Introductory remarks by Angel Gurría,
Paris, 1 December 2015
Dear President, dear Ambassadors,
I am delighted to welcome President Santos back to the OECD Council, and that he could take time out to join us from the COP 21, where Colombia is making an important contribution.
President Santos’ leadership and vision have been instrumental in guiding Colombia through a series of ambitious reforms to improve governance, make the public sector more effective, modernise the economy, and make growth more sustainable and inclusive.
1 December 2015 (from left) - Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia and Angel Gurria, Secretary-General of the OECD. OECD headquarters, Paris, France. Photo: Herve Cortinat/OECD
President Santos has also played a crucial role in Colombia’s peace process, which aims to bring an end to a conflict that has endured for more than five decades.
Since he last addressed the Council just over a year ago, the peace negotiations have made important progress. On 23 September, the FARC and the government of Colombia agreed to sign a final peace deal by March 2016. This announcement came after both parties agreed on the issue of justice and reparations for conflict-related crimes, one of the most difficult points in the 3-year-long peace negotiations.
The world will be watching closely, and we wish President Santos and his team every success in their endeavours to bring lasting peace to their country. This has been one of his life-long dreams and one of the first objectives he set when he first arrived to the Casa de Nariño in 2010. I assure you, Mr. President, that the OECD stands ready to do anything we can to help as you strive to make this dream a durable reality.
President Santos’ visit today is further evidence of the importance attached by Colombia to the OECD accession process. Since he last addressed the Council, Colombia has made excellent progress on its journey to become an OECD Member. Eight out of the 23 Committees signalled in the Roadmap have now concluded their accession reviews with the adoption of their Formal Opinions, including in key areas such as competition, financial markets, and regulatory policy.
In a landmark move just last week, the President announced that Ministers are to be removed from the boards of all state-owned enterprises (SOEs), as Colombia takes one more step towards the ‘club of best practices’. He also announced the creation of a General Directorate for the centralisation and oversight of SOEs that is to become an independent and autonomous agency, fully in line with OECD recommendations.
The OECD accession process is intended to support Colombia’s domestic policy agenda by acting as a catalyst for further reflection and reform. This is an opportunity for Colombia to ensure that its economy delivers the best results for its citizens by harnessing OECD expertise and experience.
At the same time, the OECD community, too, has much to gain from Colombia’s accession. Members will benefit from the unique experience that the country brings to the table. Colombia can also be a cornerstone to the Organisation’s enhanced engagement with Latin America, including through the Regional Programme that should be endorsed at the 2016 Ministerial Council Meeting taking place on 1-2 June under the chairmanship of Chile.
We are very much looking forward to continue strengthening our relationship with your country. Please use the OECD as a tool to advance your ambitious reform agenda and rely on our expertise to help translate better policies into better lives for all citizens in Colombia.
Mr President, it is with great pleasure that I give you the floor.