11th Annual Meeting of the United Nations Governing Body Secretariats (UNGBS) network


Closing remarks by Angel Gurría

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, France - 26 March 2019

(As prepared for delivery) 



Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to participate in the 11th Annual Meeting of the United Nations Governing Body Secretariats network. The OECD is delighted to host the 2019 meeting here in Paris.

Over the past two days, you have discussed the future of multilateralism and the role of governing bodies. This is both timely and relevant. Governing body secretariats are in the frontlines in the fight for more effective, transparent and reliable multilateralism. But we need to act in synchronicity, to be even more efficient, more effective.


Multilateralism is being challenged

Today, multilateralism is challenged by many leaders and distrusted by many citizens in many countries. Criticised for being unable to respond sufficiently fast or effectively to the challenges posed by globalisation, many view multilateralism as opaque and slow. It is the responsibility of those faced with the complexities of our globalised economies, to show the potential that
co-operation and openness hold, and the ability to harness multilateralism to improve the lives of all citizens. This is why these discussions are so important.

Multilateralism, in spite of its imperfections and challenges, has delivered and is delivering remarkable progress: think of hunger, extreme poverty, aids, malaria, child labour, the SDGs, the Paris Agreement. Here at the OECD we have reached ground-breaking international agreements on Automatic Exchange of Information for tax purposes (AEOI) and on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) to address the tax challenges arising from digitalisation, or our efforts to develop principles to foster trust in, and adoption, of AI. We are also making progress on tackling corruption and strengthening integrity through multilateral tools such as the Anti-Bribery Convention, the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct, to name just a few.

Even our rules-based international trading system, which has been the foundation of global commerce for over 70 years, has continuously evolved. It had to be adapted to technological, environmental, economic and geo-political changes. That remains true now.


Multilateralism is the answer, but we need to do it better 

Multilateralism is the only answer to the challenges our world faces, but we need to do it better. Today we can perceive clear signs that tell us that international co-operation needs to improve. It needs to become more effective, more inclusive, more transparent, more democratic and more sustainable.

We need to make multilateralism work for the many, because the globalisation we have shaped and promoted is leaving too many people behind. It is high time to recognise that something is not working when the world’s richest 1% accumulate 50% of the world’s wealth; when more than 60% of the world’s employed work informally; and when inequalities around the world keep growing.

We must listen to the concerns of those citizens who have been left behind. Whose trust in governments, institutions, companies, corporations, banks and even international organisations has been severely eroded.


The Role of Governing Bodies Secretariats in strengthening multilateralism 

With this in mind, the collective efforts from the community of international organisations are essential to ensure a more effective, more reliable and more accountable multilateralism.

International organisations are a “diverse community”, which can be seen from the membership of the UNGBS network and your presence today. They have their own distinct mandates, expertise and strengths, and are organised in different ways. Still, we all share some features and a common supreme mission: to improve human wellbeing through multilateral cooperation.

All governing body Secretariats strive for efficient, transparent and high-quality governance, smooth decision-making and consensus building. The growing mistrust in institutions - be they national or international - forces us to be more relevant, accountable and responsive; more sensitive to the political uncertainties in our member countries; more connected to the dreams and concerns of our civil society.

Today’s meeting also fosters greater collaboration among international organisations, by sharing knowledge and best practices. That is the raison d’ être of the network.


Ladies and Gentleman,

A more inclusive, transparent and reliable multilateralism is key to achieving the ambitious 2030 agenda. Transparent and high-quality governance structures together with agile and efficient governing body secretariats are both crucial and strategic, for the implementation of SDGs, for our economies, and for our societies.

Let’s keep learning from each other and coordinating our approaches. Remember the words of Amit Ray, the Indian writer and pioneer of compassionate artificial intelligence: “Collaboration is the essence of life. The wind, bees and flowers work together, to spread the pollen”. So let’s pursue and strengthen this collaboration to give new life to multilateralism and make it work for the many. Thank you.



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