Heart­en­ing news from the Oth­er Wash­ing­ton this morn­ing: Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has named Dart­mouth pres­i­dent Jim Yong Kim — a glob­al health expert and a skilled pro­gres­sive leader — as the Unit­ed States’ choice to head the World Bank after Robert Zoel­lick steps down in June.

“Jim has spent more than two decades work­ing to improve con­di­tions in devel­op­ing coun­tries around the world,” said Pres­i­dent Oba­ma in a state­ment released by the White House. “The World Bank is one of the most pow­er­ful tools we have to reduce pover­ty and raise stan­dards of liv­ing around the globe, and Jim’s per­son­al expe­ri­ence and years of ser­vice make him an ide­al can­di­date for this job.”

At a press con­fer­ence in the Rose Gar­den, stand­ing along­side U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton, Oba­ma intro­duced Kim and explained why he thinks the World Bank needs a new kind of leader:

Now, despite its name, the World Bank is more than just a bank. It’s one of the most pow­er­ful tools we have to reduce pover­ty and raise stan­dards of liv­ing in some of the poor­est coun­tries on the plan­et. And in a world that is grow­ing small­er and more con­nect­ed every day, that’s a crit­i­cal mis­sion -– not just for those who are strug­gling, but for all of us.

When we reduce hunger in the world, or help a farmer recov­er from a flood or a drought, it strength­ens the entire world econ­o­my.  When we put an end to a pre­ventable dis­ease, all of us are safer because of it.  When an entre­pre­neur can start a new busi­ness, it cre­ates jobs in their coun­try, but also opens up new mar­kets for our coun­try.  And ulti­mate­ly, when a nation goes from pover­ty to pros­per­i­ty, it makes the world stronger and more secure for everybody.

That’s why the World Bank is so impor­tant.  And that’s why the leader of the World Bank should have a deep under­stand­ing of both the role that devel­op­ment plays in the world, and the impor­tance of cre­at­ing con­di­tions where assis­tance is no longer needed.

I believe that nobody is more qual­i­fied to car­ry out that mis­sion than Dr. Jim Kim. It’s time for a devel­op­ment pro­fes­sion­al to lead the world’s largest devel­op­ment agency. And that’s why today, after a care­ful and thor­ough search, I am nom­i­nat­ing Dr. Jim Kim to be the next pres­i­dent of the World Bank.

Empha­sis is ours.

We strong­ly agree, and we thank Pres­i­dent Oba­ma for mak­ing this nom­i­na­tion. The world com­mu­ni­ty will be well served with Dr. Kim at the helm of the World Bank.

Dr. Kim has spent years fight­ing HIV/AIDS in Africa and work­ing to improve human­i­ty’s defens­es against infec­tious dis­eases. Pri­or to becom­ing pres­i­dent of Dart­mouth Col­lege in 2009, Dr. Kim was involved with the col­lege’s Cen­ter for Health Care Deliv­ery Ser­vice (which he found­ed), as well as Part­ners in Health (which he helped launch) and the U.N.‘s World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (where he served as the head of the Depart­ment of HIV/AIDS). He holds degrees from Brown and Har­vard and belongs to the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences’ Insti­tute of Medicine.

Dis­tin­guished econ­o­mist Jef­frey Sachs, who recruit­ed him­self for the job (and was nom­i­nat­ed by sev­er­al oth­er coun­tries) in the hopes of encour­ag­ing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma to pick some­one like him­self or Dr. Kim, said he was thrilled.

“Dr. Jim Kim is a superb nom­i­nee for the World Bank pres­i­den­cy,” Sachs said in a state­ment released to the press announc­ing that he was with­draw­ing his can­di­da­cy. “I con­grat­u­late the admin­is­tra­tion for nom­i­nat­ing a world-class devel­op­ment leader for this position.”

His spokes­woman, Erin Trow­bridge added: “Pro­fes­sor Sachs sup­ports Dr Kim one hun­dred per­cent and with com­plete enthusiasm.”

Mark Weis­brot, co-direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic and Pol­i­cy Research (one of Amer­i­ca’s best pro­gres­sive think tanks, which stud­ies issues affect­ing the world com­mu­ni­ty) described the nom­i­na­tion as his­toric and unprecedented.

“This is a huge step for­ward. If Kim becomes World Bank Pres­i­dent, he’ll be the first qual­i­fied pres­i­dent in six­ty-eight years,” Weis­brot said.  “Kim’s nom­i­na­tion is a vic­to­ry for all the peo­ple, orga­ni­za­tions, and gov­ern­ments that stood up to the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion and demand­ed an open, mer­it-based process.”

The White House was report­ed­ly con­sid­er­ing nom­i­nat­ing dis­cred­it­ed econ­o­mist Lar­ry Sum­mers — who advised Pres­i­dent Oba­ma on eco­nom­ic issues dur­ing his first two years in office — but appar­ent­ly dropped that idea after encoun­ter­ing resis­tance from oth­er coun­tries, mem­bers of Con­gress, and NGOs.

The World Bank has nev­er had a pres­i­dent who was­n’t either a polit­i­cal insid­er or a banker, so Kim’s nom­i­na­tion is indeed his­toric, and wel­come. Already it is draw­ing praise from around the globe. Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame of Rwan­da had this to say after learn­ing of Dr. Kim’s nomination:

I was delight­ed to learn that Jim Kim has been nom­i­nat­ed for this post, as he is a true friend of Africa and well known for his decade of work to sup­port us in devel­op­ing an effi­cient health sys­tem in Rwan­da. He’s not only a physi­cian and a leader who knows what it takes to address pover­ty, but also a gen­uine­ly good per­son. Pres­i­dent Obama’s nom­i­na­tion of Dr. Kim as Pres­i­dent of the World Bank is a wel­come one, and should res­onate well with the many men and women who are work­ing to trans­form lives around the world.

Kim is not guar­an­teed to become the next World Bank pres­i­dent. How­ev­er, some­one from the Unit­ed States has always held the post, and Europe and Japan will like­ly back Dr. Kim’s nom­i­na­tion, there­by ensur­ing that the job goes to him.

At least one oth­er cred­i­ble can­di­date has been nom­i­nat­ed: Ngozi Okon­jo-Iweala, who serves as Nige­ri­a’s Min­is­ter of Finance. Iweala will like­ly make the short list of can­di­dates that the World Bank’s board will choose from.

The board is expect­ed to make a deci­sion by April 21st.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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2 replies on “President Barack Obama names a great progressive, Jim Yong Kim, as America’s choice to head the World Bank”

  1. Hey, just want­ed to say excel­lent site and this post gen­uine­ly helped me learned more about Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s World Bank nomination. 

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