All the US president's men — and women — for UN jobs
NEW YORK - When the beleaguered President of the World Bank Paul Wolfowitz resigns June 30-- in the aftermath of a raging political storm over charges of favouritism in an institution that preaches the virtues of honesty and integrity to the outside world -- the United States will nominate another American for the plum job.
The embattled Wolfowitz, a former Deputy Defence Secretary and one of the ill-famed architects of the disastrous US war on Iraq, was nominated for the World Bank job about two years ago with hardly any consultations with other members of the Board of Directors of the Washington-based financial institution which doles out about $22 billion in loans and grants annually.
| World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz laughs during a meeting with the AGOA 3 Action Committee in Washington on his first day on the job in this June 1, 2005, file photo.
Wolfowitz will resign at the end of June, he and the bank said, ending his long fight to survive pressure for his ouster over the generous compensation he arranged for his girlfriend
But after the current debacle, the White House has pledged to consult with its European allies before nominating a successor to Wolfowitz who was forced to announce his resignation last week after he lost the confidence of both the Board of Directors and the 7,000-strong staff association.
Looking for a safe haven for a discredited Wolfowitz over the Iraq fiasco, the Bush administration rewarded him with a job that carried a pay package of over $302,000 annually, plus over $141,000 in entertainment allowances -- all of it tax-free.
According to a tradition that goes back to 1946 when Eugene Mayer, a US national, headed the World Bank (officially called the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or IBRD), the post of President has been held only by Americans: John McCloy, Eugene Black, George Woods, Robert McNamara, A.W. Clausen, Barber Conable, Lewis Preston and James Wolfensohn (who was succeeded by Wolfowitz).
A similar tradition governs the appointment of the World Bank's sister institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has been headed only by Europeans since 1946.
The justification for the monopoly was that much of the funding for the two institutions comes from the US and Europe -- and therefore the Americans and the Europeans are entitled to a "legitimate" right to head the two institutions.
Between the US and Europe, they share the leadership of the world's two major financial institutions which preside over the economic future of developing nations.
Ultimately, it is not competency, but the power of the purse and politics that determine candidates for high office in international institutions. And this at a time when the world's economic leadership is slipping from the hands of Western nations and being gradually taken over by countries such as China, India and Brazil.
The United Nations is no exception because it is also an institution where powerfully-placed senior appointments have been mostly donor-driven or prompted by politics, with the five big powers, the US, France, Britain, Russia and China, demanding the most influential jobs in the world body. And virtually every UN Secretary-General has caved into political pressure from the big powers and major donors.
A former Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, has provided an insider's view of how the UN during his five-year tenure was manipulated by a single member nation, the United States.
Although the diplomatic clout exercised by the US is public knowledge, Boutros-Ghali went into great lengths to prove how Washington also sets the UN agenda both politically and administratively.
In his 345-page book titled "Unvanquished: A US-UN Saga" released in 1999, he recalled a meeting in which he told the then US Secretary of State Warren Christopher that many Americans had been appointed to UN jobs "at Washington's request over the objections of other UN member states."
"I had done so, I said, because I wanted American support to succeed in my job (as Secretary-General," Boutros-Ghali said. One of his "heated disputes" was with US Ambassador Madeleine Albright over the appointment of a new executive director for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) back in 1995.
Since 1947, the post of executive director of UNICEF has been held only by US nationals, going back to Maurice Pate, primarily because the US claimed a right to the job because it was the biggest single donor to the children's agency.
The then President Bill Clinton wanted William Foege, a former head of the US Centres for Disease Control, to be appointed UNICEF chief to succeed James Grant, also an American. "I recalled," says Boutros-Ghali, "that President Clinton had pressed me to appoint him (Foege) when we had met in the Oval Office in May 1994."
"I replied to her (Albright) as I had then to President Clinton: that while Dr. Foege was without doubt a distinguished person, unfortunately, I could not comply," wrote Boutros-Ghali.
He also told Clinton that he (Boutros-Ghali) was personally and publicly committed to increasing the number of women in the top ranks of the United Nations, and UNICEF would particularly benefit from a woman's leadership.
Since Belgium and Finland had already put forward "outstanding" women candidates - and since the US had refused to pay its UN dues and was also making ''disparaging'' remarks about the world body - "there was no longer automatic acceptance by other nations that the director of UNICEF must inevitably be an American man or woman."
"The US should select a woman candidate," he told Albright, "and then I will see what I can do," since the appointment involved consultation with the then 36-member UNICEF Executive Board. "Albright rolled her eyes and made a face, repeating what had become her standard expression of frustration with me," he writes.
When the US kept pressing Foege's candidature, Boutros-Ghali says that "many countries on the UNICEF Board were angry and (told) me to tell the United States to go to hell."
The US eventually submitted an alternate woman candidate: Carol Bellamy, a former director of the Peace Corps. Although Elizabeth Rehn of Finland received 15 votes to Bellamy's 12 in a straw poll, Boutros-Ghali said he asked the Board president to convince the members to achieve consensus on Bellamy so that the US could continue a monopoly it held since UNICEF was created in 1947.
After her ten year tenure, Bellamy was succeeded by Anne Veneman, a Bush administration appointee, who continues the US monopoly at UNICEF.