Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, delivered on the occasion of the official visit of the President of Israel, Shimon Peres
President Peres, Ambassador Gal, Ambassador Barkan, OECD Ambassadors, friends:
Shalom and welcome to the OECD!
It is a great honour to welcome the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, to the OECD. This is indeed a historic occasion.
President Peres is one of the greatest statesmen of our times. His service to Israel has been precious and lifelong. Between his first appointment as head of the Israeli Navy when he was 24 years old, until his current position as President of Israel, Shimon Peres has occupied nearly every major cabinet position in the Israeli Government.
His dedication to Israel has been powered by the same spirit that has driven his Battling for Peace in his region, as the title of his Memoires eloquently reads. This tireless search for peace has been honoured by various important international awards, like the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994; the Honorary Knighthood received from Queen Elizabeth in 2008; or the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2012.
Riding on these and other achievements, his drive for a better world continues. That’s why he is here today, to deliver an important message on "Global Public Private Partnerships for Development", but also to launch a path-breaking initiative to move forward; an initiative that the OECD, the Development Center and EMNET will be very happy to support.
Shimon Peres is not only an action man, he is also committed to self-improvement. In his own words: “there is no end to learning, there is no end to research, there is no end to imagination — and no limit to creativity.” I am sure that this philosophy can explain part of President Peres’ drive to get Israel into the OECD and frame Israel’s active participation in this Organisation.
Less than three years have passed since Israel joined our Organisation, and I’m delighted to report that this collaboration is proving to be as fertile as the Hula Valley.
In a very short period, Israel has become an important contributor to the OECD’s work. It is now a full member of more than 100 Committees and Bodies, and vice-chairs 5 of them. Its knowledge on key areas for the viability of our economies, like water management, “clean-techs” and entrepreneurship, is becoming a source of best practices. Its contribution to our privacy protection standards and consumer protection policy has been outstanding. Its support to our work with the MENA countries is also highly valuable.
Israel is also making best use of its OECD membership, working with us to face crucial challenges, from making Israel a more inclusive society, designing more inclusive social policies, as well as labour market and vocational training policies; to incorporating new measures of progress as part of The Better Life Initiative; from expanding access to quality health care; to helping Israel make the most of its energy resources and develop better clean-tech clusters in places like the Negev region, another of President Peres life-long concerns.
Israel’s rich history and cultural diversity are also bringing new perspectives to the OECD. This is making us stronger. Because the strength of our countries and institutions relies on their capacity to learn from “others”. As the Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes once remarked: “Cultures die in isolation, just as they flourish in communication”. Israel and the OECD are surely proving this right.
I now pass the floor to President Peres.