Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, Bogotá, Colombia, 25 October 2013
President Santos, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very honoured to be with you to mark the launch of Colombia’s accession process to the OECD. It is a historic moment for the OECD. I should like to congratulate President Santos on this achievement and to thank him for organising this event.
Although we are here today to mark the start of a process which will ultimately result in Colombia formally becoming a member of the OECD, your country has already been co-operating with our Organisation for many years. The tenacity and dedication shown by the Colombian Government ever since President Santos declared, on taking office, that accession to the OECD was a matter of state, has been decisive. As a result of that effort and that conviction, something that was just a project a few years ago is now a reality.
You will be asking why Colombia’s accession to the OECD is going to be beneficial for Colombia. Allow me to answer this question by telling you briefly what the OECD is all about.
The OECD: a hub for the exchange of good practice, and much more
The OECD brings together governments committed to democracy and the market economy, with the aim of sharing experiences in order to design better policies for better lives and find answers to common challenges. Just a few years ago, on the occasion of Chile’s accession to the OECD, President Bachelet described our Organisation as the “best practices club”. It is one of the most apt descriptions we have heard.
Unlike other international organisations, the OECD does not provide financial resources, it does not grant loans or funds for financing investments. What it does is provide expertise and advice in order to improve public policies and promote good governance. We take to the extreme the remark by Gabriel García Márquez that “ideas do not belong to anyone”. In the OECD, good ideas belong to everyone.
We achieve this through multilateral dialogue in which every OECD member and an increasing number of non-member countries bring to the table their experiences in virtually all areas of public policy. We then process and enhance this expertise with the help of our Secretariat, and, as a result of this process, we are able to produce international comparisons and make recommendations.
OECD membership will provide Colombia with permanent access to all this expertise. Colombia will be able to express its opinion and help to bring about changes in the decisions and proposed reforms of the most advanced economies in the world. It will also have the opportunity to influence the design and implementation of key initiatives and instruments to improve world governance and the functioning of the global economy, such as the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions; the Principles of Corporate Governance; or the Agreement on the Exchange of Information on Tax Matters.
OECD membership will also enable Colombia to assess and compare its policies, institutional frameworks, regulatory mechanisms and structural reforms with best international practices in a wide range of sectors: from taxation to health, from corporate governance to education, including trade, the environment, the fight against poverty and inequality, to name but a few.
This is a very worthwhile exercise which will help Colombia to achieve its own governance objectives more rapidly, for example: transforming taxation systems into effective instruments for social inclusion; establishing ultramodern education systems; providing high-quality health services; fostering national innovation systems; advancing on the path to green growth; improving trade and investment; professionalising public procurement systems or combating corruption.
From now on, the Government of Colombia will be able to count on the support of the OECD to improve its policies and compare its performance in these and other key areas for improving the welfare of its citizens. This is the OECD’s prime objective: to improve the lives of our people.
The relationship between Colombia and the OECD is already beginning to bear its first fruits. This afternoon, together with President Santos, we shall be presenting three reviews carried out by the OECD on public governance, regulatory reform and innovation policy in Colombia. These reviews are very useful for stimulating the grassroots changes needed in order to promote more inclusive and sustainable growth.
This is just a foretaste of the benefits that Colombia can expect from its accession to the OECD. However, the relationship is mutually beneficial. Colombia also has much to contribute to the OECD.
Benefits for the OECD
The accession of Colombia will bring much more than fresh air into our Organisation. In a context where economic dynamism is being transferred from advanced countries to the emerging economies, the experience and expertise of countries such as Colombia are very valuable for many of the OECD countries, which are in need of new ideas, innovatory proposals and contrasting points of view in order to strengthen their policies and their capacity for recovery.
Colombia has some very interesting experience on a wide range of issues: for example, in areas such as administrative simplification, e-governance, green public transport, technologies for the control of transit operations, student loan support systems, to mention but a few. With 47 million citizens and the third largest economy in Latin America, Colombia will greatly enrich the OECD acquis with its varied experiences.
Furthermore, the accession of Colombia will help us to draw closer to Latin America and to understand it better. I recently attended the Ibero-American Summit in Panama where we delivered the 2014 Latin American Economic Outlook. On that occasion, we reiterated our support for the region and for initiatives such as the Pacific Alliance – one of the most innovatory subregional development schemes, whose experiences will be very valuable for us at the OECD. All this and more will involve Colombia with our Organisation.
The accession of Colombia: more of a process than an event
Allow me to finish by underscoring an important point: the accession of Colombia is more of a process than an event.
Today we are embarking on a new path together – a path which will culminate in Colombia’s accession to the OECD. However there is some ground to cover on the way. In the coming months, Colombia will be working on preparing an analysis of its position with regard to our 250 legal instruments. There will then be a series of technical dialogues with OECD experts who will travel to Colombia to assess the application of its policies, practices and standards in relation to those of the OECD. Later we will make recommendations regarding possible reforms on which Colombia will take a decision. We will then be able to set the date on which this marvellous country can become a member of our Organisation.
The accession process has usually brought many benefits for those countries which have undertaken it. This was the case with Mexico’s accession, which I was fortunate to be involved in right from the outset. In the case of Chile and Russia too, the accession processes were full of opportunities for our governments and brought considerable benefits for our societies. During those periods, our public administrations made an impressive growth spurt. So we have to take advantage of this process. We must not force it: it is too important to be rushed.
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today, Colombia and the OECD are taking a momentous step. However, there are still a few more steps to take, but the fact that we are here today deciding how we are going to smooth out the “road map” for Colombia’s accession is something of which we should all be proud.
The decision of the OECD Council to extend a formal invitation to Colombia to embark on its accession process is a recognition of many years of effort on the part of all Colombian citizens; it is proof that Colombia has been able to overcome many of the obstacles which were threatening it and move forward; it is a vote of confidence on the part of the OECD member countries for the strategic guidelines, achievements, prospects and capabilities of President Santos and his administration.
These are messages which are reverberating around the world. These are messages which will result in more and better investments in Colombia, in more and better jobs for Colombians, in more opportunities for the young people of this country. However, once again, I would say to you: this is just the beginning. We must now roll up our sleeves and continue our efforts in order to complete, without haste but without pause, the road map and the requirements for accession.
I am certain that the entire OECD team, with the personal input of its Secretary-General, will follow your path and help you on your way.
Thank you very much.