OECD Secretary-General

Launch of the Development Co-operation Report 2018: Joining Forces to Leave No One Behind


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

21 February 2019, OECD, Paris

(As prepared for delivery)



Dear Colleagues, Development Community, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 2018 OECD Development Co-operation Report that we present you today has a remarkable purpose: Joining Forces to Leave No One Behind. This is such an ambitious goal, but it is also vital for our world, for our peace, for our stability. It’s time to get our act together!

Today, we stand exactly 10 years, 10 months and 10 days away from the deadline for achieving SDG number 1: the complete eradication of extreme poverty. This means that we have 566 weeks left to lift just under 10% of the world’s population –around 700 million people – out of extreme poverty. We need to accelerate.

When we committed to achieve the SDGs by 2030, we knew that the road was not going to be an easy one. We knew that it would require major shifts in policies and investments. But we knew that it was absolutely necessary. I firmly believe that together we can deliver the SDGs, but we have numerous challenges to overcome before we get there.


We are leaving too many behind

It is true, in the last two decades, we have witnessed unprecedented global development progress in access to basic needs, improved well-being and income. The percentage of people living in extreme poverty was reduced to less than 10% of the global population in 2015. This is a significant improvement. But we cannot be complacent. This is an aggregate figure, and it masks a stark reality: our progress has stalled. The world hunger levels increased again in 2017, climbing to 821 million (from 804 million in 2016). We are leaving many behind!

In a world in which global and national progress is still measured through gross national product, the poorest inhabitants are being excluded from development gains. Even worse, they are often literally invisible, because national averages do not capture or tell their story due to the lack of good data systems. We are failing to count billions of people: the poorest 20% of the global population account for 55% of unregistered births. We are leaving many behind!

In spite of recent progress, women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected by the risk of poverty: 330 million women and girls live on less than USD 1.90 a day (4.4 million more than men). By 2030, more than 2.3 billion people, or about 27% of the world’s population, will live in fragile contexts, including under the threat of conflict situations, forced displacement, pandemics, violent extremism, famine and natural disasters. This includes more than 80% of the world’s poorest. We are leaving many behind!


It is time to reverse these trends

We have to reverse these trends. A decisive change is needed by all actors, from development agencies and the OECD, to civil society, the private sector and national and local governments. We must join forces, reinvigorate the development agenda and focus all policies on promoting a new type of growth all around the world, one that is more inclusive and more sustainable. We need to ensure that no one is left behind. And this is much more than a slogan.

We still have time to do something about it. We have more than a decade left before 2030. But we need to revolutionise our development culture, modernize our economics, improve our agreements and policies, increase our efficiency. Because it’s not working as it should, we are not moving as fast as we could. We are leaving many behind.

In a global context of rising income and wealth inequalities within and between countries, re-emerging protectionism and exclusive nationalism, and more frequent climate-related shocks, hard-won development gains are under threat. Facing this reality, national and local governments, the international community and development partners need to respond and adapt. We need to help them to renew their strategies and investments in eradicating poverty, curbing inequalities, and tackling the drivers of these threats.

The development co-operation community is already showing signs of change. Policies and investments are placing greater emphasis on people-centered growth and well-being. Nonetheless, the SDGs ask much more of development actors. Development co-operation has to demonstrate its readiness to serve this transformative global development agenda, recognising that development is a bottom-up and multidimensional process, that it is mostly endogenous, and that there is no single response to this question.


Reforming development co-operation 

That’s why this year’s Development Co-operation Report calls for a deep reform of development co-operation for a more sustainable and inclusive development. What does this mean? What do we propose?

  • First, we need a new narrative spelling out how everyone benefits from leaving no one behind. We need to shift away from the outdated conception of aid as charity, and place development co-operation as a “win-win” proposition, as a key ingredient of global solidarity and well-being. Policymakers in OECD countries need to educate the public about how long-term support and policy coherence for development are essential for the safety, prosperity and well-being of citizens in all countries, whatever their level of development.

  • Second, we need better focus across the portfolio of development on reaching the furthest behind first, on equity and sustainability and partnering with all agents of change. This means that we need to adjust and update the business model for development co-operation so that policies, budgets and delivery instruments are consistent with leaving no one behind.

  • Third, we need more development finance, from all sources (domestic taxes, private), but also smarter official development assistance to make the most of its unique ability to reach the people and countries with the greatest needs. Current trends suggest that ODA allocations do not match the needs of the furthest behind. We need to rethink and update the criteria and evidence-base for deciding where and how to allocate the scarce ODA resources. This also means sharpening our programmes to focus systematically on poverty reduction, tackling inequalities and promoting inclusive growth; and tracking the distribution of the resources and measurement of results according to these needs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Failing to achieve the SDGs for all would be the biggest failure of our civilisation. It will put social and political cohesion at risk, both locally and globally. Leaving no one behind is an imperative, an imperative of the global development agenda. It is an ambitious but realistic target, the most important commitment with coming generations, we cannot afford to fail. So let’s join our minds and efforts to catch up, to reform development co-operation, to leave no one behind.

We very much hope that this report will help governments and all stakeholders better engage, collaborate and make a difference. We very much hope to trigger new energies, new synergies and ideas. We very much hope that the OECD can help to promote this change, designing, sharing and implementing better development policies for better lives. Thank you.


See also:

OECD work on Development Cooperation 


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