Introductory Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General
Paris, France, Monday, 9 December 2013
As prepared for delivery
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to the OECD and Transparency International’s conference on “Integrity and the crisis: How to earn back the trust of young people?” People’s trust in institutions and in their own future is one of the most precious assets a country has: it is the cornerstone of effective governance, the main ingredient to promote economic growth and social progress.
But trust is plummeting to dramatically low levels. According to our recent “How’s Life” report, only 40% of citizens in the OECD trust their national governments – the lowest level since 2007. Like never before, our citizens have doubts about their government’s capacities to respond to their needs and meet their expectations. We have to rebuild that trust.
The focus on youth is thus especially important. Young people are amongst the hardest hit by the crisis. Youth unemployment has reached alarming levels in some countries (beyond 50% in Greece and in Spain). Youth (15-24 years old) not in employment, education or training (NEETs) has doubled since the onset of the crisis to over 20% of the total youth population. Young people fear that their future is being jeopardised. It is no surprise that so many young people played a prominent role in recent social movements, either in Spain, in the Occupy Wall Street Movements in the US, the UK, or elsewhere.
Young people are the seed of our future. They need not just education and jobs, but also access to information and the right to fully participate in political processes. Their voices must be heard and taken into account! This is why I am glad to see so many young faces present today.
The OECD can help promote the right policies for our youth. The issue of youth unemployment was widely discussed during our 2013 OECD Forum earlier this year. At the Meeting of the OECD Council at Ministerial Level, our Member Countries gave us the mandate to develop an “Action Plan for Youth”. In November, we hosted the “Youth Summit for Quality Jobs” organised by the European Youth Forum and the European Trade Union Confederation. We have been actively involved in the European Summit on Youth Employment, convened by President Hollande. We will follow up on these and other efforts.
I’d like to stop here to recognise an audience member who is always young. It is Transparency International’s 20th Anniversary. Allow me to wish you a very Happy Birthday! Both our organisations are working closely together to promote integrity and transparency. In discussions later today, I look forward to hearing some of the insights and knowledge Transparency International has gained over the past 20 years. Again, welcome and may your deliberations be fruitful!