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Civil society

The OECD and Civil Society

 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has been working with civil society since it was founded. Over the decades, the size, scope, and capacity of civil society around the world have increased dramatically and so did the OECD’s engagement. It helps ensure that stakeholders’ views are factored into the OECD’s work and OECD analyses are stronger when they include the perspectives of civil society organisations (CSOs).

 

How does this engagement work?

In a variety of ways.

The OECD’s core relationship with civil society is based on co-operation with business and trade unions:

These advisory bodies contribute to OECD’s work in all areas, whether on sustainable development, biotechnology, taxation, corporate governance, employment or development co-operation. In addition, annual consultations with BIAC and TUAC take place within the framework of the Liaison Committee of the OECD Council, which is chaired by the Secretary-General and open to all member countries. The OECD Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM) Bureau also consults annually with BIAC and TUAC ahead of the MCM. Since 2010, BIAC and TUAC have participated fully in the MCM.

Significant activities with other representatives of civil society, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), think tanks, academia, and citizens complement the OECD’s formal co-operation with BIAC and TUAC. These activities take various forms:

  • Regular consultations, held by many OECD directorates regarding the development or review of OECD work. Online consultations have broadened public participation in OECD’s work, but many discussions involve both meetings and web tools. CSOs are also active at every stage in implementing and monitoring products of the OECD’s work. For example, an international NGO network called “OECD Watch” helped to revise the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and is testing the effectiveness of these Guidelines. Citizens are welcome to alert National Contact Points about alleged breaches of the Guidelines.
  • Conferences and workshops are convened both at the OECD and around the world to elicit stakeholders’ opinions on issues ranging from education and development to corporate governance and taxation (see our upcoming events calendar).
  • The annual OECD Forum, held in Paris, is a multi-stakeholder gathering, increasingly prominent on the global calendar, that brings together the broader stakeholder community, government ministers and leaders of international organisations to discuss the key issues of the moment and to feed those discussions and conclusions into the annual OECD ministerial meeting (for more information, visit our Forum website)

In addition to its Paris headquarters, the OECD has offices in Washington, DC, Tokyo, Mexico City and Berlin that offer a place to meet with civil society and that provide a window into the OECD’s work in those regions.

 

How can civil society get involved the OECD's work?

 

Beyond public consultations, events and webinars, civil society can and does contribute to our research and our work. As the Organisation’s secretariat, we support the activities of over 250 specialised OECD committes, working and expert groups, that are at the heart of the OECD’s structure. Committees are composed of government experts who meet several times a year to discuss policy issues.

These groups are where the analytical work and consensus-building that develop into government policies take place – and where civil society can have a real impact. They cover the same issue areas as government ministries (i.e. education, finance, trade, environment, development, etc.) and their conclusions can become official policy recommendations to governments or “OECD instruments”. 

Each committee has a mandate that defines its objectives and how it engages with external stakeholders. These can involve informal, periodic discussions and consultations with civil society on specific issues to more structured arrangements and regular participation of civil society organisations in committee meetings. 

As the OECD Civil Society team, we can help civil society organisations navigate these structures and identify opportunities to contribute and participate. Write us at civilsociety@oecd.org.

 

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