Remarks by Angel Gurría
10 October 2019 - Paris
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Parliamentarians, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the our annual October meeting of the OECD Global Parliamentary Network.
I want to begin by extending a special warm welcome to Liliane Maury Pasquier, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). This is our first GPN meeting which we are hosting in partnership with PACE. Let me also thank the speaker of the Cámara de Diputados de Argentina, Emilio Monzó; the recently formed delegation for relations with OECD of the Cámara de Deputados do Brasil led by Diputado Vitor Hugo; and of course the Women Political Leaders (WPL) for their collaboration.
Before focusing on our main discussion issues over the next two days, let me outline our latest outlook on the global economy.
The current global economic landscape is cause for concern. Our latest interim Economic Outlook projects that the global economy will grow by 2.9% in 2019 and 3% in 2020 – the weakest annual rates since the financial crisis. This is in large part due to the ongoing trade disputes, and the negative impact they have caused.
There are also other sources of uncertainty: trade tensions between Japan and Korea; the spike in oil prices following the attack in Saudi Arabia; the uncertain outcome on Brexit, a full three years after that fateful referendum; and tensions-dominating gatherings such as the G7 Summit designed to solve international challenges.
All of this comes at a time when climate change is advancing faster than our apparent willingness to stop it. The evidence is overwhelming. So are the consequences.
July this year was the hottest month ever recorded. Land degradation and deforestation are exacerbating this effect, putting global food security at risk. All the while, the Earth is confronting its sixth mass extinction of biodiversity. In the space of only a few decades, we have lost 60% of the world’s vertebrate populations. And counting. The Amazon fires are just another dramatic example of the threat to biodiversity, a common good. The oceans, too, are threatened by overfishing, plastics and waste.
In this troubling context, Parliaments must be the protagonists in helping us find solutions to these global challenges. Your role as the elected ‘voice’ of the people is key in this respect. This is why we are here today; this is why we meet biannually. To be able to exchange ideas, share best practices and work together to improve the lives of citizens around the world.
This is why we want to use this opportunity to discuss with you a number of important issues.
First, inclusive growth and sustainable development – making progress towards achieving the SDGs. In 2015, countries around the world made a promise to future generations by signing up to the 2030 Agenda. Four years later, progress has not been sufficient. With little over 10 years to go, progress is uneven across both targets and countries. Challenges persist everywhere, including in the most advanced economies. The most recent edition of our report ‘Measuring the Distance to SDG Targets’, shows that OECD member countries need to ramp up their efforts.
At the OECD, we are working along several work-streams to ensure that the Goals are met. Only a few weeks ago in New York at the UN General Assembly, I launched the Global Hub on the governance for the SDGs. The Hub will focus on engaging with governments worldwide to help them address their most pressing governance challenges and advance the 2030 agenda. Among others, this will involve supporting public authorities in participating countries to build capacity and develop tailor-made solutions adapted to their needs.
We are also working hard to ensure that countries’ development efforts go hand in hand with protecting the environment, and are aligned with the Paris Agreement. Specifically, we will be releasing a Report ahead of COP 25, which will identify priority actions for development co-operation providers to better align their strategies, programmes and operations with the Paris Agreement’s objectives. Concretely this means taking action at multiple levels: At home (through donor countries’ domestic and international activities); within developing countries; and by collaborating with each other to improve the system of development co-operation.
Second, anti-corruption. Corruption remains one of the most pressing challenges of our time. It promotes mistrust in governments, public institutions, banks, corporations, politicians, political parties, democracies, you name it. It corrodes our social fabric.
The OECD is actively fighting corruption. To date, 44 countries have signed the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. Foreign bribery is now a crime in most major exporting countries. Companies are facing consequences, and many have adopted or enhanced ethics and compliance programmes.
And we are now focusing on the demand side of bribery. What happens to public officials who take bribes? A recent OECD report finds that only in one-fifth of the 55 foreign bribery cases examined were formal sanctions imposed on one or more public officials. And international co-operation is currently not a major source of detection for demand-side cases. Certainly, we need to double our efforts to strengthen monitoring and sanctioning in this area.
Moreover, our work on tax transparency is paying off. To date, as part of the Automatic Exchange Of Information (AEOI) initiative, information on close to 50 million bank accounts worth EUR 5 trillion was exchanged by the end of September 2019, and already close to EUR 100 billion of additional tax revenues have been identified. In addition, 25,000 exchanges on tax rulings took place since 2016, and over 285 regimes have been reviewed and virtually all that were identified as harmful have been amended or abolished since 2015.
With the recent spate of unilateral actions, the G20 has also mandated the OECD – working through the Inclusive Framework on BEPS – to address the tax challenges arising from the digitalisation of the economy. In May, the 129 Members of the OECD-G20 Inclusive Framework adopted a Programme of Work based on two pillars. We are committed to delivering, by the end of 2020, a global solution to modernise the international taxation rules for the digital era.
Yesterday, we launched the OECD Secretariat’s proposal for a “Unified Approach” under Pillar 1 to solve the taxation challenges of the digital economy by 2020 (2020 Roadmap).
And third, the main theme of the GPN tomorrow, Artificial Intelligence (AI). Digitalisation is rapidly changing the world and our lives in unprecedented ways. While AI creates unique opportunities, we are also conscious of the disruption it brings. For example, 14% of jobs in OECD countries are at high risk of automation. A further 32% may see a large share of their tasks change. AI technologies are also fuelling anxieties and ethical concerns. There are questions around the trustworthiness and robustness of AI systems, including the dangers of codifying and reinforcing existing biases – such as those related to gender and race – or of infringing on human rights and important values like privacy.
Mindful of these opportunities and risks, during our 2019 Ministerial Council Meeting, we launched the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Artificial Intelligence (OECD AI Principles). This is the first intergovernmental standard on AI to be agreed. It is focused on shaping a human-centred development trajectory for AI technologies and on providing responsible stewardship of trustworthy AI. And this work is being multiplied; the principle also formed the basis of the G20 AI Principles this year. It is therefore very encouraging that the GPN is giving particular emphasis to this issue in its 2019 meetings.
And of course we are working with many countries to advance and support structural reforms. In this respect, the role of parliaments and legislators is crucial in helping to pass reforms in your countries. That is why we stand by you to help you and we are ready to have a greater, more open and frank engagement with you.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Only by acting together, swiftly and decisively can we have any hope of confronting the challenges that we face. Rest assured that the OECD is here to work with and for you in designing, developing and delivering, better policies and better lives. Thank you.