'Undemocratic' IMF needs to open leadership to global south countries, says Christian Aid chief

The International Monetary Fund has traditionally been headed up by a European(Photo: Reuters)

The effectiveness of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in tackling climate change and furthering development is being compromised by its "undemocratic" leadership structure, the head of Christian Aid has said. 

The IMF is set for new leadership after Christine Lagarde announced last month that she was stepping down ahead of a move to the European Central Bank.

Her successor at the IMF is expected to be Kristalina Georgieva, the Bulgarian chief executive of the World Bank, who was finally selected by EU finance ministers as their candidate after weeks of disagreement. 

Eurogroup president Dr Mario Centeno said after her nomination: "Congratulations Georgieva for being selected as European candidate to lead the IMF. In the face of rising global tensions, it is imperative to uphold the IMF as a symbol of multilateralism."

The IMF was created after World War II and has traditionally been headed by a European, while the top post at its sister organisation, the World Bank has gone to an American. 

This 'duopoly' has been increasingly questioned in recent years with the rise of countries outside of the Western bloc. 

Writing in the Guardian, Christian Aid chief executive Amanda Khozi Mukwashi said that "hypocrisy and double standards" at the IMF were "damaging world peace and development progress", and that it was wrong for the new IMF chief to be chosen by Europe alone. 

With the final decision on Lagarde's successor still a few months away, Mukwashi said it was time "for such regressive and anti-democratic leadership conventions to be scrapped", and for candidates from global south countries to be included in the running. 

"This governance issue is about so much more than mere cosmetics. As the world becomes ever-more politically polarised and vulnerable to populist leadership, and as the US administration turns away from multilateralism and takes a sceptical approach on the climate crisis, there is all the more reason for these major institutions – which are so keen to boast of their globalist credentials – to take an inclusive, merit-based approach to what ought to be a diversified recruitment process," she wrote.

"The coming window for new leadership is an opportunity for the IMF to demonstrate a different model that is democratic and – crucially – inclusive of candidates from the global south." 

She added: "It simply cannot be right that the leadership of the institutions with the greatest power to tackle the climate crisis excludes applicants from those countries where that crisis is wiping out the lives and livelihoods of many millions of people.

"The IMF aims to create sustainable growth and to reduce poverty in the world. How can it do so when it is run on fundamentally undemocratic principles?"