Democratic governments want policies that are in the best interest of their citizens. But how can they – and their voters – be sure they are making the right choices? One answer is by learning from the experience of others. Among the OECD’s core strengths is its ability to offer its members a framework to compare experiences and examine “best practices” in a host of areas from economic policy to environmental protection.
OECD peer reviews, where each country’s policy in a particular area is examined by fellow members on an equal basis, lie at the heart of this process. A country seeking to reduce unemployment, for example, can learn valuable lessons from its peers on what has worked and what has not. This can save time, and costly experimenting, in crafting effective national policies. The recommendations resulting from such a review can also help governments win support at home for difficult measures. And perhaps most importantly, because everyone goes through the same exercise, no country feels it is being singled out. Today’s reviewers will be in the hot seat themselves tomorrow.
Peer review has been used at the OECD since the organisation was created more than 50 years ago. It has evolved over time to take account of new developments, including the involvement of civil society, business and labour. One measure of the success of the OECD peer review process is that other international organisations have also adopted the method, although the practice has been most extensively developed at the OECD. More recently, members of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) have asked the OECD to help them bring peer review to their region.