Strauss-Kahn resigns – but who will replace him?

The <em>New Statesman</em> runs through a list of the IMF chief’s potential successors.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn has succumbed to the inevitable and resigned. Here is his letter to the IMF:

It is with infinite sadness that I feel compelled today to present to the Executive Board my resignation from my post of Managing Director of the IMF.

I think at this time first of my wife – whom I love more than anything – of my children, of my family, of my friends.

I think also of my colleagues at the Fund; together we have accomplished such great things over the last three years and more.

To all, I want to say that I deny with the greatest possible firmness all of the allegations that have been made against me.

I want to protect this institution which I have served with honour and devotion, and especially – especially – I want to devote all my strength, all my time, and all my energy to proving my innocence.

The extremely serious allegations against him made the decision a foregone conclusion. Now, the race to succeed him begins.

Usually the position of head of the IMF has gone to a European, while the head of the World Bank has been an American. But with the rise of the Brics countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the increasing power of emerging countries such as Mexico, Indonesia and South Africa, some have called for a non-westerner to be appointed head.

This looks unlikely to happen, however. The IMF is in the middle of dealing with the European sovereign debt crisis. For the next few years at least, its leader will be dealing with European problems and knocking the heads of European politicians and central bankers together. Below, Harry Key runs through a list of likely candidates for successor to DSK.

Runners and riders

Christine Lagarde

First woman to be finance minister in a G7 nation

After winning widespread support and praise for her policies responding to the financial crisis in France, she is seen by many economists as Europe's leading candidate for the post. She may be hurt by her French nationality, while her questionable links to the businessman Bernard Tapie will cause unease among those who want a scandal-free IMF chie.

Axel Weber

Former president of the German Central Bank

Weber is a leading candidate and is rumoured to be the favoured candidate of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. However, some see his hawkish policy as too hardline for the IMF's current position on Europe's financial problems, particularly after the generous terms offered to European countries by the fund under Strauss-Kahn.

Kermal Dervis

Vice-president and director of the global economy and development programme, Brookings Institution

Dervis was credited with saving Turkey from bankruptcy in the early 2000s and was honoured by the Japanese government for his work as former head of the UN Development Programme. His solid contacts and personal relationships in Europe make him a strong candidate.

Gordon Brown

Former prime minister of the UK

Although James Wolfensohn, a former World Bank chairman, has claimed that there "is no one better" for the position, the absence of any support from the British government makes it unlikely that Brown will achieve his dream of leading the IMF.

Photo: Getty
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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.