Global Perspectives Conference: Development Beyond 2015 – Sustainable, Equitable and Truly Global


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, at the Global Perspectives Conference

Berlin, 31 October 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a great pleasure to be here today at the fourth annual Global Perspectives Conference. I would like to thank the Berlin Civil Society Center, and especially Burkhard Gnärig, for kindly inviting me to deliver this keynote address.


This year’s Global Perspectives Conference will tackle a critical issue: Development Beyond 2015. In other words, how do we envision development in the post MDG era?


Development is often associated with eliminating poverty and raising GDP per capita, but it is a much broader issue.  At the OECD we envision development as the quest for a better quality of life for all people to be achieved with a growth path that is both sustainable and inclusive. This means recognising that all countries need to progress in different spheres, including - as the crisis has shown - OECD members.


Time to rethink economic development


As you know, we are now into the fifth year of the greatest financial, economic, and most importantly, social crisis since the OECD was created. We are still wrestling with its dire consequences. Many countries are under immense pressure to put their public finances back on a sustainable footing. Close to 14 million jobs are needed to bring employment back to its pre-crisis levels. Social tensions and hopelessness are growing in many countries.


This has resulted in a general loss of trust in markets, governments and institutions. Citizens are questioning the ability of policymakers to rise to current challenges. And they are becoming more and more impatient.


The response by governments cannot be “more of the same” or “business as usual” policies. We need to revisit models and theories to question conventional wisdoms and “established truths.” This means being open to drawing pertinent and sometimes difficult conclusions from the crisis. Like, for example, that the monetary and fiscal policies we have followed in the recent decades have failed us, as Bill White wrote in a recent paper he prepared for the OECD. 


We need to look for new solutions. This is the objective of our initiative on “New Approaches to Economic Challenges”. This initiative is helping us examine what lessons can be learned from the crisis and what policy implications can be derived from these lessons. The main goal is to overhaul our analytical framework, while identifying a renewed strategic policy agenda for inclusive growth and well-being. We just had our first NAEC meeting last week and it was quite a shake up.


At the OECD we are also revising our notion of “progress”, moving from a narrow focus on GDP to a more multi-dimensional approach. This is something we have been working on for many years, culminating under the Better Life Initiative, launched in 2011. We’ve created the Better Life Index, an online interactive tool that allows citizens to compare well-being across countries according to their individual priorities.


A new vision of development also demands that we understand better the likely side-effects and spill-overs of different policy options, the sometimes unintended consequences of policy initiatives. It is crucial, for example, that we identify the mutually reinforcing aspects of growth and environmental policies, and that we work and cooperate internationally to enhance these synergies.


Promoting development needs to focus on reducing inequality. As we show in our study “Divided We Stand”, the gap in income between rich and poor in OECD countries is now the widest it has been in 30 years. The proverbial “rising tide” has not lifted all boats. We need to examine whether and which growth-enhancing policy reforms have positive or negative side-effects on income inequality.


To turn this new vision of development into decisions and policies, at the OECD we have launched a comprehensive and ambitious Development Strategy, which aims to integrate the diverse perspectives and realities of developing countries in OECD analyses and policy advice, combine more effectively OECD’s expertise on a wide range of policy areas with our experience in development co-operation and provide a more coherent approach to development. In Busan, we promoted the important paradigm shift from aid effectiveness to development effectiveness. We need to work on a development architecture in which aid will remain a crucial part, but in which we focus also more on promoting drivers for inclusive growth, innovation, domestic resource mobilisation, strong institutions and good governance.


But all these efforts to promote a new type of development will not bear fruit if we don’t incorporate civil society.


Time for an “all on board” development effort: the role of civil society


This time civil society has to be part of the equation. Big time! Working with civil society can help to create a broader consensus which makes policies and reforms easier to accept and implement. This is the philosophy behind the OECD’s multi-stakeholder approach. This collaboration can also help governments to design policies that are well tuned to the real needs of the people. One important example are the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises which are far reaching recommendations for responsible business conduct that 44 adhering governments – representing all regions of the world and accounting for 85% of foreign direct investment – encourage their enterprises to observe wherever they operate. And in the 2011 update many of you participated.


Another strong example of OECD and civil society collaboration is our work on anti-bribery. The OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention provides a useful base for civil society work. As civil society organisations (CSOs) are consulted and involved in our country reviews, together we increase the pressure on governments to increase enforcement efforts. As a result, nearly 210 individuals and 90 entities have been sanctioned under criminal proceedings for foreign bribery, according to 2011 data.[1]


We also engage with CSOs in other areas. At the 2010 Global Perspectives Conference, for example, we worked with a range of civil society leaders to create more coherent, strategic, and useful engagement between the OECD and civil society. One conclusion was that we need to engage collectively with CSOs beyond previous sectoral and disjointed work. Why?


Increasingly OECD work and solutions are multi-dimensional. Our members ask us to focus on what we call “horizontal” projects, using a “whole-of-the-OECD” approach to address complex and interrelated issues. NAEC is clearly one example; others include our recent strategies on Innovation, Green Growth, and Development.


These multi-dimensional issues require a different approach to civil society engagement than the more narrowly-defined consultation processes of OECD Committees. In our previous discussions, you’ve advised us to organise civil society dialogues around our strategic cross-sectoral themes. Since then we have held two of these dialogues in the form of interactive IdeaFactories, one of which provided us with initial food for thought on NAEC.


This work can be extremely useful for today’s discussions on developing an MDGs successor framework. Let me conclude by sharing the OECD’s perspective on this topic.


The post 2015 development framework: An OECD view


The OECD played a pivotal role in defining the MDGs through the Development Assistance Committee, especially through its publication “Shaping the 21st century”. We are well placed to make an equally significant but different contribution to the discussions, led by the United Nations (UN) today.


In our view, the main features of a post-2015 framework:

  1. Should be relevant to a broad constituency of countries. The distinction between “developed” and “developing” countries is, to a large extent, the heritage of a by-gone era. The ambition and scope of the post-2015 framework should be relevant for and appeal to an increasingly heterogeneous world, accommodating the aspirations and priorities of people worldwide.
  2. Should be based on a holistic approach to development. Development is more than economic growth coupled with poverty reduction. It should also recognise other aspects that make life decent and worth living. It should recognise the importance not only of average achievements within each country but also of inequalities in each dimension of life.
  3. And should have measurable, country-owned goals that make empirical sense. As we experienced in the past, setting goals without having the data and a statistical system in place to track progress is ineffective. As New York City Mayor Bloomberg often says, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Ladies and Gentlemen:


More than ever development is a global concern. We have a unique opportunity to revise and revamp development policies. We are going to need new tools, strong leadership, inclusive multilateral cooperation and the active participation of civil society.


The relation with entities such as the Berlin Civil Society Centre takes on a greater significance in this context. You bring together key international CSOs across the board of public policy and you can help us in asking the right questions and in developing effective solutions. I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions.


Thank you!

[1] OECD Working Group on Bribery, Annual Report 2011 Pg.3



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