The World Bank loses a candidate, WWF under fire, and WHO's shakeup: This week in development

A view of Chitwan National Park in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo by: REUTERS / Navesh Chitrakar

The World Health Organization shakes up its leadership team, World Wildlife Fund faces scrutiny for funding militarized conservation practices, and the World Bank presidential race loses its challenger. This week in development:

Lebanon’s ministry of finance has withdrawn its nomination of Ziad Hayek to be the next president of the World Bank, leaving Trump administration nominee David Malpass as the only known contender. Hayek told Devex he was informed of the ministry’s decision on Monday, and he said that Lebanon withdrew his name from consideration because of pressure from other governments. A Reuters article one day later quoted a Lebanese official who asserted that there was no pressure placed on Lebanon by the United States or any other country. Hayek, an investment banker and expert on public-private partnerships, told Devex he remains hopeful that another country’s World Bank representative will nominate him before the March 14 deadline. With that in mind he has continued to share his views about which direction the bank should take under the next president’s term. While Hayek does not advocate for any major departure from the strategic plans already in place at the bank, he thinks the institution should play a larger role on issues related to human migration, infrastructure finance, and civil society. The World Bank’s board of directors intends to name the institution’s next president in time for the spring meetings in April.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus unveiled a leadership and organizational shakeup Wednesday, filling new positions at the upper echelons of the global health body and creating new professional tracks for WHO employees. Tedros described some of the organizational changes at a staff meeting in Geneva, while specific appointments — including the appointment of Zsuzsanna Jakab, currently regional director at WHO in Europe, to be the new deputy director-general — were detailed in an internal memo to staff. The new structure includes a chief scientist division, led by Soumya Swaminathan, which was created in order to allow WHO’s scientific staff opportunities for career advancement outside of the current track that proceeds through management roles. “We don’t want our scientists to compete for director position; we want them to grow through a professional stream,” Tedros said at the WHO’s executive board meeting in January, where he teased some of the forthcoming changes. WHO is also creating a new department of digital health to support countries to “assess, integrate, regulate and maximize the opportunities of digital technologies and artificial intelligence,” and is moving forward with a plan to create a health training academy that would support millions of health professionals around the world. Some member states have complained that the reorganization plans have lacked transparency, and the WHO’s staff association has also pressed for “clear communication and consultation that actively engage us and keep us informed on the transformation agenda.”

The World Wildlife Fund is under fire after an explosive Buzzfeed investigation revealed that the conservation charity has supported forest ranger and anti-poaching groups that engage in brutal and extra-judicial enforcement practices against communities and indigenous groups. “The charity has operated like a global spymaster, organizing, financing, and running dangerous and secretive networks of informants motivated by ‘fear’ and ‘revenge,’ including within indigenous communities, to provide park officials with intelligence — all while publicly denying working with informants,” Buzzfeed reported. Buzzfeed’s report focuses on Chitwan National Park in Nepal, where it documented cases of imprisonment and abuse at the hands of forest rangers, including incidents of death. According to the report, WWF enabled the militarized approach taken by forest rangers in Nepal and elsewhere through financial and equipment support, and by fostering cultures of impunity in the conservation areas where the charity works. In response to the investigation, WWF submitted a “serious incident report” to the U.K. Charity Commission, which plans to investigate the allegations.

About the author

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    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.