In March of 2012, President Obama nominated Jim Kim to be the new leader of the World Bank, replacing outgoing Bush appointee Robert Zoelick. In April 2012, Kim was formally elected President of the World Bank. Born in Seoul, South Korea Kim is one of only two World Bank presidents to have had citizenship in two countries.
The World Bank was created in 1944 as part of an international agreement known as Bretton Woods, pushed predominantly by the United States and United Kingdom. The World Bank describes its mission as the following, “The World Bank is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. We are not a bank in the ordinary sense but a unique partnership to reduce poverty and support development.” In practical terms, the World Bank grants loans to small countries.
Jim Kim was predominantly an academic before being tapped for the position of President of the World Bank, having served in leadership positions at both Harvard University and Dartmouth College. Additionally, Kim attended The University of Iowa and Brown University. Kim also has experience in the nonprofit world, having co-founded the group Partners in Health in 1987. Partners in Health’s main goal is to increase access to health care, particularly to the poor worldwide.
Since taking over, Kim has taken the same ethical framework he brought to Partners in Health and applied it to his time at the World Bank. The main goals of the World Bank are currently to fight global income inequality and to decrease the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day to 3 percent or less by 2030.
In addition, the World Bank has issued a series of findings that detail the need to fight worldwide climate change. The reports warns of “Increasingly severe consequences for humans as extreme heat becomes more frequent, water resources become less reliable, diseases move into new rangers, and sea levels rise” by 2100. The World Bank specifically believes on the basis of scientific evidence that the most affected countries by climate change will be the ones that can least afford it. Poorer countries in South America and Northern Africa, already in a tenuous economic position, will see their economies further hurt by the effects of global climate change. In 2014, the World Bank focused much of its resources on Africa, specifically the Western part of Africa ravaged by Ebola. All of these programs directly intersect with health care.
Under Jim Kim’s leadership, the World Bank has functioned more and more like the nonprofit he co-founded those many years ago: an institution very much focused on improving the lives of the poor and oppressed and a return to the initial promise of which the World Bank was predicated.