Daniel Runde, former Director of the Office of Global Development Alliances at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has urged the US to support Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as she vies for the director-general position.
Okonjo-Iweala, who currently chairs the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), is up against seven other candidates from Mexico, Egypt, Moldova, Republic of Korea, Kenya, UK and Saudi Arabia.
The position became open for nominations after Roberto Azevêdo, WTO’s current DG, announced his decision to step down in May.
While acknowledging the expertise of the other candidates, according to Runde, who cited a number of reasons other contenders may not get the nomination, Okonjo-Iweala is the best person for the US to support, considering her vast experience in trade relations.
“For a variety of reasons, the best candidate for the U.S. to support would be Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala,” Runde, director of the Project on Prosperity and Development, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), wrote.
“Considering the complexity of current global trade relations and difficult reform work that the next Director General will have to oversee, it is essential that the candidate have skills that go beyond a working knowledge of trade issues and protocols and extend into coalition building.
“The candidate should be a person of stature, with a large rolodex, who is seen as an honest broker and dealmaker. A demonstrated track record of reform is a must, as well as the ability to rally others around a reform agenda.
It has been noted that the WTO should not be thought of as needing saving, but that it does need someone with gravitas and political power who can have hard, honest conversations with global leaders.
“Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala meets these criteria. She has considerable stature in the multilateral world, having been the Managing Director of Operations at the World Bank and a current member of the External Advisory Board of the IMF.
Second, she has history of reform, having led the charge against corruption during her second term as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and having successfully implemented the GIFMIS (Government Integrated Financial Management Information System).
Finally, she has proven her ability in making tough deals, including spearheading negotiations with the Paris Club of Creditors that led to the wiping out of $30 billion of Nigeria’s debt.
“If Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was the only African in this race, member states would not hesitate to nominate her as the next Director General. However, she is one of three African candidates, and this has made the situation more complicated.”