President Barack Obama on Friday nominated Kim to lead the World Bank, an unconventional pick that could help to quell criticism in the developing world of the U.S. stranglehold on the international organization’s top post.
Obama said Kim, a Korean-born physician and pioneer in the treatment of HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis, has the breadth of experience on development issues needed to carry out the financial institution’s anti-poverty mission.
A common criticism of the World Bank among non-governmental organizations is that the organization’s free market reform policies are often harmful when implemented in weak, developing economies. While the World Bank’s official goal is the reduction of poverty, its heads have never before been development experts. Of the bank’s 11 past presidents, eight of them have been businessmen (six of them bankers).
Unlike many of the time servers who function as college presidents, the sort of men and women who dress conservatively, speak almost exclusively in banal generalities, and focus mainly on fundraising; Kim actually appears to be genuinely interested in major reforms.
He is the former head of a not-for-profit group that works to improve health outcomes in Haiti, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Lesotho, and Malawi. From 2004 to 2006, he was director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS department. He’s been president of Dartmouth since 2009.
He also has a rather well developed sense of humor for someone so accomplished. His annual appearance at Dartmouth Idol is much anticipated, at least among people who follow such things. (Seriously, what’s Dartmouth going to do without his annual performance?)
That doesn’t mean, of course, that he would actually be dramatically more effective than Paul Wolfowitz or Robert Zoellick if he becomes president of the World Bank but, at any rate, this appears to be a very good choice for the Obama administration to make. Kim is not a banker, not a white guy, an actual humanitarian, and not really a political figure at all.
“It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency,” Obama said this morning as he introduced Dr. Kim in a Rose Garden ceremony. Makes sense, doesn’t it? [Image via]