Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General
1 July 2014, Paris, France
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to Paris for the second High-Level Meeting of the OECD Development Centre. I would like to thank Vice-President Astori for his opening address. As you know, we are currently undertaking a multi-dimensional review of Uruguay. It is heartening to hear such words of praise for the Development Centre’s work.
Allow me also to welcome the Co-Chairs of this meeting: Eduardo Bitran, Executive Vice President of CORFO, Chile; and Amadou Ba, the Minister of Economy and Finance of Senegal.
The very broad participation we see today confirms, once more, the relevance of the Development Centre to a wide range of countries and organisations, and its unique ability to foster substantive policy dialogue in an inclusive way.
The OECD and the Development Centre in a changing global context
Later this morning, you will have the opportunity to discuss this year’s Perspectives on Global Development report. This is the fourth in a series which began in 2010 with a volume on “Shifting Wealth”. At that time, we highlighted a changing global economy, the increasing relevance of emerging and developing economies, and the fact that they were catching up with OECD economies.
New engines of growth had emerged in the early 2000s – 83 countries had grown twice as fast as the OECD members – and the world’s economic centre of gravity was moving eastward and southward. What we did not know with precision at the time was that, exactly in 2010, the OECD’s share of world GDP (in PPP terms) was already below the 50 per cent mark!
The emergence of new engines of growth is good news. Growth in emerging economies has helped reduce poverty, and has also had a positive effect on other developing countries.
Take Africa for example: in 2009, China surpassed the United States as the continent’s first trading partner. And the story is not only about China. External demand and investment from a whole range of countries – including Brazil, India, Korea, South Africa, and Turkey – combined with Africa’s own improvements to macroeconomic policies, lifted Africa’s growth to levels not seen in decades.
While the world has changed, so too has the OECD. Membership of the Organisation has grown. We have deepened our collaboration with key partner countries and regions. And we have embarked on an important process of reflection on how best to tackle today’s economic and social challenges.
We live in an interconnected world and, more often than not, the solutions to our most pressing challenges are also interconnected. This is the beauty of development: you can look at what others did and adopt or adapt the best of it. There is no copyright on good policy! No intellectual property rights!
It is for this very reason that your participation in the Development Centre is so important.
All countries are increasingly looking for fresh ideas, and for innovation in public policies. The role of the Centre, since its establishment in 1962, has been to promote just that.
Policy dialogue and new approaches: crucial in the face of slowing growth
Allow me to go back to the shifting wealth story for a moment, and to comment on the state of play today. Right now, evidence suggests that the shift in wealth I described earlier may be slowing down. Many middle-income countries are not growing fast enough to reach average OECD income levels by 2050. And these trends are a concern for low-income countries too as their own growth is increasingly linked to emerging-market and advanced economies.
When the traditional sources of growth run out of steam, new drivers will need to emerge if convergence is to be sustained. Structural transformation needs to be brought about, and competitiveness needs to be boosted. And all of this needs to be achieved in a sustainable manner.
It is therefore encouraging to see OECD and non-OECD members coming together at the Development Centre, along with regional and international organisations, to form two very promising platforms for policy dialogue – on Global Value Chains, and on Natural resource based development. This is the OECD at its best: a one-stop shop where different parts of the house – innovation and industry, skills, trade, investment, environment, governance – join hands with the Centre to empower countries to analyse their own challenges, and to learn from each other.
Looking ahead: we need to go structural, social and inclusive
I have mentioned global value chains, natural resources, productivity and growth. But let me be clear: it would be a mistake to look at growth challenges in isolation from social challenges. The two are closely related.
When the Development Centre launched its edition of Perspectives on Global Development focused on social cohesion, we were trying to understand why so many of us had not foreseen the Arab Spring. The situation in Tunisia couldn’t have been anticipated by looking at tables of headline economic indicators. But when you look beneath the surface – at how the fruits of growth were distributed; at the aspirations of an educated youth; at a vulnerable middle class – the story is quite different.
It is therefore encouraging that you – the members of the Development Centre – are giving such prominence to the social dimension in this year’s High Level Meeting, and in the proposed programme of work for the next biennium.
The increasing number of requests from countries that wish to join the Development Centre, and growing demand for Multi-Dimensional Country Reviews, suggest that we are getting something right. Indeed, the reach of the Centre continues to expand in new directions: a new Network of Foundations has come to life and is already delivering. Earlier this year it launched new Guidelines for Effective Philanthropic Engagement.
In conclusion: we need to keep up the good work!
I would like to commend the leadership of the Chair, Ambassador Heimsoeth, and to thank all of you for continuing to shape the work of the Development Centre. Thanks to you, it remains the home of policy dialogue at its very best.
The outcomes of today’s High Level Meeting will be crucial in shaping the future work of the Development Centre. I count on all of you to contribute to the debate, both today and at tomorrow’s Global Forum on Development. Let’s always remember the challenge ahead of us: to help emerging and developing countries design, promote and implement Better Policies for Better Lives.