Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría
Paris, Tuesday 27 March 2018
(As prepared for delivery)
Prime Ministers, Vice Presidents, Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the 6th Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum. Allow me to begin by thanking the Prime Minister of Iceland, Ms. Katrin Jakobsdottir, the Prime Minister of Norway, Ms. Erna Solberg, the Vice President of Argentina, Ms. Gabriela Michetti, and the First Vice President of the European Commission, Mr. Frans Timmermans, for joining us.
I would also like to thank the UK Government for supporting the Forum, as well as our partners from business and civil society: the OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Council (BIAC), Transparency International, the Business for Social Responsibility, the Centre for Public Impact, the Natural Resource Governance Institute, the Open Government Partnership, to name just a few. This Forum is clearly a magnetic force. This is important, because we need a big impulse to forge Planet Integrity.
Planet Integrity is not a distant dream, it’s an urgent necessity. Our citizens are losing faith, a situation which worsened with the crisis. On average, only two fifths of citizens in OECD countries (42%) have trust in their national government. The OECD average trust level has fallen three percentage points since 2007, and in some countries like Chile, Finland, Greece and Slovenia, trust has collapsed by more than 20 percentage points.
Trust in business is slightly better, but not by much. In 2017, just over half of the people surveyed by the Edelman Trust Barometer (52%) trusted business.
These perceptions are driven by complex and inter-related causes. While seeing their dreams and expectations eroded by nearly 10 years of economic crisis and a slow recovery, people have been witnessing a series of high profile misconduct, corruption and tax evasion and avoidance cases. There is also a widespread feeling that the global system has been stacked for the benefit of a privileged few.
The numbers tell the story. The average income of the richest 10% across the OECD is now almost ten times that of the poorest 10%, up from seven times a generation ago, that’s a 40% increase. When you look at wealth, at the last count, the top 1% wealthiest households in OECD countries for which comparable data are available, owned almost a fifth (18%) of total household wealth. The bottom 40% owned less than 3% (2.6%). But falling trust is also linked to the quality of public services, and anxieties about technology and globalisation.
This low trust environment provides fertile ground for populism, nationalism and protectionism. Many citizens are now questioning the efficiency and fairness of market economies, the value of openness, the multilateral system and even the functionality of our political institutions and democracy itself. This is a critical challenge. We need to rebuild this trust. Restoring and strengthening integrity is essential for this purpose.
Building Planet Integrity is vital to regain trust and foster more inclusive and productive growth. This is why the OECD has identified re-building public trust in governments and business through greater integrity and accountability as a key pillar of our Framework for Action on Inclusive Growth, and this is why the anti-corruption fight is critical for the Productivity-Inclusiveness Nexus. It is also at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG 16). Integrity cultivates a level playing field for business; it helps to reduce socio-economic inequalities, and makes public policies more effective.
To achieve this, we need to invest in people throughout the life-cycle, by improving education and skills, ensuring access to quality universal healthcare and providing adequate social safety nets. If people are empowered to compete on equal grounds for opportunities, their trust in the capacity of the global system to improve their lives and that of their children can be restored.
It is also critical to instil in the children of today the importance of integrity. Which is why I am happy to launch today our report, Education for Integrity: Teachings on Anti-Corruption, Values and the Rule of Law, aimed to help policymakers and teachers instil in our young people a sense of integrity, respect for the rule of law and the rejection of corruption in all its forms.
Bringing the human dimension to the core of integrity is also about embracing new approaches to understanding and combatting corruption. We have to channel the spirit of our New Approaches to Economic Challenges initiative (NAEC). Traditionally, efforts to prevent corruption have been based on a rational decision-making model. We must go beyond policies that favour control and sanctions, which limit the motivation for integrity, and which signal distrust.
Our new study, Behavioural Insights for Public Integrity: Harnessing the Human Factor to Counter Corruption, which we are launching at this Forum is breaking new ground in understanding the very human choices and behaviour that lie behind integrity. These insights provide a powerful new tool which I urge you to draw on and apply in your respective policy areas and countries.
We have talked so far about the human dimension such as inclusiveness and behavioural insights. But there is also the collective, multilateral dimension.
Corruption is often a faceless and borderless crime. Illicit financial flows, cybercrimes and human trafficking are the “dark” side of globalisation. Tackling this must be a global priority, particularly in 2018 as we seek to ‘refound multilateralism’, the focus of the OECD’s Ministerial Council Meeting next May.
The OECD will, of course, continue to support the ambitious anti-corruption agenda of the G20, G7 and APEC. I am encouraged to see that Argentina’s G20 Presidency is taking on conflict of interest and corruption in state-owned enterprises and that foreign bribery remains a top G20 anti-corruption priority. We will continue to call on all G20 countries to adhere to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which turned 20 last year. And we will continue our drive to ensure effective implementation by all adherents to the Convention.
We should continue to leverage our different instruments to improve business conduct and practices by strengthening the links with the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises, the OECD/G20 Principles of Corporate Governance and our various due diligence guidances, which we are constantly updating. And, of course, also with the OECD/G20 BEPS Project which is bringing a global tax revolution, modernising international tax rules so there is “nowhere to hide”.
We also need to develop new partnerships and move into new areas of multilateral co-operation, such as the International Partnership Against Corruption in Sports, which the OECD is supporting. And we need to work with even more countries, so we all advance and learn together. As we speak, we are working on several major anti-corruption and integrity projects in countries like Greece, Mexico and Ukraine, engaging with local authorities. Earlier this month, the OECD launched the Integrity Review of Thailand, the first of its kind in Asia, which is already bearing fruit. We look forward to hearing more about this tomorrow, when Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Wissanu Krea-ngam will join us for the closing session.
Corruption is a moving target and we have to ensure we constantly update our instruments and remain useful as a multilateral forum to promote integrity. This is why we are adopting a more coherent approach to our anti-corruption and integrity work through the OECD Strategic Approach to Combating Corruption and Promoting Integrity, which I am launching today.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Over the next two days, you are going to be discussing how to consolidate and strengthen integrity in this planet. For that we need to improve the governance of globalisation and its role in curbing corruption and unethical practices in areas such as trade, competition, infrastructure, development co-operation, and revenue collection.
As you do so, I ask you to keep in mind the majestic ship on display in our conference centre. This vessel reminds us, first, that globalisation began hundreds of years ago, with exploration, to find new trade routes and bring different cultures closer; second, that this venture has always faced challenging headwinds and dangers. And third, it reminds us, that like the heroic Argonauts of Greek mythology, it needs a diverse, committed and talented crew, working together as one, to find the golden fleece of integrity.
Let the journey begin!