Remarks by Angel Gurría
16 January 2019 - OECD, France
(As prepared for delivery)
Chers Ambassadeurs, chers Députés Secrétaires-généraux, Juan, chers Directeurs, Président de l’Association du personnel, Représentants de BIAC/TUAC, Chers collègues, anciens collègues, chère Lulu:
Merci! Merci pour votre soutien, pour votre enthousiasme, votre excellent travail, votre professionnalisme et votre humanisme. Je suis honoré; je suis fier de diriger cette équipe, encore plus en ces temps difficiles, car c’est dans ces moments que l’OCDE excelle et renforce son esprit.
Vous le savez, vous le sentez, nous traversons une période difficile et incertaine. La communauté internationale peine à être internationale; elle peine à être une communauté. Les valeurs d’ouverture, de solidarité, de coopération qui ont inspiré la création d’organisations telles que l’OCDE sont de plus en plus sous le feu de vives critiques.
En Europe, nous voyons une union sur le point de perdre un membre clé et défiée par la montée de l’extrémisme et de l’Euroscepticisme. Aux Etats-Unis, nous voyons la réapparition de mesures sévèrement protectionnistes et une impasse politique autour d’un débat enflammé sur la construction ou la non-construction pas d’un pont, mais d’un mur. En Amérique Latine, nous voyons des caravanes de familles désespérées traversant des continents à la recherche de l’espoir. Nous voyons les électorats rejetant le statu quo, ouvrant la porte aux politiques extrémistes et populistes, qui font leur retour dans les rues, sur les réseaux sociaux et dans les urnes.
Ces expressions sont largement le résultat de l’échec de notre modèle de croissance, qui n’a pas su répondre aux besoins des personnes et de la planète. La situation mondiale actuelle reflète cet échec: le changement climatique, la crise migratoire, l’affaiblissement de la reprise économique, l’escalade de tensions commerciales.
Beaucoup des risques qui se sont accumulés au cour des dernières années sont maintenant devenus de dures réalités. Dans les perspectives économiques de Novembre dernier, l’OCDE a réduit les prévisions de croissance pour la plupart des grandes économies mondiales en 2019 et 2020. Ces prévisions pourraient même devoir être réduites encore!
The consequences are potentially huge. A fragmentation of politics; months to form governments; unexpected electoral results; precarious, fragile coalitions. And remember, we already used our available tools to face the last crisis. When you have no monetary space, no fiscal space, you run out of options. When populists come to power, they bring no answers, only divisions, intolerance and strife. All this contributes to a governance incapacity; an incapacity to take the needed decisions to change and improve their countries, and in turn, the world, to address and confront the issues that give rise to the extremist expressions in politics we are trying to fight.
This is disheartening, but we cannot falter! We must keep bringing up the evidence, only thus will we get through. The world must continue to make evidence-based policy decisions, rather than ignore or manipulate the evidence.
Our efforts in 2018 have borne important fruits.
At our Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM) last May, chaired by France, we put reshaping multilateralism at the centre of our agenda. We gathered all the relevant stakeholders round the table to chart a more responsible, effective and inclusive multilateralism.
We created meaningful momentum for our SMEs work in the Mexico City Ministerial and for our Social Policy work in the Montreal Ministerial.
We made useful contributions to the Paris Peace Forum; to the UN Intergovernmental Conference on Migration in Marrakech; to the COP24 in Katowice; to the Argentinian G20 Presidency and the Canadian G7 Presidency. We found innovative solutions to address pressing global issues like steel excess capacity, climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the future of work, social mobility, migration, integrity and gender equality. And we enriched our knowledge and membership, by welcoming Lithuania and Colombia, advancing the process of Costa Rica and discussing the requests for Membership by six other countries.
We delivered the OECD Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth; the new Jobs Strategy; the Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct; and Financing Climate Futures, to name just a few. Every single one demonstrates what international co-operation can achieve, the well-being it can unlock, the opportunities it can create.
And we gave an epic battle in the face of strong headwinds to defend our budgetary stability, to defend your salaries, your pensions. We succeeded in negotiating a tight, zero nominal growth budget for 2019 to 2020. However, given the circumstances, I believe it was a favourable outcome. We went to every extent. We gave the fight our everything. We were encouraged because we knew we were representing you, your work, your projects, your dreams and aspirations.
