The OECD offers selected non-member economies the possibility to adhere to OECD instruments and to participate in formal OECD bodies (ad hoc invitations, observership, full participation). There are about 40 Committees and more than 160 Working Groups/Parties, Expert Groups, specific Programmes and Schemes, Governing Boards and other Advisory Groups.
Many non-members currently participate as observers or participants in at least one OECD Committee with many more non-member countries contributing to at least one OECD working party, scheme or programme. Admission of the non-member requires approval by the OECD Council.
Detailed information on non-members’ participation in formal OECD bodies is available at OECD’s On-line Guide to Intergovernmental Activity.
OECD’s annual Ministerial Council Meetings provide the precious opportunity to discuss global issues such as globalisation, trade, corporate governance, changing demography, sustainable development, etc. at the ministerial level with the world’s leading government officials, high-level policy makers and experts.
Since 1999 selected non-members have had the possibility to participate as observers in the OECD’s Ministerial Council Meetings. Non-member participation enriches discussions with external viewpoints and thereby enhances the value of the meetings. In 2008, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa, as well as the five candidates for OECD membership, were invited to participate in the main economic sessions of the OECD 2008 Ministerial Council Meetings.
OECD Committees are ongoing intergovernmental forums that bring together officials from 30 member countries, representatives of the Commission of the European Union and from other international organisations, as well as non-member economies, to address problems of common concern and exchange views on “best practices” in many areas of public policy. For non-members, participation in OECD Committees provides not only access to policy advice and analysis in free and open exchanges, but also an opportunity to influence the thinking of policy makers among OECD members.
Committee discussions are supported by the analytical work of the Secretariat and contributions from member country officials. Agreements are reached on the basis of consensus and are reflected in guidelines and codes standards, supported by pressure from their peers. For more detailed information on non-members’ participation in OECD Committees, please consult the OECD’s On-line Guide to Intergovernmental Activity.
Over the last decade the OECD has experienced a sharp increase of the number of non-member observers in OECD subsidiary bodies. Discussions within the OECD Secretariat on the Committees' global relations strategies have revealed that more non-member delegates participate in working groups/parties, specific programmes and schemes than in the parent Committees. For instance, 37 non-members participate in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
The OECD's legal instruments set standards for members in a variety of policy areas. Non-members who adhere to OECD's legal instruments agree to implement the standards and measures, including relevant legislation adressed by the instrument. For example, by participating in the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, non-members agreed to criminalise bribing a foreign public official and put in place adequate sanctions and reliable means for detecting and enforcing the offence. Read more: OECD Decisions, Recommendations and other Instruments in Force
Under certain conditions and with approval by the OECD Council, non-members have the possibility to participate as observers or as full members in OECD bodies. Only a small number of OECD bodies is not open to the participation of non-members. This list will be reviewed, and if necessary, adapted in the light of the enlargement and Enhanced Engagment strategy. The Council decides either on its own initiative or on the recommendation of an OECD Committee having heard the advice of the OECD External Relations Committee (ERC), to invite selected non-member representatives to official sessions of the subsidiary bodies.
Non-members may also express their own interest in participating in the work of a specific subsidiary body. The initiative to launch the procedure leading to an invitation to a non-member lies, however, with the Organisation. Non-member participation in formal OECD bodies is regularly monitored and assessed by the Committees.
Ad hoc invitations to attend as observer at one or more meetings, or relevant parts of meetings, is the first consideration in deciding the appropriate level of participation in a subsidiary body. Ad hoc observers are expected to contribute to the discussion. A non-member may be invited as an ad hoc observer for such purposes as a country review, or an exploration of the nature of the non-member’s expected contribution to the work of the subsidiary body.
"Regular observers" receive an invitation to attend the meetings of a subsidiary body, on the understanding that they will actively participate and fully co-operate in the work of the subsidiary body, including information exchanges. Invitations are generally issued for a period of two years and should relate to the requirements of the Committee’s mandate and programme of work. These invitations can be extended by the Council for further periods also generally of a two-year length. A regular observer is required to make an appropriate financial contribution to the expenses of the Organisation.
Full participation is generally accorded only to a non-member which is willing and able to comply with the relevant disciplines of the Organisation. When non-members join a Committee as full participants they have the same responsibilities and the same rights as members in the Committee concerned, including financial obligations, albeit without representation in the Council, where institutional decisions are made.