by Angel Gurría, Secretary-General
Madrid (Spain), 20 October
It is a great honour for me to be here with the Mayor of Madrid, Mr. Ruiz Gallardon, and the President of the Club of Madrid, Mr. Ricardo Lagos, to announce an important forthcoming OECD conference on cities.
OECD is an international organisation comprised of national government representatives and it also works with key mayors around the world. The reason is simple: the OECD’s mandate is to make the world economy work better to the benefit of all, and we will not be able to achieve this goal without the active involvement of big cities.
Cities are the motor of the national economies. Most OECD metropolitan regions have a higher GDP per capita than their national average and a higher growth rate. But cities also confront the greatest challenges: poverty, unemployment, industrial restructuring, pollution, criminality, etc.
Dealing with these issues is a difficult balancing act when cities are also facing fierce economic competition from other cities to attract investment and talent. It requires wise policies and well functioning institutions - at all levels - to implement them. It also requires a good and transparent decision-making process that takes into account the voice of citizens and representatives of different sectors.
It is in this context that the OECD has strengthened its programme of work on urban areas focusing not only on traditional urban issues that are crucial for our cities - housing, transport, social development - but addressing as well important issues such as competitiveness and governance that have often been overlooked in the past.
Specific cases studies, we call them metropolitan reviews, have been conducted in some 15 metropolitan areas including Montreal, Milan, Helsinki, Athens, Melbourne, Seoul, Mexico City and Istanbul. I was in Istanbul three days ago with that city's Mayor, to discuss the ongoing work that we are conducting in this impressive mega-city.
But we are also conducting a territorial review of Madrid. I know that it is ongoing and due to be finalised by mid 2007. I understand that there is excellent collaboration for this process and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the City of Madrid.
Actually, our cooperation with Madrid is intense. This year, Mayor Gallardon gave an impressive speech in our OECD annual Forum, which for the first time included a special session on cities and globalisation.
OECD work on cities so far has been very productive. It has given our member countries increased understanding of large cities including their contribution to the national as well as the global economy.
Now it is time to move forward. It is time to rethink our urban agenda. This will be the purpose of this conference and we are confident that this event will be successful.