Social and welfare issues

OECD and international organisations to develop new approach to measuring progress of societies


02/07/2007 - The OECD is to work with other international organisations and partners to develop a new approach to measuring how societies are changing by using high quality, reliable statistics to assess progress in a range of areas affecting citizens’ quality of life.

The OECD, the European Commission, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the United Nations, the UN Development Programme and the World Bank affirmed in a declaration their commitment to measuring and fostering the progress of societies in all dimensions, with the ultimate goal of improving policy making, democracy and citizens’ wellbeing.

Their declaration came at the close of the second OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy, held in Istanbul on 27-30 June. Participants agreed on the need for national statistical offices, academics and public and private bodies to work with civil society on new approaches going beyond conventional economic indicators such gross domestic product (GDP).

“In the end, what we are trying to do is not just to measure progress and well-being but to achieve it,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría told Forum participants. Key indicators to assess progress would look at such factors as health, education and the environment, as well as economic factors such as employment, productivity and purchasing power.

The development of such indicators, understood and known by society as a whole, can provide “a unique opportunity to improve the ways in which our policies are made and breathe new life into the democratic processes,” Mr. Gurría said.

During the closing session of the Forum, the OECD proposed a Global Project on “Measuring the Progress of Societies”. International organisations such as the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme and representatives from OECD countries and from African, Asian, Latin American and Middle-Eastern countries expressed their commitment to join in this endeavour.

Among various ideas under study, the OECD is thinking of creating an Internet site based on Web 2.0 “wiki” technologies for the presentation and discussion of international, national and local initiatives aimed at developing indicators of societal progress. By making indicators accessible to citizens all over the world through dynamic graphics and other analytical tools, this initiative would aim to stimulate discussion based on solid and comparable statistical information about what progress actually means.

By strengthening individual citizens’ capacity of understanding the social and economic context in which they live, the proposed Global Project has the potential to improve national and international policy making, thereby strengthening democratic institutions and processes while respecting historical and cultural differences between societies. Among other things, it can contribute to international discussions in the run-up to the review in 2015 of the current set of Millennium Development Goals and Indicators.

The second OECD World Forum debated a wide variety of issues, from ageing populations to new technology and from climate change to immigration. Many of the papers presented are available at the Forum website:

For further information, journalists are invited to contact the OECD’s Media Division (tel: + 33 1 4524 9700).


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