Measuring Progress: Does it make a Difference for Policy-Making and Democracy - Opening Speech by Angel Gurría


Opening Speech by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy
Istanbul, 27-30 June 2007

Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Presidents and Vice Presidents, Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning and welcome to the second OECD World Forum on “Statistics, Knowledge and Policy”.  Thank you to our hosts, the Government of Turkey, for their hospitality.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is called upon to build stronger economies in our member countries and to improve the functioning of the world economy. We are also working with many non-members to try to build a common understanding of what it takes to advance on the path of development and growth. In May this year, we received a mandate to open our membership to five more countries, and to strengthen our links with some of the major emerging economies, including Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa.

But our scope is changing in other ways too. As a hub for the discussion of global issues, the OECD is addressing questions such as: “How does social policy affect the way economies work? “, or “How does globalisation change the functioning of our societies?” The aim is to make globalisation work for all.

To answer these questions, we need a better understanding of what progress means, and the information and tools to measure it. As Neils Bohr said, “nothing exists until it is measured.”

Measuring progress is a key challenge for our societies.  There is now a growing recognition that we need both a more comprehensive view of progress and clear, reliable information to measure it.
We depend on facts to make decisions.  But in today’s world, where huge amounts of data are circulating, using information to make decisions has become more complex.

But this increased flow of information also represents a great opportunity. An opportunity to improve the functioning of our democracies. Increased access to information for citizens will improve the quality of their decision-making and increase the accountability of their leaders. And better knowledge among citizens and leaders will translate into better policies and a better future for the next generation.

This conference is part of a long-term OECD project on Measuring the Progress of Societies. It will bring together other similar initiatives already underway around the world.

The project challenges the common belief that progress and economic growth are one and the same. The aim is to lay the statistical groundwork - through a set of Progress Measures - for policies which value economic, social and environmental welfare, going beyond mere output.  The ultimate goal is to foster the improved functioning of democracies in the information age by creating a higher level of “customer satisfaction” with democracy.
I am impressed with the response to this conference. Over the next few days some 200 speakers, from more than 50 countries, will take part in the various sessions. Eight hundred participants from over 120 nations are expected to take part. You are distinguished experts or leaders coming from the private and public sectors, from civil society, academia and the media. Thousands more will follow our discussions over the Internet.  We will debate the meaning of progress around the world. We will discuss some of our most important concerns – health and climate change, education and biodiversity, economic competitiveness and democracy. And we will discuss the importance of taking decisions based on evidence, and turning statistics into knowledge and into policy.

Many people and organisations have been involved in the run-up to this event, including the European Commission, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the United Nations and the World Bank. Special thanks go to the Turkish State Planning Organisation and Turkstat.

I am sure that this wonderful city of Istanbul has been an added draw card. We meet in a city steeped in history and culture, at the crossroads between Europe and Asia.

I would now like to hand over to our generous host, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Prime Minister, allow me to express our collective thanks to you for your presence, your hospitality and the hard work that has gone into preparing this meeting.

Thank you.


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