How Jim Yong Kim Could Change the World Bank
Friday, March 23, 2012
Jim Yong Kim, President Obama’ssurprise pick to lead the World Bank, will become the first physician, the first Asian-American and the first person who has devoted his career to helping the poor to lead the more than 60-year-old organization. Since itsfounding in 1944, 11 men have led the World Bank, among them a former defense secretary, the CEOs of major banks and even the one-time publisher of The Washington Post. Investment bankers, former Wall Street titans and Washington servants figure prominently in the organization’s leadership history.
Kim brings to the post an entirely different set of experiences and, consequently, surely a different world view than those who have held it in the past. Though he has been the president of Dartmouth since 2009, Kim, a physician and anthropologist by training, is perhaps most known for co-founding the global health organization Partners in Health with Paul Farmer. He also has directed the Department of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization, where he led an initiative to treat 3 million new HIV/AIDs patients with antiretroviral drugs.
If Kim is selected (Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has also been nominated), it’s hard to see how his leadership would not usher in a sizeable organizational shift. I’m far from being an expert on the culture of the World Bank, but an institution that has been led for more than 60 years by bankers, politicians and defense experts cannot be left untouched by the backgrounds of the people who hail from those fields. At last, an organization whose mission is supposed to be lifting people out of poverty will have someone at the helm whose life’s work has been dedicated toward a similar goal. As President Obama said in announcing his selection: “It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency.”