OECD Secretary-General

Opening remarks at 50th high-level meeting of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC)


Opening remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

18 February 2016

OECD, Paris, France

(As prepared for delivery)



Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the 50th high-level meeting of the DAC. Last year you marked the 1000th meeting of your Committee. You're putting up impressive numbers!



2016: The year for action!


Last year was also an impressive year for global gatherings, and for consensus. We welcomed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and also reached major agreements in Addis Ababa, as well as at COP21 in Paris.


But we cannot be complacent. As I have said before, this year we need to achieve three things: implementation, implementation, and implementation! We owe it to the 800 million or so people living in extreme poverty, and only have around 800 weeks to achieve the Goals.


Today’s challenges are global. They affect us all and risk derailing hard-fought gains if we do not act collectively.


The refugee crisis, for example, has applied pressure in countries of origin, transit, and destination. In 2015, more than 1 million people crossed the Mediterranean Sea to look for international protection in Europe. In total, about 1.5 million claimed asylum in OECD countries in 2015. This is almost twice the number recorded in 2014 and the highest number ever. Developing, middle-income, and OECD countries alike are struggling to address the humanitarian, budgetary, programming, security, social and political challenges the crisis presents.



Towards an OECD Action Plan in support of the SDGs


Excellencies, dear colleagues,


I am very pleased to see Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, here today. Your presence, Jan, underscores the importance of the OECD-UN relationship. And it is one which has grown from strength to strength in recent years. Thank you.


Only last month, Ambassadors from OECD and non-OECD nations alike met here at the OECD to see how our countries, hand in hand with the OECD, can support the 2030 Agenda in very practical terms. Our UN colleague Lenni Montiel made one thing clear: the 2030 Agenda is not an agenda for the UN. It is an agenda for all of us.


Tasked by our ministers, we are currently formulating an OECD "Action Plan" setting out what the OECD will do more of – or do differently – in response to the demands of the 2030 Agenda. This isn’t about reinventing ourselves – it is simply about doing what we do well, and doing it even better. For example:


  • We are looking at how we can be part of the “global GPS” for the SDGs, helping countries to use our tools and indicators to ascertain where they currently stand in relation to the Goals, and what pathways are available to them to reach their destinations.
  • We’re determined to do a better job of seeing how non-aid policies help or hinder the achievement of the SDGs. It strikes me as obvious that our public policies should at the very least do no harm.
  • And we’ll continue to raise the bar, and lend our tools and good practices to any country that wishes to use them in areas as diverse as education, tax, climate, water, agriculture, social protection, and gender equality – to name only a few.


Development co-operation: a crucial enabler, and often a lifeline


While OECD countries will have to work to achieve the goals at home, they must keep a focus on the needs of developing countries. And this is where the DAC comes in.


Your tools, products, and partnerships will continue to be essential to development efforts. Your peer reviews of development co-operation programmes; your guidance in areas such as gender equality, environment, governance, and conflict and fragility; your push for more and better aid; and your efforts to support infrastructure investment where it is most needed.


Allow me to add a word of caution. Too often, we sit in meetings in which the promise of a “new financing landscape” is discussed. In which ODA is trivialized, or portrayed as a relic of the past. In which we hear how remittances have in some countries become major sources of finance, or how FDI flows far outweigh aid budgets. There is probably some truth to all of these points. But we need to nuance the discussion. Not all forms of development finance serve the same purpose; not all countries have the same needs. And we shouldn’t lose sight of the role that well targeted ODA can play in transforming – and often saving – lives.


Fortunately, the numbers are looking good. In 2014, ODA flows from DAC member countries reached an all-time high of USD 137.2 billion, marking an increase of 1.2% in real terms over 2013. And I am very happy to see that net ODA has increased by nearly 70% since 2000.


At your high-level meeting in December 2014, you rightly agreed to reverse the declining trend of ODA to countries most in need. I urge all of you to continue your efforts in this area.


Your decision to modernise the DAC statistical system is a key contribution to the 2030 Agenda, and I'm proud to say that other parts of the OECD are joining forces with the DAC in this endeavour.


For example, just two months ago, we worked with the Climate Policy Initiative to produce an estimate of climate finance for COP21. Our report showed that more than 60 billion USD had been committed in 2014 to finance climate action in developing countries. That’s nearly two-thirds of the USD 100 billion goal for 2020. This is a positive signal.


But let me stress the importance of a credible system for measuring development finance. If we are serious about moving "from billions to trillions" in development we need to commit to a significant scaling up of efforts. Our systems for measurement must incentivise this scaling up, and acknowledge the efforts of governments. We must not give the impression that when times get tough, we can simply move the goalposts on ODA – or for that matter any other measure.


Today, the work of the DAC is scrutinized by more stakeholders than ever before. This is in part a result of the efforts that you have made to open up. To bring other countries into your work. To engage with an ever-growing range of non-governmental partners. And to support inclusive platforms such as the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.


Finally, as you celebrate the successes of 2015, I would encourage you to use the next two days to reflect on the future of the DAC itself. When the Committee first came to be in 1961, the world was a very different place. Our planet’s population was less than half of what it is today. Much of Africa had yet to gain independence. The DAC had only ten members, and countries such as Iceland, Italy, Spain and Turkey were all beneficiaries of assistance from DAC nations.


Much has happened since then. The world’s population has surpassed the 7 billion mark. Smallpox has been eradicated, and we’re almost there with polio and guinea worm too. Today, more children survive beyond their fifth birthday than ever before.


With the SDGs now agreed, we should look at ourselves and ask whether the structures that we created some time ago are still fit for purpose. For example, who needs to be with us around the table to have a meaningful discussion on development co-operation in the 21st century? Where is there genuine demand for better norms and standards, and how can the DAC help meet this demand? Is the resident committee set up several decades ago still the best way of organising scarce resources to meet all of these needs and others?


As I mentioned at the outset, the task ahead of us is not a small one: lifting 800 million people out of extreme poverty in 800 weeks; tackling inequalities; and doing it all in an environmentally sustainable manner.


In all of these efforts, the OECD will continue to work hand in hand with you to design, develop and deliver better development assistance policies for better lives. Thank you.


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