Global reach has been an integral part of the OECD mission from its beginning. Article 1 of the Convention states that the Organisation should "contribute to sound economic expansion in member as well as non-member countries in the process of economic development."
The OECD is committed to act as a global and flexible network based on high standards, with the goal of developing effective and innovative policy choices for governments around the world. Partner countries' involvement in OECD work is mutually beneficial and essential for keeping the OECD inclusive and relevant, and may in some cases lead to OECD membership.
In 2007 the OECD Council at Ministerial level opened membership discussions with five candidate countries, as a result of which Chile, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia became Members in 2010, while discussions with the Russian Federation are currently postponed. In May 2013, the Council decided to launch a new wave of accession discussions with Colombia and Latvia; in April 2015, it invited Costa Rica and Lithuania to open formal OECD accession talks. Latvia became an OECD Member on 1 July 2016, Lituania joined the OECD on 5 July 2018, and Colombia joined the OECD on 28 April 2020.
At the Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM) 2016, Ministers called “for a strategic reflection by Members on the future size and membership of the Organisation and for a report to the 2017 MCM”. To fulfil this mandate, the OECD Council created in September 2016 the Working Group on the Future Size and Membership (WGM) of the Organisation. The WGM developed an evidence-based Framework for the Consideration of Prospective Members aimed at providing OECD Members with consistent information on which to base their decision, inter alia, on whether or not to open accession discussions with a country interested in OECD membership (“prospective Member”). This Framework, adopted by the OECD Council on 2 June 2017 and presented to the MCM 2017, will also help prospective Members to assess their position before signalling their interest in becoming a Member of the OECD.
The Framework is to be applied according to the following process:
1) Considerations to open an accession process can be made on the initiative of the Council or upon receipt of a written request by a prospective Member. Upon receipt of a formal request, the Secretary-General shares the request with the Council.
2) Using the Framework, the Secretary-General will provide Council with comprehensive information on a prospective Member covering the elements listed in Annex I of the Framework.
3) Based inter alia on this comprehensive information provided by the Secretary-General, and on Council’s judgement, the Council may decide whether or not to open accession discussions, or to engage with the prospective Member through other means, using one or more of the available OECD global relations tools.
4) The Secretary-General will communicate the Council’s decision to the prospective Member.
5) Should Council agree to open accession discussions with a prospective Member, the Secretary-General will proceed to prepare the Accession Roadmap (see section below) for adoption by the Council.
An “Accession Roadmap” is developed to detail the terms, conditions and process of each accession discussion. This roadmap lists the reviews to be undertaken by Committees in various policy areas in order to assess the country’s position with respect to the relevant OECD instruments and to evaluate its policies and practices as compared to OECD best policies and practices in the relevant area. Each country follows its own process and is assessed independently.
At the end of the technical review, each Committee provides a “formal opinion” to the OECD Council. The timeline for the accession process depends on the pace at which the candidate country provides information to Committees and responds to recommendations for changes to its legislation, policy and practice.
On the basis of the formal opinions and other relevant information, the Council takes a final decision on the basis of unanimity. An Accession Agreement is then signed and the candidate country takes the necessary domestic steps and deposits an instrument of accession to the OECD Convention with the depositary, i.e. the French government. On the date of deposit, the country formally becomes a Member of the OECD.
What is the role of the Council in the accession process?
As the governing body of the OECD, bringing together representatives of each of the 35 Member countries and of the European Union, the Council ultimately controls all aspects of the accession process and takes the final decision on whether to extend an invitation to a country to become a Member.
What is the role of the Committees?
The Committees, bringing together technical experts from all OECD countries, assess the candidate country’s willingness and ability to implement OECD legal instruments and evaluate its policies and practices as compared to OECD best policies and practices. Committees may recommend changes to bring the candidate country’s legislation, policy and/or practices into line with OECD legal instruments or to bring its policies closer to OECD best practices.