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.


Can civil society influence the OECD's work?


Absolutely. OECD directorates support the activities of over 250 specialised OECD committees, working groups and expert groups that are at the heart of OECD activity. It is in these groups that the analytical work and consensus-building that develop into government policies take place–and where civil society can have a real impact.

The committees are composed of government experts who meet several times a year to discuss policy issues. They cover the same areas as government ministries and their conclusions can become official policy recommendations to governments or “OECD instruments”. CSOs that want to influence the OECD’s work are thus advised to work with both government representatives on the relevant committees and OECD staff.

OECD committees have developed their own processes for interacting with civil society. Some of them hold informal, periodic discussions with civil society on specific issues, while others meet regularly with civil society in a more structured arrangement. Some CSOs have observer status in some committees while others participate fully in the meetings. CSOs have also been invited to participate in meetings at the ministerial level. The OECD is currently looking at ways to improve and increase the consistency in consultation arrangements. See our calendar of public consultations


For more information about the OECD’s work with civil society, contact or visit


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