Israel's Gaza accusations and World Bank and U.N. election battles: This week in development news

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Photo by: Ryan Rayburn / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

Questions about merit and transparency surround World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s bid for reelection, while Hillary Clinton urges the U.S. Congress to cut their vacations short and fund research on Zika. This week in development news.

Two development professionals working in the Gaza Strip — one with World Vision and the other with the United Nations Development Programme — have been accused by Israel of working to support Hamas. If either case reveals that humanitarian resources have supported Hamas, it will no doubt force more intensive reporting and monitoring requirements on organizations working in the region. World Vision’s Gaza office project manager, Mohammed el-Halabi, faces the more serious charge of diverting millions of dollars of the charity’s country budget to the Islamic militant group. World Vision has stopped its Gaza operations while investigations continue, but many have suggested Israel’s allegations could be more politically motivated than factual. “Based on the information available to us at this time, we have no reason to believe that the allegations are true,” World Vision said in a statement. Waheed Borsh, a UNDP engineer, stands accused of working to prioritize Hamas-friendly projects. "UNDP is conducting a thorough internal review of the processes and circumstances surrounding the allegation,” the organization said in a statement to the New York Times.

The World Bank’s staff association is calling on the institution’s board to honor their commitment to having an open, transparent process for selecting the next World Bank president. As Devex reported, 10 months before the next president will take office, discussions are already underway among the bank’s executive directors about whether to throw their support behind current President Jim Yong Kim for a second term. “Let there be an international call for candidates, women and men, with clear qualification criteria, followed by nominations and a long-listing process handled by a credible search committee, together with a transparent interview and selection process,” the staff association letter reads. In the World Bank’s 70-year history, all 12 presidents have been American men, a function of the unofficial agreement whereby the United States hand-picks the leader of the world’s largest development finance institution.

In the latest United Nations secretary general straw poll, former Portuguese Prime Minister and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres garnered the most support from the 15 member nations of the security council. The contest has seen bitter divisions emerge, particularly between the United States and Russia, over who should take over leadership of the multilateral organization when Ban Ki-moon steps down at the end of this year. In the poll, Guterres received 11 “encouragements,” two “discouragements,” and two “no decisions.” This year’s race has seen a mix of open, public debates among the candidates who have laid out their visions, and closed-door jockeying by countries looking to push their preferred choice for the next U.N. chief. After Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull chose not to nominate him for the job, former secretary general hopeful Kevin Rudd offered his views on how the United Nations needs to change.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called on U.S. lawmakers to return to Washington, D.C., from their summer recess to pass legislation that will fund research on the Zika virus. Speaking at a campaign stop in Florida, where at least 21 cases of Zika have been reported, Clinton said: “I would very much urge the leadership of Congress to call people back for a special session and get a bill passed.” Funding for Zika research, treatment and prevention has been tripped up by political battles in the U.S. Congress, including fights about whether family planning should be among the services supported. Devex spoke with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards about how congressional inaction has obstructed her organization’s work overseas.

Meanwhile, questions continue to circulate about the Clinton Foundation’s donor network, and whether contributors — including foreign governments — sought to secure influence in U.S. foreign policy decisions with their donations.

On the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples — August 9 — the United Nations called on governments around the world to improve indigenous children’s access to education. “In some countries, less than 40 percent of indigenous children attend school full-time. In many others, few indigenous children complete a full high school education,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message marking the day. The World Bank reported on the disproportionate number of indigenous people living in poverty. Indigenous communities represent about 5 percent of the world’s population but make up 15 percent of the world’s extreme poor, according to the bank.

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.