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Still Pro Bono

Bono has taken himself out of the race. The U2 star we endorsed to lead the World Bank (and whose real name is Paul Hewson) seemed to say “Thanks, but no thanks” on Friday, when he issued a statement endorsing Colin L. Powell for the job. The term of the current bank president, James D. Wolfensohn, expires in May.

Our proposal for Bono to lead the bank created quite a buzz and a measure of credibility once Treasury Secretary John W. Snow spoke highly of the singer’s humanitarian work when asked on ABC’s “This Week” to reply to our editorial. If the idea resonated, it’s because people recognize that the cause of global development -- the fight to curb disease and hunger in Africa and elsewhere -- needs a forceful, charismatic spokesman who can marshal private resources and shame governments into living up to their commitments. And Bono, as anyone who has dealt with him personally knows, understands the issues. We still think he would have been a sound choice to lead the World Bank.

That said, we are not so blinded by Bono’s celebrity as to agree with him on everything, especially his endorsement of Powell. Powell is an impressive figure, and there is a precedent of a former high-profile Cabinet member -- Vietnam War-era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara -- taking the World Bank job in part to make amends for being associated with U.S. policies that were deeply unpopular in much of the world.

But the United States should rethink its traditional claim to the job and look to some formidable candidates from the developing world, including former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso. They are highly regarded by the rich nations that contribute to the bank and would have more credibility in pushing reforms on recalcitrant developing nations than any U.S. official -- even if they aren’t Bono.

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