Menu close
March 14, 2024

The announcement by European governments supporting a second term for the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, is a slap in the face of efforts to make the institution more representative, says ActionAid.  

The perpetuation of the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’, which has ensured that the IMF managing director has for 80 years been European and the World Bank president a US national, is undemocratic and neo-colonial. Instead, we expect to see a transparent, merit-based process for IMF leadership selection.

Roos Saalbrink, the Global Economic Justice Lead at ActionAid International, said:

“As long as the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ on the selection of the IMF’s leadership continues to exist, the institution not only disenfranchises lower-income economies in the Global South but undermines its legitimacy and ability to address global economic challenges.

It is woefully unacceptable to keep both informal and formal decision-making power in the hands of a small group of wealthy countries, especially considering the IMF’s role in stewarding public funds for a global good that is economic stability.” 

The current system, where voting rights remain heavily skewed in favor of wealthy Global North governments, raises serious questions about accountability and representation of the Fund. Additionally, the recent failure to reach an agreement to redistribute voting power based on current economic realities in the IMF’s 16th Quota Review underscores this imbalance.

Arthur Larok, the Secretary General of ActionAid International, said:

“There is a need to recognise that the global economic landscape has shifted dramatically since the IMF’s inception. This unwavering support for the status quo by European countries invokes unacceptable memories of colonial-era power dynamics and practices. The IMF needs to embrace true multilateralism, where all member states have an equal voice in shaping the global economic agenda. This is part of the demands many have about systems change.”

Countries in the Global South currently do not have an equal voice and are not fairly represented. This needs to be addressed urgently. African countries still have very little say in decision-making in the World Bank and the IMF with less than a 10 percent vote share in the IMF board – and the 46 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are represented by only two executive directors. But the power International Financial Institutions (IFIs) hold over African governments significantly undermines their policy autonomy.  

“Beyond some great PR around the IMF’s commitments to climate and gender from the managing director’s office, we do not see these changes to the IMF’s longstanding austerity approach reach country advice or surveillance.” 

Roos Saalbrink, Global Economic Justice Lead at ActionAid International

As ActionAid has documented, the IMF keeps imposing austerity policies, undermining health, education, and gender equality. Rather than seek systemic solutions to the mounting debt crisis in Africa, and exploring obvious alternatives such as progressive tax reforms, the IMF continues to enforce cuts to public spending that hurt women and disadvantaged groups most acutely.  

The IMF needs to walk the talk on gender equality, accountability, and governance. There should be an overhaul of its governance system, and in the next quota review, where vote share adjustments can be made, this needs to materialize. The Fund should publicize advice given to countries, loan programs to be discussed and agreed upon in parliament, and resourcing of the assessments of its bread-and-butter policies that impact gender equality.  


For media requests, please email or call 202-731-9593.

Roos Saalbrink is available as a spokesperson. 

About ActionAid   

ActionAid is a global federation working with more than 41 million people living in more than 71 of the world’s poorest countries. We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world, in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity, and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and to eradicate poverty.