Staff, civil society quiz Jim Kim over World Bank reforms

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. During the opening hours of the World Bank Group annual meetings, Kim provided a chance for staff to voice their concerns about reforms at the Washington, D.C.-based financial institution. Photo by: World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

The “yellow flyers” seem to have gotten their point across.

An “improvised” town hall meeting with President Jim Yong Kim in the opening hours of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s annual meetings in Washington, D.C. offered employees a long-awaited — and some say “unprecedented” — chance to ask questions and voice concerns about the implementation of Kim’s reform package, which has been criticized by some over the alleged lack of transparency and how budget cuts will affect staffing.

The open meeting was Kim’s first official response to a series of anonymous, staff-led movements to press for more information about the reform and more direct interaction with staff whose job security — and job location — may be affected by it.

Recently, yellow flyers have appeared on the institution’s walls, urging staff to stop work for set periods in observance of their dissatisfaction with the president’s management of the process so far.

One source of staff criticism was a $94,000 “scarce skills” bonus paid to Chief Financial Officer Bertrand Badre, who is responsible for overseeing bank finances while the institution is seeking $400 million in cost savings — in part through as-of-yet unannounced staff cuts.

Kim announced that Badre will forego the portion of the bonus he has not yet received, while the details of the “strategic staffing exercise,” which will determine which jobs remain and where they will be located as the World Bank undergoes its first major restructuring in nearly two decades.

Civil society takes aim

On the heels of the overflowing town hall meeting, civil society got its chance to air concerns about bank operations capping off a day of high drama in the first stages of the 2014 annual meetings.

Civil society representatives took aim at a panel of World Bank country executive directors Tuesday, voicing complaints about the bank’s new draft social and environmental safeguards policy, corruption and U.S. dominance of the president’s appointment, among other issues.

Despite what many lauded as a closer working relationship between the bank and civil society organizations in recent years, attendees raised concerns about inadequate civil society consultations, particularly with regard to the revision of the bank’s safeguards — the first such revision in 20 years.

One attendee noted that the consultations have taken place in "confined" five-star hotels, adding that, "wisdom does not only reside with urban NGOs.”

Danny Sriskandarajah, secretary general and CEO of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, noted that the safeguards revision is the number one priority for civil society groups submitting concerns in the lead-up to these annual meetings. The draft safeguards document was leaked earlier this summer, and bank leaders are currently soliciting comments on that draft for further revision.

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About the author

  • Igoe michael 1

    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.