By Bretton Woods Project – 23 August 2019

To governors and executive directors of the IMF,

The ‘gentleman’s agreement’, which has ensured that the IMF managing director has for 75 years been European and the World Bank president a US national, is undemocratic, illegitimate, and rooted in neo-colonial principles.

International institutions currently face a crisis of legitimacy, as faith in the multilateral system of global governance withers. If the IMF and World Bank want to present themselves as modern institutions capable of tackling today’s challenges, it is imperative that they become democratic and accountable to all of those they represent.

Despite over 150 civil society organisations and individuals calling on the World Bank for an open, transparent and merit-based leadership succession process earlier this year, the US candidate David Malpass was appointed president of the World Bank. This, exacerbated by the fact that the only other nominee cited pressure from “other governments” as the reason for withdrawing, brought global governance into further disrepute.

It is high time to end the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ and replace it with a genuinely open, democratic, merit-based, transparent process, that goes beyond rhetorical commitment, and allows candidates, regardless of nationality, to be put forward on an equal footing. In line with longstanding civil society demands, we believe that no country – or indeed bloc of countries – should wield excessive power in this process. Instead, the winning candidate should gain support of a majority of both voting shares and member states.

The opaque nature of the selection process must be scrapped in favour of a transparent one that allows space for public scrutiny of candidates. This should entail a commitment to ending the convention that candidates must be supported by the government of their home country – which restricts applications – as well as public interviews, transparent voting procedures, and sufficient time to allow for deliberation.

Building on the IMF’s candidate profile, a clear job description and comprehensive set of qualifications should be drafted and made public. This should include the ability to defend the independence of the IMF from its powerful members and stand up for less powerful nations. It is vital that candidates are well-versed in problems experienced by low- and middle-income countries.

Recognising the IMF as a specialised agency of the United Nations, it is essential that candidates are committed to embedding the IMF in agreed international frameworks and norms, such as international human rights law, and are dedicated to building on the IMF’s recent commitments on economic inequality, social spending, gender inequality, and climate change.

The IMF leadership race coincides with the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Bretton Woods Institutions. 75 years is enough – it is time to end the ‘gentleman’s agreement’.


  1. ActionAid International
  2. Adam Tooze, Director of the European Institute, Columbia University
  3. Africa Development Interchange Network (ADIN)
  4. African Coalition on Green Growth
  5. Afrodad
  6. AfroLeadership
  7. Age International
  8. Alan Cibils, Professor of Political Economy, Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento
  9. Alexander Kentikelenis, Assistant Professor of Political Economy and Sociology, Bocconi University
  10. Alliance Sud
  11. Arab NGOs Network for Development
  12. Asia Monitor Resource Centre
  13. Association for Promotion Sustainable Development
  14. Bank Information Center Europe
  15. Bilge Erten, Assistant Professor, Northeastern University
  16. Bonn Juego, University Teacher and Researcher
  17. Bretton Woods Project
  18. Buendnis Eine Welt Schleswig-Holstein
  19. CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development)
  20. CAFSO-WRAG for Development
  21. CEE Bankwatch Network
  22. CEKOR (Center for ecology and sustainable development), Serbia
  23. Center of Conjuncture and Economic Policy of the Economic Institute of the University of Campinas
  24. Centre National de coopération au développement CNCD-11.11.11
  25. CESR
  26. Christian Aid
  27. Civil Society Coalition on Sustainable Development
  28. Common Weal
  29. Common Wealth
  30. Community and Family aid, Ghana
  31. Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
  32. Daniela Gabor, Professor of Economics and Macro-Finance, University of the West of England.
  33. DAWN
  34. Debt Justice Norway
  35. DemNet Hungary
  36. Democratic Culture, Argentina
  37. Diane Elson, Emeritus Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Essex
  38. Dr Catherine Bernard, Founder-director of SERFAC
  39. Dr. Jeff Powell, University of Greenwich
  40. Društvo EnaBanda
  41. Ecumenical Academy, Czech Republic
  43. Eurodad
  44. Fight Inequality Alliance
  45. Financial Justice Ireland
  46. Free Trade Union Development Center
  47. Friends of the Earth US
  48. GADN
  49. Gestos, Brazil
  50. Global Alliance for Tax Justice
  51. Global Justice Now
  52. Health Poverty Action
  53. Help Age International
  54. Ilene Grabel, Distinguished University Professor, University of Denver
  55. International Trade Union Confederation
  56. International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific
  57. Isabel Ortiz, Director Global Social Justice Program, IPD Columbia University
  58. Jason Hickel, senior lecturer, Goldsmith’s University
  59. John Miller, Professor of Economics, Wheaton College, Norton, MA
  60. John Weeks, Professor Emeritus SOAS, University of London
  61. Jubilee Australia
  62. Jubilee Debt Campaign UK
  63. Jubilee Germany
  64. JusticeMakers Bangladesh
  65. Khartoum Sudan
  66. Latinddad
  67. Madhyam (New Delhi)
  68. Nancy Alexander
  69. National Society of Conservationists – Friends of the Earth Hungary
  70. New Economics Foundation
  71. Nigeria Private Sector Alliance
  72. Oikos – Cooperação e Desenvolvimento
  73. Olive Community Development Initiatives, Nigeria
  74. Oxfam
  75. Peter O’Flynn, Researcher, Development Finance and Impact Investing, Institute of Development Studies
  76. Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, Jordan
  77. Professor Sir Richard Jolly, Research Associate, Institute of Development Studies
  78. Radanar Ayar Association from Myanmar
  79. Radhika Balakrishnan, Rutgers University
  80. Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary NGO
  81. Rethinking Economics
  82. Rick Rowden PhD
  83. SDGs Kenya Forum
  84. Sisters of Charity Federation
  85. Society for International Development
  86. Stamp Out Poverty
  87. Stephany Griffith- Jones, Emeritus Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University
  88. Tax Justice Network
  89. The Feminist Task Force
  90. The Hunger Project
  91. Thomas Stubbs, Senior Lecturer in International Relations
  92. Trademark Belfast
  93. UndebtedWorld
  94. Urgewald
  95. VIVAT International
  96. War on Want
  97. Wemos
  98. Willow Empowerment For Grassroot Development Initiative
  99. Womankind Worldwide
  100. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
  101. Youthhubafrica
  102. Zimbabwe United Nations Association



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