Former U.N. Envoy Young Defends Wolfowitz An unlikely supporter of beleaguered World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz emerged last week. Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, says the architect of the Iraq war is the right person for the World Bank, and should remain on the job.
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Former U.N. Envoy Young Defends Wolfowitz

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Former U.N. Envoy Young Defends Wolfowitz

Former U.N. Envoy Young Defends Wolfowitz

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Last Monday, Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post, arguing that beleaguered World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz should remain in that position.

Ambassador Young joins us from Georgia Public Radio in Atlanta. Thanks for your time.

Mr. ANDREW YOUNG (Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations): Well, thank you very much.

HANSEN: You weren't always a supporter of Paul Wolfowitz, but in the piece, you were able to draw a distinction between Wolfowitz, the original architect of the Iraq War, and Wolfowitz, the president of the World Bank.

Do you believe that members of the World Bank are having a difficult time doing that?

Mr. YOUNG: I do. And I think that they are really arguing the issues of the Iraq War and not his service at the World Bank, and using - well, this bureaucratic snafu and blowing it way out of proportion. I, frankly, think that the war in Iraq was misplaced, misguided idealism. They thought it was going to be too easy. It seems though maybe Wolfowitz made the same mistake in the World Bank that I felt that he was the right man for the World Bank because there needed to be quite a bit of shake up in the processes.

The World Bank processes were too slow. They tended to be too European. And when I say too European, I mean that the Europeans tend to have a colonial attitude toward the developing world. And they're extremely paternalistic. I saw Wolfowitz as having a more American point of view.

HANSEN: Let's talk a little bit about him and the problems he actually has within - in the World Bank. I mean, he's been criticized for making unilateral decisions in an institution that has a multilateral character.

Mr. YOUNG: Well, I don't doubt that. But I made unilateral decisions at the United Nations, because there were 19 different clearances in the State Department. And frankly, everybody was trying to cover their own behind and not worried about the interest of the country or the countries they were serving. And I felt that you had to push until you could push no further.

HANSEN: There is also the issue of corruption and cronyism. He has spoken out vehemently against this. And even though he has apologized for his involvement in the negotiations for the pay and promotion of his colleague and his companion, doesn't the perception remain though that he's being hypocritical?

Mr. YOUNG: Well, it is if you look at it that way. If you look at it as though this is a professor with tenure, there was agreed a lateral transfer that would not have punished her for leaving the World Bank. And going to the State Department - do you know how badly we need Arabic speakers in the State Department?

HANSEN: But there is the question, though, that the only people he is listening to are the two people he brought in with him and not the people who have been at the bank for a long time.

Mr. YOUNG: Well - I mean, he's probably guilty of that. There's an entrenched bureaucracy that has to be challenged.

HANSEN: Given the turmoil that is going on at the World Bank about the leadership there, what about donor nations? If they lose confidence in his leadership, isn't there a chance that they might not provide enough developmental assistance?

Mr. YOUNG: Well, there is, but I doubt that that's case. They are not giving money to the World Bank. They are giving money to the developing nations. And the people who are leading the charge against Wolfowitz are some of the people who have been most aggressive and generous in their contributions to the World Bank. I think the World is in much too much trouble right now on every front to be bottled up in a bureaucratic mess like this for two and a half years. And it will not go away. If you get rid of Wolfowitz, there will be a fight for the successor.

HANSEN: Colin Bradford, who's at the Brookings Institution, responded to your column and basically said that the issues that are facing Wolfowitz are rooted in the role the United States plays in the World Bank. I mean, the Americans are the larger donors so they get to pick the president, and an American has been president since the formation. Do you believe that there are actually fundamental flaws in the way the selection process is structured?

Mr. YOUNG: Oh, I do. But I think that that's one of the tradeoffs. I think there are serious problems with the World Bank and the IMF. They both were very adequate, and they did a very good job in dealing with Europe and Japan. I think there does need to be some restructuring for the next century.

Now, that's another thing that puts me in Wolfowitz' corner. Wolfowitz has a respect for the private sector. There's never going to be enough overseas development assistance to deal with the problems that the rest of the world is facing. It's going to be done with private development and private investment. And I think that's one of the things that I agree with Wolfowitz on.

HANSEN: Andrew Young is the former ambassador to the United Nations. His op-ed piece appeared in the April 30th edition of the Washington Post. Thanks for your time.

Mr. YOUNG: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: You're listening to NPR News.

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