Remarks by Angel Gurría,
Paris, 2 November 2016
(As prepared for delivery)
Dear Ambassadors, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here with you today to present the fruits of close co-operation between 50 international organisations by launching the report International Regulatory Co-operation: the Role of International Organisations in Fostering Better Rules of Globalisation. The continuous enthusiasm and joint efforts that have gone into the three years that led to the preparation of this report show we all continuously strive for excellence, reflecting together on how to be ever more relevant, effective and transparent.
Today, collective efforts from the community of international organisations are more than ever essential to promote the well-being of citizens in a globalised world. Many countries are experiencing mounting populism and even xenophobia, largely provoked by the anxiety of those who feel left out from the benefits of globalisation. Citizens suffer from persistently high unemployment and widening income inequalities. Global scandals on corruption, tax evasion or tax avoidance by giant companies underline the unequal distribution of wealth and amplify the public mistrust of elites, experts and institutions.
Countries are therefore facing growing pressure to deliver better policies to manage the globalisation better. At the same time, the world is increasingly interconnected and policymaking cannot be pursued in isolation.
The main challenges today transcend borders: threats posed by climate change, health epidemics, terrorism, tax evasion, illicit financial flows, or social and economic crises all have global causes and effects and need thus global solutions.
Countries must co-ordinate their approaches to achieve together their shared public interest objectives at lower costs. International organisations provide the platform and catalyse the expertise needed to support countries in their collective policy action to manage the undesired effects of globalisation. They have a crucial role to play in setting high standards for protection of social, environmental and human rights. IOs can help address the fragmentation that undermines the effectiveness of domestic, bilateral or regional action. We have seen the striking example of eradication of smallpox thanks to the World Health Organisation.
Thanks to the active participation of all of you present here, the OECD report on International Regulatory Co-operation: the Role of International Organisations in Fostering Better Rules of Globalisation gathers valuable information on the most prominent global standard setters.
We prepared five case studies of FAO, ISO, OIML, UNECE and WHO – carried out by the Secretariat of each organisation in collaboration with OECD staff and the Centre of International Law of Nanterre (CEDIN). These cases give us insights into the evolutions these organisations have undergone to adapt to shifts in global governance. I would like to thank them for being with us today to share their perspectives on international standard setting. I also thank the CEDIN, who added a valuable academic perspective into this project. The report confirms that international organisations involved in global standard-setting are a “diverse community”. They have their own distinct mandates, expertise and strengths, and are organised in different ways. Still, we all share some features. We are all striving to raise the bar of social and economic welfare, guided by people’s needs and concerns. Although all of us are recognized institutions in our own fields of expertise, we must not be complacent. The growing mistrust in institutions - be they national or international- force us to be more relevant, accountable and responsive than ever. And we can be all of the above.
What brings us together is the norms that we develop for our members and beyond, that we exchange our experience on with our peers. Norms that are supported by data collection, research and policy analysis.
But we need to continuously strive to strengthen our culture of excellence in the development of standards. International organisations are showing greater transparency and increasingly reaching out to stakeholders. Enhancing these efforts is paramount to improve the outcome of their action and to deserve the trust of citizens. To be effective, we need to build confidence in the quality of our work and in our capacity to help countries achieve their public policy objectives.
While IOs are well equipped to design and develop standards in policies, they have limited resources to ensure their instruments are effectively implemented and enforced. To a large extent, this falls out of the IOs control: implementation of international obligations, and to a large extent their enforcement, is in the hands of domestic authorities. However, it is only after its implementation that the impact of a new rule can be truly appraised, and only through regular reviews that standards can be assessed for their relevance. International organisations must work with their Members to gain better knowledge about the “afterlife” of international policies. This is critical to ensure that global rules are timely and remain relevant to the quickly evolving world we live in.
We have learnt this through our work on regulatory quality at domestic level, from which there is much to draw to inspire our quest for high quality international rule-making. Let me use this opportunity to thank and congratulate the OECD Regulatory Policy Committee for initiating this important work. It is not by chance that this work has developed as a joint undertaking of our regulatory policy experts and our legal officers here at the OECD. It takes a subtle combination of lawyers and economists to understand the intricacies of international rule-making.
The OECD sees it as a strategic priority to strengthen and maximise the impact of our existing standards, and to identify the areas in which we need to develop new ones. We have launched an internal process to this effect. Our yearly discussions with peers have underlined that they are thinking about these same issues today.
This platform we have built together since 2014 provides an unprecedented setting of multilateral actors, invaluable to exchange experiences and learn from one other on international standard setting, hence following a core OECD methodology and value: peer learning. Let us use this opportunity to make our organisations ever more useful and relevant.
To start, we could build on the shared challenges for all 50 IOs identified in the report. There are in my view four areas that would deserve further action:
These four areas point towards the untapped potential of international organisations. I see this report as laying the foundation of a long- lasting exchange of views and experiences on our standard-setting activities. I look forward to hearing your views and working with you towards building a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable world.