2019 Edelman Trust Barometer


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

OECD, Paris, France - Wednesday 30th January 2019

(As prepared for delivery) 




Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to the OECD. We are delighted to be hosting the presentation in France of the latest findings of the Edelman Trust Barometer, with a focus on France.

Institutional trust is a critical topic for the OECD. Trust is the foundation upon which the legitimacy and sustainability of political systems is built. But governments are increasingly operating in a complex global environment.

The rise of inequalities observed in most OECD and emerging economies is translating into growing political disaffection, anti-market sentiment and disenchantment with globalisation. Such feelings are reflected in the findings of the Edelman Trust Barometer, which shows that “only one in five feels that the system is working for them, with nearly half of the population believing the system is failing them”.

We have also seen widespread anger over the inability or inaction of governments to address corruption, tax evasion, regulatory capture and other problems. And in countries most severely affected by the crisis, trust in public institutions has been hit hard.

Across countries, trust has plummeted. The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that overall less than half of the general population trust their government. At the OECD, we have also found that only one third of the population think they have a say in what the government does. This is deeply concerning.

What is needed is new and innovative policy responses. In particular, we need to target the disenfranchised and vulnerable groups – such as the youth, older people and those with lower income and less access to information and technology. In short, those who feel they are being left behind.

The OECD is working across many fronts to help empower all citizens to thrive, through our inclusive growth initiative and through new tools like the OECD Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth. Over the years, we have been sharpening our well-being framework, going beyond aggregates and GDP figures and listening to people’s concerns and to the things that matters to them.

Our research evidences that high-quality public services, which bring well-being and opportunity to people and translate into better lives, are the ultimate driver of trust in institutions. And while the policies themselves matter, having a transparent, open and inclusive policymaking process matters too. Acting to strengthen rules on lobbying, conflict of interest and political financing, as well as giving stakeholders and citizens meaningful opportunities to participate, can help rebuild trust in public institutions.

The OECD is developing better measures and a policy framework for improving the trustworthiness of institutions. Look at the Guidelines on Trust Measurement, through which we present a series of questionnaires with the highest criteria of statistical quality for National Statistical Offices. We hope that as more countries adopt these instruments, we will have more and better official evidence on trust.

We have also launched the Trustlab initiative, where we are collecting data to inform the determinants of interpersonal and institutional trust. Based on an analysis of 7 countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Korea and Slovenia) the Trustlab  has found that the most important drivers of trust in government are perceived integrity of high-level officials, perceived government reliability and satisfaction with a range of public services. This year we will be developing new modules to better understand the links between trust and open government.

Our work on the drivers of trust are summarized in the report Trust and Public Policy and in the first country case study conducted in Korea. Both indicate that the two broad areas where attention should be focused on restoring institutional trust are Government Competence and Values.

Of course, it is also paramount to address the cancer of corruption, an area in which the OECD has been working for decades. In March 2018, we released the OECD Strategic Approach to Combating Corruption and Promoting Integrity, which provides a framework for ensuring the OECD’s work in this area is coherent and impactful. One of the key components is deepening our evidence base – including the identification of reliable indicators for measuring corruption and its impact, as well as the efficacy of anti-corruption policies.

However, prevention is even better than a cure. The combat against corruption begins with a culture of integrity, and integrity values can be a powerful lever to building trust.

The OECD identified four key policy levers as being particularly powerful in building trust and confidence. 

  • First, governments’ definition of integrity values can cultivate trust in public policies, especially when they encompass principles such as inclusion and transparency. 

  • Second, we also found that it is important to capitalise on opportunities for demonstrating integrity to citizens, such as large public infrastructure projects and major events. 

  • Third, the role of political or senior leaders acting as an example is also crucial.

  • Last but not least, it is essential to strengthen local integrity systems. Citizens’ levels of trust are often forged through public services and more frequent and direct interactions with public institutions who “think and act locally” is likely to solidify trust.

And while I have mainly referred to trust in public institutions, let me conclude by highlighting also the importance of trust in business, which Edelman also covers in it analysis. We at the OECD think that it is critical to restore the trust of citizens in the system, and in order to do so we are tackling some of the most pervasive problems, like bribery by companies or the adequate taxation of economic activity. We are also working hand in hand with the private sector on its responsibility towards society, beyond shareholders, through initiatives like our recently launched Business for Inclusive Growth.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While the challenges are complex and diverse, let me conclude on a positive note. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, although trust in institutions remains well below pre-crisis levels, it has risen modestly from 2018 to 2019. While this trend could reverse, it is nevertheless a positive sign to drive us forward in our shared efforts.

At the OECD, we see immense opportunities for the public sector to regain citizens’ trust. It requires investing in good public governance and moving towards a more inclusive society. Count on the OECD every step of the way as together we strive to design, develop, deliver, and measure, better integrity policies for better lives. Thank you.




See also:

OECD work on Public Governance


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