The OECD engages with a large number of economies outside its membership, which it refers to as Partners. Many are actively involved in core OECD activities, for example as Participants or Associates in OECD Committees, Working Groups or Expert Groups. This is where they interact with representatives of each of the member countries, reviewing progress and discussing policy in specific areas.
The OECD has also identified five countries as "Key Partners": Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa. With these countries the OECD has comprehensive relations, encompassing the full range of its work programme. These Key Partners are invited to nearly all OECD Committees, are the subject of numerous policy reviews, and are covered in a broad range of the OECD's databases. These arrangements imply a political commitment and create a mechanism to develop joint priorities.
In parallel, programmes such as the MENA Initiative on Governance and Investment for Development in the Middle East and North African regions provide a basis for relations between the Organisation and other countries using a regional approach. These initiatives aim to strengthen countries’ capacity to design and implement policy reforms, by means of policy dialogue and the sharing of experience among policy makers. The OECD works with African countries, e.g. within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and with countries in South East Europe through the Investment Compact for South East Europe.
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 still ongoing. In May 2013, the Council decided to launch a new wave of accession discussions with Colombia and Latvia. It also decided to review the situation in due course with a view to taking a decision to open accession discussions with Costa Rica and Lithuania in 2015.
As a first step, interested countries typically present a request to become OECD members. Once the OECD Council invites the Secretary-General to open discussions for accession with one or several countries, 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, e.g. the French government. On the date of deposit, the country formally becomes a Member of the OECD.
The “Accession Roadmap” describes the terms, conditions and process of accession; lists the policy reviews to be undertaken by technical Committees, the criteria on which the candidate country is evaluated and sets out the various procedural steps.
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 34 member countries and of the European Commission, 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 instruments or to bring its policies closer to OECD best practices.