09 November 2020
Dear Nicolas Rémillard, dear friends,
It is an immense pleasure to be part of the Conference of Paris once again. We would have liked to have been able to host you at the OECD, as is the tradition, but the current situation unfortunately precludes this.
The OECD is proud to be partnering this important event that, every year, provides us with a unique opportunity to discuss global challenges and find solutions together, bringing together the views of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organisations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis across the globe. The pandemic has claimed over 1.5 million lives and more than 50 million infections have been recorded so far.
The impact on the economy has also been severe. Our September Economic Outlook projected Global GDP to decline by 4.5% this year. In the US and Japan, consumer spending remains around 4% below pre-pandemic levels. Activity in hospitality sectors in some countries fell by 60-80% in the first three months of the pandemic.
This social crisis is hitting hardest those at the bottom of the income distribution and those in precarious employment. Workers in the top earnings quartile were 50% more likely to be working from home than those in the bottom quartile, who were twice as likely to have stopped working altogether.
COVID-19 is also intensifying weaknesses that we were confronting before the pandemic struck: slow economic growth, widening inequalities in income, wealth and opportunities; and the breakdown of trust.
We need to focus on an inclusive and sustainable recovery, and make sure that the benefits of such recovery are broadly shared. This means working together with social partners, adapting skills, and focusing on youth-responsive policies and services.
The recovery also has to be greener. Our single, most important, intergenerational responsibility remains the protection of the planet. Green sectors offer significant prospects for job creation, notably renewable energy, energy efficiency and nature-related activities.
As part of our response to the COVID-19 crisis, we launched a Digital Hub on Tackling the Coronavirus, providing a single entry point to OECD’s analysis on the health, economic, social, environmental and governance impacts of COVID-19. It already has around 160 policy briefs on all the fields of work of the OECD, and COVID-19. We also organised targeted, Ministerial or Leaders-level dialogues to support governments to tackle the crisis. Our recent Ministerial Council Meeting, “The Path to Recovery: Strong, Resilient, Green and Inclusive”, confirmed Ministers’ strong support for such a recovery.
Governments cannot achieve these goals alone. Stronger co-operation among all stakeholders is key, within and among countries. Social dialogue acted as a circuit breaker, enabling deals on short-time work to maintain employment in many countries. Businesses agreed to refrain from dismissing workers, trade unions accepted shorter working hours and lower monthly wages, and governments stepped in to compensate for part of the wage loss.
This solidarity must continue. Central banks must prolong their accommodative policies; fiscal policies must remain flexible and focused on fighting the virus and its consequences.
The OECD is working closely with firms and governments to ensure the implementation of our MNE Guidelines and of Principles for Responsible Business Conduct. Moreover, at the 2019 G7 Summit, we launched the Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) platform. This partnership between the OECD and a global, CEO-led coalition of 40 companies is committed to advance human rights; build inclusive workplaces; and, strengthen inclusion in value chains and business ecosystems. They are now focusing on fighting COVID-19 and its effects.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This year, more than ever, the Conference of Paris is offering a unique opportunity to forge closer links and share solutions for “Building Back Better”. Rest assured that the OECD will continue to strengthen our multi-stakeholder cooperation. It is only by working together that we can hope to set ourselves on a strong, resilient, green and inclusive path to recovery.