Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered at the meeting of the Council at Ministerial Level
OECD Conference Centre, 27 May 2010
The recovery from the worst economic crisis in our lifetime is a good time to lay down the foundations of a stronger, cleaner and fairer world economy. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made and on what remains to be done. It is in this context that I want to present my Strategic Orientations for the OECD’s work.
Since the last MCM, we have managed to refocus our substantive work to address emerging global challenges and better connect to the policy agendas of our Member countries.
Our Strategic Response to the Financial and Economic Crisis, our Labour Ministerial, and our contributions to the G8 and G20 processes, among others, revealed an agile and versatile Organisation that responds to unforeseen demands in a timely and competent manner.
In the G8 context, we have played a key role in L’Aquila, developing the “Whole-of-Government Instrument”, the “Accountability” exercise and the “Global Standard on Propriety, Integrity and Transparency”.
In the G20 context, we were invited for the first time to participate in the G20 Pittsburgh Summit and were requested to work on a broad range of issues, including fossil fuel subsidies, employment and social policies, the fight against trade and investment protectionism, anti-corruption and development. We are also working with the Financial Stability Board and are supporting the Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth.
Other highlights of this past year include our work on climate change (COP15), where we worked closely with the Danish Chair in the run-up to Copenhagen, especially on issues of financing, as well as our contribution to the Commission on Measuring Economic Performance and Social Progress, a topic the OECD brought to the table in 2004 in Palermo, Italy. We have also worked to deliver on previous MCM mandates on Innovation and Green Growth, which will be presented to you tomorrow.
We have continued to provide timely support to our Member countries in their domestic policy agendas. We provided targeted policy recommendations through new tools like our country brochures “At a Glance” (including on France, Greece, Japan, Spain and Mexico) and commented extensively on the Japanese Growth Strategy and the 2020 Agenda of the European Union.
All this has been achieved in parallel with an unprecedented effort to open the OECD to the world. Today, I am very pleased to report that we have completed the accession process of Chile, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia, while discussions with Russia are progressing. We have deepened the Enhanced Engagement process with a number of joint projects including the Economic Surveys on Brazil and China, the Investment Review of India, the report on “Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty” and the forthcoming Investment Review and Economic Survey on Indonesia. I also participated in China’s Development Forum and undertook official visits to both Brazil and India.
But our efforts at global reach go beyond Enhanced Engagement. We have increased our activities in many other regions with our Latin American Initiative and our MENA Investment and Governance programmes, as well as the Latin American, the South East Asian and the African Economic Outlooks. Our relevance grows in our diversity.
We have also continued to implement our programme of management and administrative reforms, which is essential to increase our operational effectiveness and our capacity to deliver. Besides the improvement of the decision-making process on the PWB and the strengthening of an integrated system for finance and budgeting, we have continued with the human resources reform. We have also put in place a new information and communication technology strategy.
There is still some homework to be done on this front. We need to break the impasse on the issue of financing Part II programmes, and we need to find solutions to the growing unfunded liabilities related to post-employment health care coverage.
Looking ahead, we should continue to strengthen our substantive work, enhance our global presence and increase the impact of our analysis and policy recommendations. We will have to do this in an extremely difficult economic context, which may accentuate our budget constraint.
Thus, we should maintain and consolidate our core work, including our surveys, outlooks and peer reviews in many crucial policy areas. This is where much of our unique value-added lies.
But there are also other key areas where we will need to strengthen and further develop our work. Addressing unemployment and social inequalities, adapting health and pension systems to address the impact of ageing, improving spending efficiency and reforming public administrations will remain on top of policy makers’ agendas and thus of our priorities.
It will also remain essential to deepen our work on new sources of growth, linking it with our work on Innovation and Green Growth. These new sources are essential to boost productivity, while addressing the growing concerns around “scarcities”, including food, energy, water, land and environment.
We also need to continue to enhance our global relevance and impact. This will serve to reinforce our role as the house of best practices and as a place that helps level the playing field.
It is time for a “Quantum Leap” in our Enhanced Engagement Initiative. We need to significantly upgrade our work with key emerging economies. To do this, we should develop agendas that are of joint interest and to better mainstream the development perspective in our work. We may also want to upgrade our dissemination efforts, contacts and presence, including through having OECD advisors in some key capitals.
Besides these on-going challenges, there are some policy areas that I believe merit increased priority. These are areas where the OECD has a comparative advantage and where our expertise can prove instrumental to global efforts.
Let me mention the most important ones:
First, our development work merits new impetus and renewed focus. We will for sure continue to be the reference institution for development assistance, monitoring commitments and aid effectiveness. But we will need to go beyond that by focusing more on measuring the impact of development co-operation efforts, as well as on the challenges of the lowest income countries and those with fragile governance.
Second, our environmental effort and our Green Growth Strategy will remain a priority. We will continue our work on green jobs and will focus on overcoming barriers to green growth. We will also support the climate change negotiations on financing and on adaptation, while continuing our G20 work on fossil fuels subsidies.
Third, the issue of skills and qualifications for a post-crisis world economy. Building on our Innovation, Jobs and Green Growth strategies, I propose to develop a Skills Strategy in order to help governments to identify and assess essential skills and improve the match of demand and supply.
Fourth, I propose a horizontal initiative on the role of women in the economy. Population ageing and shrinking labour forces make it even more obvious that wasting the potential of women is an option we cannot afford. Enabling women to fully contribute to economic development will increase productivity, promote prosperity and stability, and reduce child poverty. We aim to propose a toolkit on how to reduce the gender gap with focus in the policy areas of education, employment and entrepreneurship.
Fifth, we will continue our work on Measuring the Well-Being and Progress of Societies, Beyond GDP. The OECD is well placed to take a leading role in the implementation of this new measurement agenda and link it to policies, including by being host of the follow-up of the Stiglitz-Fitoussi-Sen Commission convened by President Sarkozy.
Last but not least, fighting corruption needs a comprehensive approach. I propose a horizontal project aimed at a policy-oriented anti-corruption framework. This would be based on the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention plus a host of existing tools, and would aim at making them more operational and effective. To do so, it would need to cover all the relevant aspects of corruption, focusing on immunity, prevention and elimination.
To conclude, let me refer to a major feature of the work of the following 12 months: the celebration of our 50th Anniversary. This will be an occasion to showcase our achievements. But, most importantly, it will also be a golden opportunity to reflect on our future challenges and to position the OECD for the next 50 years as the house of best practices. The celebrations will encompass a series of substantive events and debates, both at OECD headquarters and outside. We would like you to be closely associated with these celebrations. Together, we must use this unique milestone to define the role we want to play in the coming 50 years and to make that role an instrumental part of a better world.
Thank you very much.