President Barack Obama on Friday nominated Dartmouth College president and global health expert Jim Yong Kim to lead the World Bank, an unconventional pick that could help to quell criticism in the developing world of the U.S. stranglehold on the international organization's top post.
Obama said Kim, a Korean-born physician and pioneer in the treatment of HIV, AIDS and tuberculosis, has the breadth of experience on development issues needed to carry out the financial institution's anti-poverty mission.
"It's time for a development professional to lead the world's largest development agency," Obama said Friday morning during a Rose Garden ceremony.
Obama was joined by Kim, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who first recommended that Obama consider Kim for the World Bank post.
The 187-nation World Bank focuses on fighting poverty and promoting development. It is a leading source of development loans for countries seeking financing to build dams, roads and other infrastructure projects.
Since its founding in 1944, the World Bank has always been headed by an American. But developing countries, who have long sought to gain more power in the organization, have planned an unprecedented challenge to Obama's pick and are expected to put forward as many as three other candidates.
However, Kim is still expected to succeed outgoing president Robert Zoellick, who announced in February that he was stepping down.
The actual selection will be made next month by the World Bank's 25-member executive board. The United States, as the world's largest economy, has the largest percentage of the votes.
Kim is expected to travel around the world on a listening tour to rally support for his nomination ahead of the board's vote.
Senior administration officials said Obama took a strong personal interest in filling the World Bank vacancy after current president Zoellick announced in February he was stepping down. Obama and his advisers considered more than a dozen candidates, including well-known figures in the administration. But in the end, officials said, Obama pushed for a nominee with broad development experience and was particularly drawn to Kim's innovative work fighting the spread of AIDS and tuberculosis.
"Jim has truly global experience. He has worked from Asia to Africa to the Americas, from capitals to small villages," Obama said. "His personal story exemplifies the great diversity to our country."