Remarks by Angel Gurría
OECD, France, 30 January 2018
(As prepared for delivery)
Ambassadors, Deputy Secretaries-General, Gabriela, Juan, Directors, President of the Staff Association, Representatives of BIAC/TUAC, colleagues, former colleagues:
2017 was one of the most turbulent and challenging years for international cooperation. 2018 is not auguring an easier path. But you delivered, and you should be proud.
Together, we weathered resurgent waves of nationalism, isolationism, populism, protectionism and the ascendance of a post-truth environment distrustful of ‘experts’. These resurgent ideologies threaten the progress we have made in the last 55 years since the OECD was formed, with the aim of promoting international co-operation and economic development. Unfortunately, these bad “isms” came after a year of remarkable progress, where we achieved real breakthroughs of multilateralism, the good “ism”, such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. These achievements are now being put at risk. The notion of interdependence, the value of global solidarity, the concept of togetherness in this world are being threatened. And with this, the essence, the raison d’être of this unique Organisation.
But instead of causing fear and discouragement, these threats should give us strength. Ironically, all these expressions of cultural intolerance and separateness have made us improve our focus, have made us more sensitive to the realities of the people left behind, have made us more aware and more critical of the failures in our systems, from inequality to regional blight, to natural resource depletion.
We have been called to reflect on how an evidence-based institution can survive in a “fake news” environment. Of course, we must bring the power of our evidence, our research and our data to centre stage. But it’s not just about defending facts. Indeed, in 2017, we stood up for the values that define us, while acknowledging that a lot needs to change to make globalisation work for all. We need to chart a new globalisation, based on a new concept of growth, one that is more equitable, people-centred, focused on well-being and sustainability.
And we are making progress. The ‘NAEC’ state-of-mind burned bright at the OECD in 2017. We led the way on issues like women’s empowerment, targeted support on migration and integration, preventing ageing unequally, the PISA Global Competence Framework and its work on student well-being, as well as work on green growth and budgeting, making trade work for all and digitalisation, to name just a few. At our 2017 MCM, ably Chaired by Denmark, we committed to work together to ensure that the benefits of globalisation are more widely shared. We scaled up support to the G7 and G20 including our Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth report. The Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity, where we have made a substantial contribution, helped to avoid a trade war. This was multilateralism at work, crafting collective solutions to global problems. BEPS is another example. In June 2017 more than 70 countries and jurisdictions signed the OECD’s multilateral convention on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS). In September 2017, the first automatic exchanges of tax information (AEOI) also began, with 85 billion euros already collected as a result of voluntary disclosure. I want to congratulate the Chair of the G20, Germany, and the Chair of the G7, Italy, for the meaningful outcomes that they brought about in all these areas during their Presidencies. It was a privilege to work with them.
These were just some of many ground-breaking achievements. Your achievements. At a time when global integration was being questioned you kept pushing the boundaries of what multilateralism can achieve: how it can empower the vulnerable and the disadvantaged; how it can tackle climate change and protect biodiversity; how it can foster innovation and skills; promote integrity and women’s empowerment; trigger bottom-up development; improve security and health; and preserve the global agreements that are reconfiguring and improving globalisation.
Your effort and dynamism were vital at a time when tectonic shifts in geopolitics, the speed of technological change and the complexity of cross-border challenges brought unprecedented unpredictability and a growing need for multilateral action. In the words of the great Scottish scientist, Alexander Fleming, “the more complex the world becomes, the more difficult it is to complete something without the co-operation of others”.
Dear friends: it is time to strengthen multilateralism. It is time to improve multilateralism. It is time to defend multilateralism. We defend multilateralism by reforming it; by making it more inclusive, open, transparent and adaptable; by making it work for the many; by building the political will for more international co-operation and showing how this can lead to better policies for better lives. 2018 is a big open window of opportunity to do just that.
This year our co-ordinated effort will crystallise at the 2018 MCM on the crucial challenge of “La refondation du Multilateralisme”. We are working closely with our Chair, France, and our Vice Chairs, Latvia and New Zealand, who set the bar high as beacons of openness and dialogue. We are also intensifying our support to multilateral fora like the Argentinian and Canadian G20 and G7 Presidencies, and scaling up our work with APEC, ASEAN and the Pacific Alliance.
This year we will strengthen multilateralism in many policy areas, beginning with our SME Ministerial Meeting in Mexico next month; our Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum in March and the Ministerial on Social Policy in May in Montreal. We will be going deep into cross-border challenges like digitalisation, including blockchain, and the governance of data, natural disasters and migration which require a multilateral response. We will also intensify our support to help countries meet multilateral targets, like the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, including at the OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy in Korea in November.
We will strengthen it to deliver effective solutions to achieve inclusive growth, and to deliver on our SDG commitments. Looking at people’s needs. At children, at youth, at all those whose future is now at stake. Looking into issues like housing, infrastructure, skills. And ensuring the continued improved performance in the global economy, and that the risks derived from accumulated imbalances and unintended consequences of the policies we took to address the crisis do not derail the needed recovery.
Nous défendrons également le multilatéralisme en poursuivant notre processus d’élargissement. Nous progressons de manière satisfaisante en ce qui concerne l’adhésion de la Colombie, du Costa Rica et de la Lituanie. La demande d’adhésion de l’Argentine, de la Bulgarie, de la Croatie, du Pérou, et de la Roumanie, ainsi que du Brésil, premier Partenaire clé à engager une telle démarche, est un grand pas en avant pour l’OCDE. Cette volonté d’adhésion à l’Organisation est un signe de notre impact et de notre pertinence ; de notre rayonnement, ainsi que de notre aptitude à faire face aux défis mondiaux et à harmoniser les règles du jeu à l’échelle internationale. Nous travaillons sans relâche aux côtés des Ambassadeurs et au Conseil, et nous devrions être en mesure de déterminer les prochaines étapes pour l’Organisation tôt en 2018.
Nous allons bien sûr approfondir notre réexamen des normes avec le concours de tous nos Comités, continuer à évoluer, à nous développer et à nous améliorer en tant qu’Organisation. Dans l’esprit « NAEC », nous nous soumettrons à un examen minutieux en procédant, avec les Membres, à un exercice d’évaluation générale de notre efficacité commune afin de faire de l’OCDE une institution plus évolutive, plus réactive, plus transparente, et mieux adaptée aux défis qui se profilent.
En ces temps incertains et exigeants, l’OCDE ne peut apporter toutes les réponses, mais elle sera là pour poser les bonnes questions. Elle sera là, forte de ses données concrètes, de la portée et de la solidité de ses travaux de recherche, de la puissance de ses recommandations, de la diffusion de ses normes à l’échelle mondiale et du dévouement de son personnel, c'est-à-dire le vôtre. Elle sera là, déterminée à protéger et renforcer les fondations de notre monde multilatéral.
Remember, the whole point of confronting the future is to shape it! This is what 2018 asks of us. We will work humbly but boldly to heed that call. We can make a difference. This is the year.
Thank you and happy new year to you and your loved ones.