Remarks by Angel Gurría,
USCIB, New York, 19 September 2017
(As prepared for delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to open this Roundtable and to have the opportunity to meet with members of the US business community, especially during such an important session of the UN General Assembly. Many thanks to USCIB, and to KPMG for hosting us. I would also like to convey my deep gratitude to Peter Robinson for inviting me to be here today. The OECD is an institution that has given business a seat at the table since its founding, working with and for American business as we pursue our mission: Better Policies for Better Lives. USCIB in particular is a crucial partner in our work.
The 2030 Agenda provides the international community with a bold and comprehensive framework to chart a more prosperous, inclusive and sustainable future for all. The SDGs are universal, and their implementation is the shared responsibility of all countries, at all levels of development – including OECD countries.
At the OECD, we are committed to playing the role of “best supporting actor” as the international community pursues these ambitious goals, including through the UN system. We do this first and foremost by helping countries understand where they stand currently, and how far they need to go. We aim to provide a sort of “GPS” for the SDGs.
When it comes to harnessing data for the SDGs, we published, in June of this year, a report that shows how a number of OECD countries’ fare on the SDGs. Crucially, it shows that everyone – including some of the most advanced economies in the world – has some way to go. Some governments are already taking the next step, and are working with us to harness the necessary body of evidence as they design or adjust their national development strategies – this is the case in Slovenia and Slovakia, for example.
We are also working closely with developing countries to help strengthen their statistical capacities, including through our PARIS21 programme.
However, the SDGs will not be achieved by governments alone. Partnerships – including with business – will be essential. The range of participants at this important meeting reminds us of this.
The private sector delivers jobs, innovation, and goods and services – in other words, it is an engine for well-being. The OECD has long recognised the contribution of business to people’s lives. Forty years ago, we first published our Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct. Their value has been recognised globally. By setting and enforcing standards, we not only help to protect people and the environment, but also to level the playing for business. A “win-win”.
Data is also central to our work at the OECD. For over 50 years, the OECD has collected timely, accurate, high-quality data to support balanced growth and development. And we are constantly innovating. By underscoring the role of data and statistics in shaping policy, we have driven a re-orientation of policies to look “beyond GDP” and focus instead on the many factors that impact people’s lives. We have been at the forefront of these endeavours, launching the Better Life Initiative to make well-being measurement and analysis a core output of our work.
We are also beginning to explore how to measure the impacts of businesses on people’s lives and well-being – and how can the businesses themselves use this information to improve their bottom line and the conditions of society at large.
One area in which the business sector can play a particularly innovative role in supporting the SDGs is big data. At the OECD, we are looking at how to best exploit the new possibilities offered by big data and remote sensing to produce quicker, better and cheaper information. Big data is already transforming the nature of business and profits world-wide. Can it also help transform international sustainable development?
When it comes to following the SDGs and their 169 targets, big data has the power to complement national statistics and provide further disaggregation – allowing us to identify the people or communities that would be forgotten in aggregates, and often providing real-time data on development.
For example, to promote sustainable industrialization as laid out in SDG 9, small and medium-sized enterprises can use data analytics to improve production; create new goods and services, improve processes and marketing strategies. Data analytics, if well harnessed, can also help SMEs overcome disadvantages related to scale.
I call on business to use their tools and their knowledge to promote sustainable development in new and smarter ways. You are central to this agenda, and the world can’t achieve this without you. Let’s see how we can work together in order to deliver on this ambitious vision for the world by 2030.