Meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Remarks by the Secretary-General of the OECD


Meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General
Paris, Wednesday 21st February 2007

It is a great pleasure to welcome everyone to today's meeting.  As you may know, this is my first meeting with NATO Parliamentary Assembly's Economics and Security Committee as the OECD Secretary-General.  

The annual visit to the OECD by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly is a very important event, as it is an opportunity for leading legislators and parliamentarians to learn more about the work of the OECD, and perhaps more importantly, to provide your comments and advice. I am also happy that this meeting is now open to parliamentarians from non-NATO members of the OECD, and therefore, I would like to offer a special welcome to the representatives from Finland, Korea and Mexico.

The agenda for today is an exciting one. The issues you will be addressing are high in the international agenda, as the interconnections between security and economic growth are increasingly complex. Although security is not in itself an issue that the OECD addresses, it is undeniable that it is the basis for sustainable growth and development. Topics for today are part of this discussion and will be presented by our experts in different parts of the house.

First you will start with the economic outlook and then William Ramsay from the International Energy Agency will talk about energy developments and prospects. Then, Carolyn Ervin, from the Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs, will address the financial management of major risks; and finally Alexandra Trzeciak-Duval from the Development Co-operation Directorate will present the issue of development effectiveness in fragile states.

To this interesting discussion, I want to add an introductory remark about the role of the OECD in a globalised economy. This role is defined by the Mandates that member countries have given to us back in 2006:

The first one has to do with the global reach and relevance of the Organisation. Therefore, we need to face the challenge of enlargement following the decision of our Council to identify countries for potential accession and countries for enhanced engagement. The OECD Council, which I chair, has been working very hard on this issue, and we hope that some important decisions will be made by OECD Ministers at their meeting on 15/16 May this year, chaired by Pedro Solbes, Spain's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister. 

Second, we are looking hard to strengthen our role as the permanent hub for dialogue on global economic issues.  As you know, for many people in this world, in particular in developing and emerging countries, globalisation is closely associated with opportunities for employment, access to education and health care, economic prosperity, reduction of poverty. Others, including in OECD Member countries, link globalisation to growing uncertainty and insecurity in the job market, increasing inequality between and within nations, exploitation of irreplaceable natural resources, the growing power of large multinationals operating outside democratic processes and the sacrifice of cultural and other values to the vagaries of the marketplace.

Indeed, recent worldwide surveys highlight the growing lack of confidence in leaders to improve peoples' lives and increasing pessimism on whether the next generation will live in a safer and more prosperous world.  This is an important issue on which the OECD needs to strengthen its dialogue with parliamentarians like yourselves -- because, in such an environment, coalitions for successful economic reforms are not easily forged and reforms are harder to initiate.

Third, this brings me to the issue of the implementation of policy reforms or the "political economy of reform".  In many countries, well-designed reform strategies have failed to be implemented or sustained due to their near-term political costs.  So, OECD ministers asked the Organisation to study the success stories and failures in reforms undertaken by countries.  There are of course many factors.  Typically, the costs of reform materialise upfront, while their benefits may be gradual or long term. Or their impact may be concentrated on strong well-organised groups, while benefits may go to a very broad population or groups with little lobbying power. Or immediate social objectives may be seen to conflict with long-term economic priorities.

But, in my view, one critical element in getting reforms implemented is developing partnerships with key actors like parliamentarians to push ahead a positive reform agenda and to help inform and convince our societies of the benefits of such reforms -- or the costs of the absence of reform. The OECD can offer a wealth of information and analysis, based on the experience members have shared over the decades under its auspices, drawing on the expertise of its committees and staff. 

It is in this context that I particularly value this opportunity to meet with you, and look forward to discussing these issues with you over lunch.  As law-makers, you are an integral part of the policy process. As democratically elected representatives of our citizens, you are intimately aware of public concerns about globalisation and technological progress. In short, you are ideal partners for joining forces with the OECD in building "coalitions for reform".

Thank you for this opportunity of saying a few words to you.  I look forward to seeing you over lunch.


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