is that clients and shareholders, wherever they come from, value the Bank yet also expect much more from it. They want the Bank to take smarter and better-managed risks. They are committed to the mission and the mandate, but believe change is needed to make the Bank truly fit for its essential purpose.

Working Together for Change

If elected, I would bring new leadership to this great institution.

First, throughout my career, I have worked both within and outside institutions for reform and change. I haven’t just managed large institutions; I have worked to change them and make them more effective in accomplishing their mission. As President of Dartmouth -- a leading knowledge institution with a medical school, a business school, an engineering school, and about 4,500 employees -- I managed an $820 million budget, oversaw a $3.5 billion endowment and made necessary cuts in the institution’s budget at a time of reduced investment returns, while protecting the quality of both research and teaching. I understand the very difficult choices that confront institutions with declining or flat administrative budgets, and would work closely with the Board to ensure that we safeguard the Bank’s sound financial model and considerable pool of talent, while ensuring the Bank can achieve its mandate.

My work on multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) defied convention, building powerful alliances for progressive change. In 1994, working with Partners in Health, we found scores of people in the shantytowns of Lima suffering from TB, and standard treatment was not working. My colleagues and I developed systems to get appropriate but difficult to procure drugs to South America, preventing drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis from spreading widely through families, communities and the world.

Second, my life’s work has focused on investing in people to spur inclusive growth. I have devoted my career to providing the poorest communities with access to the technology, information, and resources of the developed world. At a time when skeptics argued that African countries were not ready for antiretroviral drugs, at the World Health Organization, I set a goal of getting three million people in developing countries on treatment for HIV -- an ambitious target that was reached in 2007. By combating HIV/AIDS, our efforts contributed to stemming the tide of an epidemic that threatened to halt investment and growth on the African continent.

As an educator, today, I am deeply concerned about the high levels of unemployment and skill mismatches facing young people. Young men and women worldwide are vulnerable, underemployed or unemployed and feel disconnected from systems they feel no longer work well for them. They need opportunity, skills and access to capital. This is an urgent priority. As a grassroots development practitioner, I find it unacceptable that up to 358,000 women die each year in pregnancy and childbirth. This isn’t just a medical failure; it is an infrastructure failure, borne of far too many communities’ lack of roads, health clinics, effective supply chains, and communication networks. The World Bank must do more to strengthen rural infrastructure.

Third, I am a physician and an anthropologist committed to a strong, evidence-based approach to problem solving. To be effective, doctors must listen, evaluate the available evidence, assess options and alternatives, take action and listen more to refine their approach, if needed. I do not come to this election with a rigid or ideological approach. Rather, I come to it with a deep-seated commitment to evidence- and results-based solutions that must be country–led and scalable. As an anthropologist, I am trained to value local context, institutions and the interconnectedness of individuals and the broader economy in which they live. I know that solutions must be tailored to the local context and that we must listen to the aspirations of the people and countries that the World Bank serves.

A strong understanding of context will be critical to developing new ways to support transition countries, particularly in Middle East and North Africa, where many old assumptions have recently been challenged. A key test for the World Bank will be how it re-engages to help Arab transition economies achieve more inclusive growth.

Fourth, I have led a large, world-class knowledge institution. In this role, I have learned how to create an environment conducive to innovation and cooperation among a range of talented professionals. Many believe the World Bank’s role as a knowledge institution will grow in importance in the coming years, but the Bank must evolve in order to better share and deliver that knowledge to its clients. I am well-placed to steward this evolution.

Fifth, I am well-versed in developing new partnerships to address transnational challenges. My whole career has been spent working with a range of diverse actors to achieve solutions to cross-border problems such as tuberculosis and building strong communities in fragile states like Haiti. I would bring this same approach to the Bank, so it can play a more effective role in tackling global challenges. The Bank cannot address the issues of gender equality, climate change, conflict or food security by itself -- it must work with others to achieve the outcomes we all seek. As I travel the world, I see a growing global consensus about the Bank’s importance in partnering with the private sector, civil society, private foundations and other actors.

Finally, my life experiences position me to serve as an effective bridge between different constituencies and their interests, helping to strengthen the multilateralism the World Bank embodies. I recognize that the interests of emerging economies, the United States, Europe and developing countries do not always converge. I was born in Korea, raised in the United States, and I’ve worked on several continents. I will bring a global orientation to my leadership, helping to build consensus to advance the mission of the World Bank.

If I were entrusted with the responsibility of leading this institution, you would find in me someone who asks hard questions about the status quo and is not afraid to challenge existing orthodoxies. You’d also find someone interested in listening -- to the Board, to our clients, to staff both here and in the field and to stakeholders in the private sector and civil society. I’d bring rigor, objectivity, and a focus on data that help all of us define and achieve our shared vision of securing strong economic growth and delivering greater opportunity for the world’s poor.

Let us lift our sights. Let us focus on the broader purpose of creating a world that bends towards greater justice, towards greater inclusion, and towards greater dignity for all, especially the poor and most vulnerable.

Thank you.


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