Opening remarks by Angel Gurría
18 March 2019 - Athens, Greece
(As prepared for delivery)
Mayors, Vice Mayors, Heads of delegation, Champion Mayors Supporting Institutions, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Fourth Meeting of OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth. I would particularly like to thank the Mayor of Athens, Mr Georgios Kaminis, and the team here at City Hall for hosting us in beautiful Athens. This is a city that combines its rich historical heritage with a unique ability to redefine itself. Despite the many difficulties and challenges that the crisis has brought, Athens is always responding to the present with the strength of its past and the hope of its future. It is not by coincidence that it has received the 2018 European Capital of Innovation Award!
I would also like to thank our supporting institutions, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Bloomberg Philanthropies, UCLG, and United Way Worldwide , and the Ford Foundation. Thank you George McCarthy, James Anderson, Emilia Saiz, and Brian Gallagher for being with us today. These institutions are champions of local leadership in their own right and believers that cities hold the potential to lead us to a sustainable and inclusive future.
We cannot dispute the growing importance of cities. Cities today concentrate more than half of people, jobs and GDP in OECD countries. Capital regions, have become centres of entrepreneurship and innovation; in fact, enterprise creation and employment creation by new firms are more than 60% higher in capitals. One of our recent flagship reports, Regions and Cities at a Glance, reported that income levels in cities tend to be about 21% above national averages.
At the same time, it is in cities where we find the biggest disparities between the haves and the have-nots. Data shows that income inequalities in cities tend to be higher, by about 3.3% compared to the rest of the country and wage gaps amongst the high and low skilled become more noticeable in urban areas. Moreover, a number of OECD countries also have higher poverty rates in metropolitan areas.
The OECD has been helping governments to address these challenges, and to refocus their economic and social policies towards inclusive growth. During our 2018 Ministerial Council Meeting, we released the ‘Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth’ which provides governments with guidance on how to design and implement policies that sustain and more equitably share the benefits of growth.
We are also helping governments and sub-national governments to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. In fact, only a few weeks ago we organised the first OECD Roundtable on Cities and Regions for the SDGs. The roundtable focused on identifying trends and challenges in the localisation of the SDGs by using the findings from the pilots of the programme “A territorial approach to SDGs. A role for cities and regions to leave no one behind”.
This week marks exactly three years since the launch of the Inclusive Growth in Cities Campaign in New York with Mayor de Blasio, an offshoot of the OECD’s Inclusive Growth initiative launched in 2012 in co-operation with the Ford Foundation.
Since the launch of the Campaign, the quest for inclusion in cities has spread like wildfire! We see it incorporated into housing, in neighbourhood investment initiatives and in climate strategies. It also permeates policies that integrate new arrivals in cities, and recognises small businesses and local entrepreneurs’ importance in the local economic fabric.
We are also seeing a new crop of leaders committed to advancing inclusion, in fact, we have a number of new Champion Mayors here with us today, the Mayors of Fukuoka, Glasgow, Reykjavik, and Santa Monica !
Over the past three years, Champion Mayors have shared their innovative and novel approaches. For example, some are using well-being data to guide budget allocations as well as to find new ways of incorporating residents into local decision-making. While others are focusing on tackling barriers which prevent women from entering and from staying in the workforce. This includes, boosting opportunities for entrepreneurs and for small businesses owners.
One word comes to mind to describe these efforts, and that is innovation.
Innovation today is shaping the cities of tomorrow and taking local policymaking to the next level. By confronting a challenge such as inequality, and putting in place the conditions to advance inclusive growth, local administrations had to break from tradition, and find new ways to address urban challenges.
Last year, municipalities – many of you here today – participated in a Survey on Cities’ Capacity to Innovate, which was launched by the Champion Mayors Initiative and Bloomberg Philanthropies.
You will be hearing more about the aggregate results. But let me share one key finding: when cities were asked what was one of the leading factors in helping them innovate, the overwhelming response was the support of city leadership! We were certainly not surprised by this. The OECD started the Champion Mayors Initiative because we realised that for inclusive growth to take shape in cities, it would need strong local leadership.
The three modes of innovation that we will be discussing today – social, public-sector, and technological – have taught us that the capacity to innovate should not be taken for granted. It is often difficult to reimagine and reshape old and established systems such as the way we educate our youth; the financial mechanisms that we rely on to build affordable housing; as well as, how and which services are delivered.
But, innovate, we must! It is necessary if we are to seize the opportunities and mitigate risks emerging from major transformations – megatrends – which are taking place in our economies and societies. Our discussions here will focus on these issues and undoubtedly set the stage for tomorrow’s 7th Roundtable of Mayors and Ministers and the 4th Ministerial Meeting on Regional Development Policy that will follow.
Let me close by highlighting one of the most important dimensions of innovation: INCLUSION! Earlier today we launched the Athens Roadmap on Innovation for Inclusive Growth in Cities, charting ways forward to leverage innovation for inclusive growth. Among others, the Roadmap places special emphasis on the effects of a more digitalised and tech-driven future and focuses on how we can tackle inequality questions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we take our work forward, let us be reminded of the words of a local statesman, Pericles, “what you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
In this vein let us work together, share best practices and lessons learnt and let us weave innovation and inclusion into our decision-making processes and into our policies. The OECD stands ready to work with and for you at this exciting time for cities around the world. Thank you.