Jim Kim, safeguards and 'the problem of multilateralism'

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim shares his thoughts on criticisms toward his safeguards.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has a simple message for critics of the bank’s safeguards revision process: “Wait till you see the final product.”

Devex Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar sat down with Kim during the flurry of activity at the World Bank’s annual spring meetings this week to discuss the bank chief’s leadership and vision at a time when the international financial institution has responded to new challenges with a set of unprecedented — and highly controversial — reforms.

Of all the changes Kim has implemented, the bank’s revision of its environmental and social framework — more commonly known as safeguards — has commanded much of the attention. Civil society groups have risen up against the revisions, most recently by donning yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Danger, Human Rights Violations Ahead." Another protest is scheduled to take place Friday at the World Bank’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.

As the drama unfolds, Devex sat down with Kim to discuss allegations that the bank is relaxing its oversight policies in an effort to stay competitive with other development finance institutions, like the ascendent Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which many have described as a potential competitor to the Western-dominated Bretton Woods institutions of which the World Bank is a part.

Kim remains adamant that the safeguards revision is not a “dilution” of the bank’s commitment to social and environmental standards, but instead consistent with his commitment to serve “at the very cutting edge” of development finance.

At the same time, Kim acknowledged that leading an institution composed of 188 member states, where “all of the conflicts of the world exist on my board,” means that there will be people “unhappy on both sides of every issue.”

The safeguards — which just completed a second round of consultations with stakeholders around the world — will go to the committee on development effectiveness, an executive board subcommittee, for approval early this summer. After CODE reviews the draft, it will undergo a third round of consultations. The bank hopes to present a completed framework by the end of 2015.

Visit our live blog to see more of the conversation between Devex and the World Bank chief, and updates on the 2015 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.

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About the author

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a U.K. Correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.