Remarks by Angel Gurría,
12 October 2016
(As prepared for delivery)
Ministers Mauricio Cárdenas and Simón Gaviria, Mr. Luis Guillermo Vélez, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is an honour for me to be in Colombia only a few days after the Norwegian Committee awarded the Nobel Prize to President Juan Manuel Santos. Accordingly, I should like my first public remarks during this visit to be words of congratulation not only to the President for this recognition of his leadership, but also to the entire Colombian people. Colombia is showing the world that, although the road to peace and reconciliation is never easy, where there’s a will, a vision and perseverance, IT CAN BE DONE!
The OECD has fully supported the peace process over the years of tough negotiation and will continue to do so, convinced as we are that we will eventually reach our journey’s end. Although the outcome of the recent referendum sets a different agenda from that originally anticipated, we are sure that the Colombian people will find a way to move the dialogue forward and bring this process to a successful conclusion. Seldom has a prize been more merited, more timely or more necessary. You can count on us and our full support: sooner rather than later, peace will be a reality, and it will further strengthen a new era of progress and opportunities for Colombia.
I would also like to stress that the peace process and accession to the OECD are two independent processes which, although mutually reinforcing, are wholly unrelated in terms of time scales and procedures. The decision taken by the Members of the OECD in May 2013 to open accession talks with Colombia was an independent decision. The Roadmap for Colombia’s accession sets out the terms, conditions and procedure for membership, and the peace agreement was not stipulated as a condition. The decision on Colombia’s accession to the OECD will be taken by the Council of our Organisation based on Colombia’s responses to the recommendations made by our committees. The accession process is therefore on track.
As you are aware, the process involves a rigorous analysis of Colombia’s legislation, policy and practice across a broad range of issues including investment, environment, public governance and agriculture, as well other areas described in greater detail in the Roadmap. Twenty-three technical committees have been evaluating Colombia’s legislation, policies and practices as compared to OECD standards in their area of competence and the best policies and practices of the Member countries. Over that time, an ongoing, detailed dialogue with the Colombian authorities has led to recommendations to bring Colombia even more closely into line with these international best practices and standards.
It gives me great pleasure to report that Colombia has made considerable headway in this process, taking an active role in the exhaustive sectoral review conducted by the 23 Committees. Going beyond the technical aspects, it is important to bear in mind that this process can and should spur Colombia to conduct important reforms in support of national policy priorities, such as the reform of the judicial system. I wish to state very clearly that our intention is that the accession process should foster economic growth in Colombia, help to reduce inequalities, improve education and increase transparency and efficiency in government. The beneficiaries of these changes and of OECD membership will be the country as a whole and each of its citizens.
Much progress has been made over the years, but the involvement of all of you in the final stage of this process will be vital. As we have stated several times, membership of the Organisation is and should be a project of national interest that aims essentially to improve the well-being of the Colombian people. It is not the sole responsibility of government but of all social agents: business people, trade unions, academic leaders, civil society leaders, etc. Acceding to the OECD is a national project that will place Colombia at the forefront of best international practice.
We hope that we can count on all of you to bring this process to a successful conclusion, not only by supporting accession, but also by acting as ambassadors to communicate the benefits of membership of our Organisation to every person.
It is important not to become complacent on this, the home stretch, and to up the pace: although this is a marathon, the final sprint inside the stadium is important if victory is to be assured. You can count on us to make OECD accession a tool that fosters more inclusive, sustainable growth in Colombia!
Thank you very much.