2021 Ministerial Council Meeting - Handover Remarks by Angel Gurría, 1 June 2021

 

Handover Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 1 June 2021

Monsieur le Premier ministre de Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, Monsieur le Ministre de l'Europe et des Affaires étrangères, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Monsieur le Secrétaire adjoint, Peter Hass, Monsieur le nouveau Secrétaire général, Mathias Cormann, Chers Ministres, Chers Ambassadeurs, Chers amis :

Today, as I look back on my tenure, I am reminded of the quote attributed to former UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, when asked by a journalist what the most troubling problem of his Prime Ministership was. He is reputed to have said “Events, dear boy, events”.

My time at the helm of the OECD has, above all, been defined by two such events: the Great Financial Crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s OECD has been greatly shaped by those two unforeseen crises and our response to them.

The Global Financial Crisis had many consequences. The collective failure to predict the crisis and understand the forces behind it induced us to create our New Approaches to Economic Challenges initiative. NAEC has exposed us to fresh thinking on economic theory and practice has broken down silos, and helped us to better understand the importance of uncertainty, systemic interactions and resilience, among other factors.

The crisis also pointed us towards a more people-centred growth narrative, which led to the adoption of our motto ‘Better Policies for Better Lives’, and gave rise to the Inclusive Growth initiative, the Better Life Index, and the Centre for Well-being, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunity (WISE), among others.

It was also the Global Financial Crisis that gave new impetus to the G20, with a broader agenda and annual summits. It also provided us with the opportunity to strengthen our engagement with the G7 and other groupings like APEC.

The COVID-19 crisis is of course still ongoing, and it will take more time for its full impact to be felt. But it has already shown how our economies and societies are complex and interdependent systems, underlining the need to upgrade our models and analytical tools.

There has also been a third salient event. I am referring to climate change. Our single most important intergenerational responsibility, the protection of our planet, has become one of our absolute priorities, as well as our efforts to reverse biodiversity loss and the degradation of the environment. We have adapted our outputs and our structures to reflect such a priority.

Today, as a new Secretary-General begins his term, let’s not forget that six countries have been waiting for years to begin accession negotiations. I can only hope that their patience will soon be rewarded.

But beyond enhanced membership, engaging constructively with the growing part of the world that does not belong to the Organisation will become ever more important.

Apart from the COVID-19 and its ramifications, there are other ongoing trends that have to be addressed. We already mentioned climate change and biodiversity loss, but we also have to deal with population ageing, digitalisation, the concentration of wealth and power, and others.

And then there will be those “events, dear boy, events”, that no one has foreseen but that everyone will have to respond to. It may be that some defining challenges of the tenure of the incoming Secretary-General will be things that we are now unaware of, as it was in my case.

But whether it will be the trends that we know about or unforeseen events that will define the world of tomorrow, there is one constant which has made the OECD effective and relevant in the past, and will no doubt remain invaluable in the future: that is the shared values of OECD members, which are the theme of this MCM.

I am sure that you will continue to promote and defend them with zeal and profound conviction.

Cher Mathias,

En vous passant le relais aujourd'hui, je suis certain que l'OCDE est entre de bonnes mains. Je sais que vous continuererez à travailler avec et pour les Membres afin de préserver les atouts et qualités uniques qui ont donné à cette Organisation son importance et son utilité mondiales en tant que pionnière de meilleures politiques pour une vie meilleure.

Et maintenant, comme nous pouvons le voir, nous sommes honorés d'avoir la Convention Originale qui a donné naissance à cette Organisation, signée par les membres fondateurs il y a 60 ans. Je tiens à remercier la France d’avoir mis cette version Originale à notre disposition aujourd’hui. Monsieur Cormann, je laisse symboliquement celle-ci sous votre garde en tant que Secrétaire général. Je voudrais également vous remettre la clé de l’OCDE. Cette clé peut débloquer les solutions aux défis mondiaux les plus urgents. C'est une clé fragile mais puissante, et je suis convaincu que vous la valoriserez et la protégerez de tout votre cœur, sagesse et dévouement.

Merci à tous !

Monsieur Cormann, rejoignez-moi sur scène.

Monsieur le Premier ministre Bettel, c'est avec un grand honneur que je vous demande de vous joindre à M. Cormann et moi-même sur le devant de la scène pour participer à la cérémonie de passation de la clé de l'OCDE.

 

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