OECD Secretary-General

2020 New Year’s Wishes


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

20 January 2020 - OECD, France

(As prepared for delivery)  




Chers Ambassadeurs, chers Secrétaires généraux adjoints, Gabriela, Juan, chers Directeurs, Président de l’Association du personnel, Représentants de BIAC/TUAC, chers collègues, anciens collègues:

Nous sommes à nouveau réunis en ce début d’année, en ce début de décennie, pour célébrer nos accomplissements, évaluer l’ampleur des défis à venir, et continuer, avec enthousiasme et détermination, à renforcer nos convictions et partager nos espoirs.

Comme chaque année, je souhaiterais commencer par remercier chacun de vous pour votre travail acharné, votre loyauté et votre engagement envers les valeurs de cette organisation.

In 2019, we faced a very challenging context. Global economic growth slowed down further to only 2.9%, and will barely reach 3% in 2020. For OECD countries growth will slow to 1.7% in 2019 and to 1.6% in 2020. These are the weakest annual growth rates since the global financial crisis.

The escalation of trade tensions and the accumulation of risks in the financial sector flattened trade growth and created significant uncertainty. This in turn dragged down investment, economic growth and social well-being.

Social discontent increased around the world. The combination of low growth, policy uncertainty, persistently high inequalities, the erosion of well-being and demands for more democratic and trustworthy regimes, brought people out to the streets. From Paris to Bogota, from Hong Kong to Santiago, from Algiers to Beirut, to mention only some cases. They all share a common fuel: the anger of social injustice. A rage against a system that left many of them behind. For the OECD, this is a true call to arms. We are the world’s best informed on inequalities, on how to fight them, and on how to promote inclusive growth.

Thus, we must update and upgrade our efforts. In fact, we are now engaged in consultations with Members and Staff on how to consolidate and mainstream our work on the well-being agenda.

Multilateral co-operation also struggled. Just when we needed to show stronger unity to tackle pressing global challenges, our political leaders failed to achieve consensus on key issues. When we needed to promote social justice, we failed to redesign our policies to promote more inclusive and sustainable growth. When the multiplying climate emergencies demanded coordinated and swift actions, the international community came up short. 

In spite of this challenging environment, 2019 was a very productive year at the OECD.


In 2019, our work helped make the global economy more inclusive and more human.

We helped governments realise the persistent gravity of inequalities through our report: 'Under Pressure: The Squeezed Middle Class'. We placed children at the centre, with our analysis on ‘Changing the Odds for Vulnerable Children: Building Opportunities and Resilience’. We called for a systems approach through our NAEC Conference “Avoiding Systemic Collapse”.

Education at a Glance 2019, PISA, PIAAC and the Skills Outlook were delivered to help governments better understand and improve their education and skills’ systems, while preparing for an increasingly complex digital era.

Our Employment Outlook focused on a ‘Transition Agenda for a Future that Works for All’, helping to strengthen labour law, social protection and adult learning.

We unveiled the Observatory of Civic Space to enable citizens and civil society organisations to engage meaningfully with their governments – and with each other.

Our Regional Development Ministerial in Athens helped connect people, regions and places to the benefits of megatrends. Our 43rd annual edition of the OECD’s “International Migration Outlook” highlighted many of the benefits that migrant workers bring to host countries. Migration is one of the most divisive and politically sensitive areas of work. The international community deserves high praise for the results achieved on our recent first ever Ministerial on Migration and Integration.

Our “Digital for SMEs Initiative” proved that innovation can help bridge our social and technological divides.

We also enhanced our dialogue with Africa and increased our collaboration with Latin America, South East Europe, Eurasia, South East Asia, the MENA region, our country programmes, and, of course, our Key Partners.

Our work and efforts for gender equality continued to have impacts, be they economic, political, digital or cultural. I want to thank the Friends Group for a productive year. 

We helped to transform the digital revolution into a source of inclusion, productivity and sustainability.

We held our Going Digital Summit and we presented the OECD’s ground-breaking Principles on AI during our 2019 MCM, led by Slovakia, which the G20, led by Japan, decided to adopt. We also launched the AI Policy Observatory. We must embrace innovation and use it to deepen, broaden and accelerate practically all our agendas.

We helped to make globalisation fairer, more transparent and more reliable.

On the Tax Challenges Arising from Digitalisation, we made a lot of progress in 2019. I leave for Davos later today, where I have a scheduled meeting with the US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the Minister of Finance of France, Bruno Le Maire to advance an agreement on this crucial matter and avoid further trade tensions.

We also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the ‘Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes’. Fifty million bank accounts worth more than 5 trillion euros have been identified. 102 billion euros have been received by the coffers of the participating countries. About 500 times our modest OECD Part I Budget. Talk about value for money!

And we helped to keep the pressure on climate change action.

During Climate Week in New York, we highlighted the importance of Aligning Development Co-operation with the Paris Agreement. In Geneva, I delivered my fourth biennial Climate Lecture, denouncing that we are moving backwards on CO2 emissions, stressing the frustration of our youth, as well as the political cost when these young people vote next.

We published new reports on climate, on rising seas, on taxing energy use and on biodiversity, tragically illustrated by the wildfires in Australia.

Climate change continues to be the single most important, intergenerational responsibility we face.

We also supported important global and regional co-operation schemes.

