Remarks by Angel Gurría,
Paris, 1 October 2015
(As prepared for delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Welcome to this meeting of the OECD Global Parliamentary Network. Some of you were with me in Strasbourg yesterday at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe but I am glad to see so many new faces as well. I am very happy to welcome Dr Brglez, the President of the National Assembly of Slovenia. And for the second time, we are delighted to host a delegation from the Women in Parliaments Global Forum.
You will discuss the most pressing issues on the global agenda today, employment, migration, climate change, and corruption, so let me not pre-empt what you will hear in more detail throughout the day, but focus on the global sustainable development agenda.
We meet this year again in an uncertain economic context. Our recent Interim Economic Outlook shows that global growth is still sub-par. For 2015, global GDP growth is forecast to slow to 3%, well below its long-run average. In per capita terms, this will be the 5th consecutive year of declining global growth rates. Unemployment in the OECD is falling, but still too high at almost 7%. That’s 42 million unemployed, 10 million more than just before the crisis. International trade and investment remain sluggish. Meanwhile emerging economies have vulnerabilities that could be exposed by rising world interest rates and a sharper-than-expected slowdown in China.
In the midst of this economic uncertainty, the international community stands at a critical turning point. To think that we can deal with a global migration crisis with walls and anti-migrant rhetoric is to misunderstand the issue. Migration is here to stay. It’s a highly complex phenomenon that can be turned into one of the most positive synergies of this century: migrants are an asset not a problem. But to achieve this we need to promote an evidence based debate and policymaking and at the same time make significant strides in eradicating poverty and promoting development worldwide.
In the last decade, the world has made important progress in fighting extreme poverty, but we still have a long way to go. I just came back from New York, where the international community adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Enthusiasm was in abundance, but the debate was pretty sobering.
We now have fewer than 800 weeks to eradicate extreme poverty, everywhere. That’s less than 800 weeks to lift 800 million people out of extreme poverty. It’s a gargantuan task, and the countdown has already started.
The international community is now at the helm of a sophisticated global development goals framework. The goals recognise the need to address the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development. They’re universal, and should be embraced by countries at all levels of development – including OECD countries. Countries will need to address these goals in their national policies and strategies.
I met with world leaders in July in Addis Ababa to flesh out a plan to finance the SDGs. Their success will, of course, require more and better aid. We will continue to press our Members to meet their commitments on official development assistance (ODA), which reached $135 billion last year. But aid needs to be aligned with two other key drivers of global development — domestic resources and private investment.
To illustrate this, enabling developing countries to generate just 1% more of GDP in taxes would mobilise twice as much money as the total amount of ODA – and all of it could be channelled into education, health, security and infrastructure. In Addis, I launched with Helen Clark of UNDP the Tax Inspectors Without Borders initiative, which enables the transfer of tax audit knowledge and skills to developing countries. In one pilot in Kenya, we found that every dollar spent on assisting tax authorities to tackle tax avoidance helped produce over $1000 in increased revenues.
This is just a snapshot. The OECD is at the forefront of a breakthrough, a quantum leap in the world of international tax policy. Developing countries have been closely involved in our newly-finalised Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (or "BEPS") Project, which we expect will put an end to double non-taxation and curtail aggressive tax planning.
We also host the 127-member Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes. And 94 jurisdictions, including many tax havens, have committed to the new Common Reporting Standard. The world is about to become a lot more transparent. This goes beyond taxation, it goes to the heart of the trust citizens place in government, and to the fairness of the rules. The OECD is ready to help implement the SDGs.
Achieving the SDGs, however, won’t depend on money alone; it will depend on the right policy choices, on effective implementation, and on smarter partnerships.
The OECD was designed to be the world's policy lab, we are "do tank." As such, we are well placed to develop a "GPS", guiding progress toward the SDGs. Our guidelines, research and indicators can help nations and organisations choose the best routes, while our peer reviews and partnership mechanisms can track progress and make recommendations.
For instance, our PISA for Development initiative generates crucial evidence on learning outcomes. Our newly updated Policy Framework for Investment (PFI), used by over 30 emerging and developing countries, can help build an enabling environment for investment and get the policy mix right to promote inclusive and sustainable development.
Finally, in the environmental dimension of sustainable development, we are about to provide estimates of the extent to which countries are delivering on their commitment to climate finance for developing countries. The OECD’s recent study, Aligning Policies for the Low Carbon Economy, is also helping developed and developing countries deliver on climate commitments.
All policies, from taxation, to investment, trade and agriculture need to be coherent and aligned to support the transition to a low-carbon economy. You will have a whole session today dedicated to climate change, and I urge you to be bold and ambitious on this issue in your national parliaments. There is no time left. Governments cannot afford to treat this year’s COP like just another round of an endless negotiation – the carbon clock is ticking! And if we fail on climate, we will fail on the sustainable development goals too.
Ladies and Gentlemen: As His Holiness Pope Francis reminded members of the United States Congress, “Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you”.
I would echo this and add that the OECD is here to help you, we put our knowledge, our data, and our experts at your disposal. So let’s work together to put care for people and care for our planet at the heart of everything we do, to deliver the sustainable development goals and get an ambitious agreement at COP21.