Communication and development



1. The OECD Development Centre grew out of a proposal made in Tokyo on 13 July 1961 by President Kennedy's representative to the last meeting of the Development Assistance Group, the forerunner of today's DAC. At first sight, those were very different times from those we know today. The Cold War was at its most frigid, decolonisation was in full swing, and competing ideologies split the globe. At the time, the OECD Member countries felt the need to keep in touch with a developing world which seemed to be about to spin out of control. It was seen as essential to keep the lines of communication open; to inform, but also to learn. Thus, Article 2 of the Council's Decision to set up the Development Centre reads that its purpose was to:

- "Bring together the knowledge and experience available in participating countries of both economic development and of the formulation and execution of general economic policies;

- Adapt such knowledge and experience to the actual needs of countries or regions in the process of economic development; and

- Place the results by appropriate means at the disposal of the countries concerned."

2. The Development Centre was, therefore, created as a resource for the OECD. By 1968, its activities were growing in number and in scope. The Centre's staff worked on social change and growth; the impact of aid on development; and produced a Manual of Industrial Project Analysis in Developing Countries, which is still in demand today, over three decades later. With its first policy dialogues with policy makers from the developing world, the Centre began fully to fill its role as a unique conduit of communication between the OECD and the developing countries. The Centre, having established itself, was given an Advisory Board "to advise the Centre and the Council on the programme and activities of the Centre".

3. In the years that followed, the Development Centre produced some of the finest thinking on the development process. Three examples from a long list follow. The 1970 study by Ian Little, Tibor Scitovsky and Maurice Scott, Industry and Trade in Some Developing Countries challenged the idea that development could only come through government planning. A vast migration study led by Julien Condé in the 1980s showed the economic importance of population movements between adjacent developing countries. In his monumental work, Angus Maddison has been measuring and explaining the long-term growth of the world economy, including that of major developing countries.

4. The Advisory Board chose 1999 as the year to look again at the mandate of the Centre and to revise some of the governance procedures. In October, Council appointed a new President to take up office almost immediately. The mandate and a series of "measures proposed by the Chairman of the Advisory Board for increasing interaction between the Centre, its Advisory Board, the OECD Secretariat and the Member countries", approved in 1989, were re-affirmed by Council.

5. The 1999 review thus introduced more flexibility in the role of the Advisory Board itself so that the Board could offer more technical guidance and help the Centre account for the design and the execution of its work programme. This very significant step in the history of the Centre will go a long way to ensuring that the Centre's work both responds to the needs of Member countries and is communicated to them rapidly and efficiently.

6. Unfortunately, many people and many governments remain sceptical of the benefits of globalisation. In the minds of many policy makers, the world remains divided into rich and poor, franchised and disenfranchised, those with a bright future, and those with a bleak one. This has led to the revival of an apparent struggle between the OECD area and "the developing world", the last instance of which was the aborted launch of the Millennium Round in Seattle.

7. Fortunately, reality is far more complex than the old fashioned duel between North and South. This User's Guide and its Addendum were presented and discussed in Council on 27 January and 9 March 2000 by the newly appointed President of the Centre. The text is designed to suggest to Council how the Centre can deal with this new reality, building on the credibility and effectiveness that it has accumulated among governments and NGOs over the last decades. It is divided into eight sections, including a brief personal assessment. Activities and meetings for 2000 are listed in Annexes I and II. Complete references to the official documents cited are also provided. Following the discussion in Council, the text was slightly revised to merge it with the Addendum and to take into account the extensive remarks by Members of Council.


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