Voice

Does the World Bank want a BRICS bank?

World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu spoke this morning at the Center for Global Development and fielded several questions about plans for a BRICS-led development bank. That issue will be on the agenda as the BRICS meet for their annual summit next week in Durban, South Africa. The host country appears to be particularly keen on the project.

As a former senior advisor to the Indian finance ministry turned World Bank higher-up, Basu has a unique perspective on the idea. He argued that the notion of an emerging-market led development bank responds to pent-up demand for capital to fund large infrastructure projects in major emerging economies. Neither the private sector nor the World Bank, he acknowledged, is responding adequately to that need. "There's scope for more multilateral organizations to do lending," he said. "You have space." On a recent trip to South Africa, Basu reportedly said much the same.

But Basu also expressed the hope that the Washington-based lender could up its game on infrastructure lending and meet some of the need driving the BRICS project. "We should be so effective and good that the space for [a BRICS bank] is limited." The economist suggested that the momentum could well dissipate, leaving the countries to find a face-saving exit from a project some have touted as an alternative to the World Bank.

The Multilateralist

The warlord who surrendered to the U.S. embassy

Today brought the startling news that Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda has presented himself to the U.S. embassy in Kigali and asked to be transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ntaganda has been a leader of the M23 rebel movement in eastern Congo, which has reportedly enjoyed support from the Rwandan government (although Rwanda has vehemently denied this). The ICC issued a sealed arrest warrant for him in January 2006. Two years later, the court made the arrest warrant public.

To this point, Ntaganda has mostly lived openly in eastern Congo, where the Congolese government lacked the wherewithal and inclination to challenge him directly. His fortunes began to change recently, however, as the M23 militia movement clashed directly with government forces -- and then apparently splintered from within. The Rwandan government first reported the news that Ntaganda had made his way to Kigali and presented himself to the U.S. embassy.

Neither Rwanda nor the United States is an ICC member and neither has a legal obligation to effect the warlord's transfer. U.S. law limits official cooperation with the court and prohibits the provision of funds to the court. The law -- the American Service-members' Protection Act -- also prohibits the U.S. government from transferring any Americans to the court, but there is no explicit prohibition on U.S. involvement in transferring non-U.S. citizens.

That legislation notwithstanding, the U.S. approach to the court  has been gradually evolving from the outright hostility on display during the Bush  administration's first term. In 2005, the United States allowed a Security Council referral of Darfur to the ICC. Shortly after it took office, the Obama administration began attending annual meetings of ICC members. In 2011, it voted affirmatively to refer the Libya case to the court.

To this point, however, the United States has not been directly involved (at least publicly) in the transfer of indictees to the ICC. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland reported today that the United States "strongly supports" the ICC investigation in Congo and is seeking to facilitate Ntaganda's transfer to the Hague. Whether the United States will seek to involve another government as an intermediary and whether the Rwandan authorities will cooperate with the transfer remains to be seen.