We will keep working hard in 2019. We have many challenges ahead.
Digitalisation is a whirlwind, vital for inclusiveness, sustainability and well-being but full of pressing cross-border challenges. We need to help turn it into a positive force for development, for inclusion, for sustainability. Remember the words of Isaac Asimov: “The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom”.
In 2019, we have put digital technologies at the core of our agenda with our Going Digital Summit in March, where we will present our final synthesis report, with our MCM chaired by the Slovak Republic in May, our 2019 OECD Forum and our Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum.
Together, these will provide a window of opportunity to enhance access to digital technologies, increase its effective use, unleash innovation, ensure jobs, promote social prosperity, address tax challenges and foster trust and fair competition.
We will move forward with our agenda on inclusiveness. We will work to implement the OECD Action Plan on the SDGs and new initiatives like the Business for Inclusive Growth Platform. We will press ahead with our work on SMEs, with our Jobs and Skills Strategies, with new work on early childhood and we will take a new, fresh look at old priorities like housing and infrastructure, which are taking on renewed relevance.
The environment will continue to be a top priority. Global emissions are growing again and we are even witnessing a slippage, a stepping back on the progress made in the last decade to demonstrate that climate change is a man-made disaster! Thus, we will raise the intensity of our work, with new contributions on climate change mitigation, on the costs of air pollution, on clean energy finance, on investment mobilisation and on protecting the oceans.
We will continue to reshape globalisation and multilateralism, to help win back the trust of citizens. We expect to issue the OECD’s Recommendation on Anti-Corruption and Integrity in State-owned Enterprises, to develop the MNE database, and further outcomes on addressing excess capacity and tackling tax evasion and avoidance, crucially in the digital economy.
We will also hold a Ministerial meeting on Regional Development Policy, the Roundtable of Mayors and Ministers and the meeting of our Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth. The OECD is heavily urbanized. Our work has to reflect this.
2018 was PISA year. During 2019 we will process and ultimately report on the latest PISA results. Together with PIAAC and with our work on skills, this body of evidence continues to be of crucial importance.
We will of course intensify our support to global fora, especially to Japan’s Presidency of the G20 and France’s Presidency of the G7 and increase our efforts to engage with emerging countries. Our economy is global and our standards need to be global too. This is why we need to keep advancing with our global relations strategy, our key partnerships, our Regional and Country Programmes and our accession discussions.
In 2019 we need to keep revising and improving our economic analysis and avenues of collaboration in line with our New Approaches to Economic Challenges initiative (NAEC). We need to increase our efforts on the ground, partnering countries more effectively in the implementation of their structural reform agendas and engaging with civil society, bringing our work closer to citizens and constantly striving to improve the impact of our communications activities.
Above all, we will keep defending our core values of global openness, international co-operation, economic integration, mutual respect and cultural tolerance. While pragmatism may sometimes be advisable, we cannot give up on our beliefs, our values, our principles and convictions.
Some people have told me we need to lower our level of ambition, that we need to adapt to the new emerging status quo, that we need to back down. That would be inconsistent with our mission. The OECD is not an automaton; we have a responsibility. The OECD is not a bureaucratic process; we have a conscience. The OECD is not a consulting group ready to hire out its thinking; we have a historic mission to seek evidence-based policy action.
Yes, the OECD is Members-driven, but we also have a mandate to raise the bar of political co-operation. We need an Organisation with the highest ambition to better serve our Members and Partners.
You often hear “hope for the best”. I don’t like that phrase. I don’t see the OECD’s role in that light. It’s not about hope. Attaining the best IS possible. But we have to search for it. We have to reach for it. We have to work for it. We have to change for it. We have to build for it. Together.
The task is getting, harder, more complex. The ascent is getting steeper. But that is also a sign that we are getting there, closer to the summit.
In the words of the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, “May we have the courage to stand alone and the bravery to take the risk of being together. May we dare to keep believing that the human condition is worth it, because we are not done yet.
May we keep the certainty alive that it is possible to be conational and contemporary of all those who live driven by the will of justice and beauty, independently of their place of birth, for there are no borders in the maps of the soul or the maps of time.”
I thank you for the incredible effort. Have a wonderful year!