A mission to promote inclusive growth in cities


OECD/Ford Habitat III side event on Getting to Inclusive Growth in Cities

Remarks by Angel Gurría

Secretary-General, OECD

Quito, Ecuador, 17 October 2016 



Minister Lee, Deputy Assistant Secretary Tregoning, Mayors, ladies and gentlemen,


It is an honour to join you in this event. Each and every one of us here in Quito is united in a single mission: to promote stronger, sustainable and inclusive growth. And to deliver, we must rely on cities!


It is a mission that we will enshrine in the Declaration on the  Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All  that will be adopted in Quito. And it is the mission at the heart of the OECD’s Inclusive Growth in Cities Initiative.


Inequality: A global challenge on an urban scale


The urgency of this mission is clear enough: today, across much of the world, inequality is running rampant! On average across the OECD, the top 10% of the income distribution earn around 10 times the income of the bottom 10%, up from just 7 times 30 years ago. In some emerging markets the situation is markedly worse: in Brazil, the ratio between the richest 10% and the poorest 10% stands at approximately 50 to 1. In South Africa, it is over 100 to 1! 


Yet, whilst inequality is a global and national challenge, it is most keenly felt in cities.


Cities are the epicentres of opportunity and inequality. In OECD countries, 50% of the population calls a city home. The share is much larger in other regions: here in Latin America, the most urbanised region in the world, around 80% of the population lives in cities, and this figure will continue to rise.


Cities are our economies’ lifeblood, contributing to 60% of total employment creation and GDP growth in the OECD area since 2001. Yet as we demonstrate in our new OECD report, Making Cities Work for All, cities are also more unequal than their respective countries. Inequalities tend to be even higher in larger cities: Copenhagen, Brussels, Paris and Santiago, for instance, all record the highest Gini coefficients in their respective country.


It is also important to remember that inequality is not just a matter of income. It extends into every area of our lives, from education to employment to health. Where you live can also affect how long you live, with places like London and Baltimore seeing life expectancy ranging by an enormous 20 years across neighbourhoods! 


When the poorest are unable to fulfil their potential, we all lose out. And so does the economy! OECD research suggests that inequality hurts economic growth over the long term, particularly when it dashes opportunities for better education and health for lower and middle income groups.


Inclusive growth in cities: An OECD-led initiative for change


In cities, we find challenges – but we also find solutions!


Across the world, mayors are leading the way by putting in place innovative solutions to tackle the rising gap between the rich and the poor. Whether we’re talking about investing in the education of disadvantaged populations, like Mayor Bell in Birmingham, or leveraging a technology boom to expand opportunities for low- and middle-class residents in Oakland, like Mayor Schaaf.


To support such efforts and spur them on even further, the OECD, in partnership with the Ford Foundation, launched the Inclusive Growth in Cities Initiative. We have created a global coalition of Champion Mayors – and I’m delighted that Mayor Bell is with us today, along with our newest Champion, Mayor Schaaf. We also count on the support of a number of institutional partners, including the Brookings Institution, the C40, Cities Alliance, ICLEI, and UCLG.


This initiative has brought mayors together around a common agenda set out in “the New York Proposal”, which outlines four policy pillars to promote inclusive growth in cities:

  • an inclusive education system
  • an inclusive labour market
  • an inclusive housing market and urban environment
  • and inclusive infrastructure and public services.


Next month, Champion Mayors will convene in Paris to transform these shared ambitions into concrete actions, by coalescing around a clear set of policy priorities in the ‘’Paris Action Plan’’. I’m very pleased that Deputy Mayor Patrick Klugman will be joining us later on behalf of Mayor Hidalgo.


National governments as critical partners in this work


If we are to deliver on our shared mission for cities, we also must acknowledge that cities cannot do it alone. We need the involvement of all stakeholders, and in particular national governments – and I look forward to hearing from Minister Lee and Deputy Assistant Secretary Tregoning about how national governments are championing more inclusive policies for cities.


For years, the OECD has been helping to bridge the gap between local and national policy makers. Today in Quito, together with UN-Habitat and Cities Alliance, we will launch the National Urban Policy Programme, to support national governments in the development of effective policy frameworks for cities.


In the spirit of our common mission, let our discussion today help set a course for a more inclusive tomorrow. The OECD and the Ford Foundation, along with our institutional partners, will seize every opportunity to elevate the voices of Champion Mayors to ensure that their efforts inform national priorities and advance global agendas – such as those to which we are committing in Quito!


Let me now turn the floor to Xavier de Souza Briggs and our distinguished panellists.


Thank you.




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