We provided strong support to the Japanese G20 Presidency on priorities such as the digital economy, quality infrastructure, the SDGs, financial inclusion, ageing and anti-corruption.

At the G7 in Biarritz we launched the Business for Inclusive Growth Initiative (B4IG) and supported President Macron with his initiatives on digital, on oceans and biodiversity. We stepped up our engagement with APEC and signed an MOU to strengthen co-operation with the Pacific Alliance.

We focused on Ageing as the central theme of our 2019 GSG, led by Switzerland. Many stakeholders were involved, which led to useful and timely exchanges.

And more, much more.

We achieved all this through the OECD’s 7 pillars of success: 1) Providing and receiving high-level political guidance from Leaders and Ministers; 2) Supporting and learning from our Members’ reforms; 3) Providing multidisciplinarity, open mindedness and cutting-edge thinking; 4) Remaining open, inclusive and global; 5) Informing and shaping the international / multilateral agenda; 6) Promoting a rules-based international economy; and, 7) Remaining a results-oriented organisation with a predictable and stable budget.

These pillars have made the OECD what it is today: more efficient, more relevant, constantly upgrading and updating its work, and delivering for its Members and Partners.

We have to make 2020 another dynamic and productive year, notwithstanding the constraints.

L’année 2020 apportera de nouvelles demandes de la part de nos pays membres, mais aussi de nombreuses nouvelles opportunités.

Cette année, notre Réunion du Conseil au niveau des Ministres (MCM), présidée par l'Espagne, se concentrera sur le thème « Numérique, Verte et Inclusive : Une Croissance Économique Durable ». Votre soutien y sera indispensable.

Nous poursuivrons notre quête de protection de l'environnement et de lutte contre le changement climatique, pour laisser un monde vivable aux générations futures.

En ce qui concerne la numérisation, la Phase II de notre projet ‘Vers le Numérique’ continuera de tirer parti de la capacité de l'OCDE à élaborer des conseils stratégiques, notamment concernant l'Intelligence Artificielle et la Blockchain.

Nous maintiendrons nos efforts pour relever les défis de l’imposition du numérique d'ici la fin de 2020.

Nous persévérerons dans notre travail après les terribles événements de Christ Church, pour éliminer la violence et le terrorisme d’Internet.

Nous continuerons à soutenir les programmes du G20 et du G7 sous les présidences de l'Arabie Saoudite et des États-Unis respectivement, et nous travaillons déjà avec l’Italie et le Royaume Uni pour le 2021.

Et nous continuerons de renforcer notre communication et la promotion de tout ce travail par un engagement accru avec nos Membres, mais aussi avec toutes les parties prenantes, de la société civile et des partenaires sociaux, aux parlementaires et au secteur privé.

However, the OECD may be hampered in its capacity to deliver, because of a lack of consensus among members in several key areas of our work.

For example, while several important countries have been knocking on our doors, enlargement talks have stalled for years. There now seems to be a window of opportunity to relaunch the effort. Let’s seize it. Let’s not waste more time and opportunities.

On the Budget front, besides being set back by returning to zero nominal growth, we were asked to absorb the pensions contributions’ increased cost. Thus, we have to adjust our budgets further in 2020 and inevitably cut some substantive outputs.

We must continue building a people-centred growth and measure the success of our models through their environmental, social and well-being outcomes. Let’s build a solid, multidimensional approach that mirrors better our changing and complex reality.

Ambassadors, we ask for your help to avoid turning the OECD into a pension contributions cashier that will wilt into irrelevance. We ask for your help to provide the Organisation with the necessary means for the next PWB 2021-2022. We ask for your help to proudly tell your capitals, that our work produces several hundred times your budget contributions. As Minister Bruno Le Maire said: «l’OCDE offre le meilleur rapport qualité-prix de toutes les organisations internationales. Elle nous coûte quelques millions d’euros, mais elle nous rapporte des milliards d’euros en recettes fiscales supplémentaires.»

We also ask for your help because this year we will start the process to determine who will lead this Organisation after June 2021. There are clear rules to follow and I expect that we all abide by them. Otherwise, the OECD will turn into a cacophony of political speculation. In the meantime, we have a lot of homework; let’s get it done.


Dear friends:

This year the OECD will turn 60. Age is an attitude. And our attitude has to be unity, renewal, usefulness, relevance. The world needs a strong, united and effective OECD and we will deliver, because we must, because we can, and because we care. We expect to celebrate this Anniversary by continuing to deliver, and by using it to reflect and prepare for the challenges of an increasingly complex road ahead.

Eye doctors define perfect vision as 20/20. But we cannot generate the perfect vision alone. We will need broad consultations with all stakeholders, starting with our Members. We will undertake such consultations and propose a vision for the future of the OECD.

Twenty-twenty is more than a new year. It is an opportunity. An opportunity to make multilateral co-operation more effective, more inclusive, and more reliable. An opportunity to confirm that many of our challenges can only be solved precisely through multilateral co-operation. But it is also an opportunity to help rebuild stability and certainty, which have been missing for too long.

Remember the words of Henry David Thoreau: “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” So, let’s keep ourselves busy, to keep making the OECD succeed! To design, develop and deliver better policies for better lives.

I wish you all and your families a wonderful and productive year! Thank you.



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