OECD Forum 2019


Opening remarks by Angel Gurría, 

OECD Secretary-General 

20 May 2019 - OECD, France

(As prepared for delivery)



What can I do?

What can we do?

What can we do… together?


Welcome to the 20th edition of the OECD Forum. Welcome to the OECD Week. Welcome to a world in eMotion!

A world where digital technologies meet human sensitivity; where evidence meets intuition, where algorithms meet ethics and values. A world where artificial intelligence meets emotional intelligence, to become less artificial and more intelligent. Welcome to a world where hard sciences and humanism blend with one supreme purpose: the creation of a more inclusive, sustainable and dignifying progress. A world where policies meet emotions.

We are facing one of the most complex, challenging and contradictory periods in history. The global economy has entered a new slow-down. Trade tensions keep escalating.  The middle classes are shrinking, while the share of wages keeps falling. Global carbon emissions are growing again, while biodiversity is declining at unprecedented rates. Inequalities keep growing. Public trust remains at record lows.

At the same time, digitalisation is powering major improvements in communication, sustainability and well-being. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming developing countries. Political participation is rising in almost every region of the world. Civic action is blossoming. Teenagers are taking the lead in the fight against climate change. Public activism is rising.

Globalisation and digitalisation have brought a plethora of benefits and progress. They have integrated an ever-growing global population, boosted international trade, investment and migration, strengthened international co-operation and regional development, helping us lift millions of people from extreme poverty.

Globalisation and digitalisation have produced the Fourth Industrial Revolution, giving birth to a cascade of new technologies, innovations and improvements for human development: from the internet, smart phones and robotics, to computational biology, open data and e-government; from intelligent vaccines and drones that deliver blood to remote hospitals, to online education, smart energy grids, robot assisted surgery, blockchain; you name it!

It is exciting, it is inspiring, it is encouraging!

But all this progress also comes pregnant with challenges. As beneficial and irreversible as they are, globalisation and digitalisation are also producing some dangerous tectonic fault-lines in our societies:

First, they are leaving many behind. The bottom half of the world population owns less than 1% of global wealth (while the richest decile owns 85% of that wealth). Half of the world’s population still does not have access to the Internet. The majority does not have access to the fastest broadband, which exacerbates inequalities. Wherever they live, women are 40% less likely than men to have ever used the Internet. Perhaps even more worrisome, most people do not have the necessary skills to thrive in the digital world.

Second, they are also creating new risks and uncertainties. Technological progress and greater global integration along global supply chains is benefiting workers with high skills, but threatening many others with low or outdated skills. Over the next 15 to 20 years, 14% of jobs in the OECD will be at high risk of automation, while 32% of jobs could be radically disrupted and transformed. There are also risks of reinforcing existing biases when codifying for AI. As well as new risks on data privacy, the dark web, cyber-attacks, misinformation campaigns, and spreading hate, extremism and even terrorism through social media, as we saw in Christchurch. 


And third, they are breeding fear and anxiety. The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer reported that 60% of multinational employees (in the 27 countries surveyed around the world) fear losing their jobs to automation. Only 49% of respondents believe that they and their families will be better off in five years’ time. And only 1 in 5 believes the system is working for them. These concerns are spilling over into politics, breeding divisive emotions, driving people apart, and fuelling dangerous policies. 


We must correct these fault-lines. We must address these fears. We must build the necessary frameworks and incentives to ensure that globalisation and digitalisation become catalysts of inclusive and sustainable growth.

This is what we are trying to do at the OECD, with initiatives like our Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth, our Going Digital Project, the How’s Life in the Digital Age report, our work on the Tax Challenges Arising from Digitalisation and the first set of intergovernmental principles on Artificial Intelligence that we will present in our Ministerial Council Meeting, which will focus on “Harnessing the Digital Transition for Sustainable Development”.

At the OECD we believe this change is possible. Because we know these are not uncontrollable forces. We know they are the result of theoretical frameworks, regulations and policies that we have created. Theoretical frameworks that can be fixed, regulations that can be changed, policies that can be improved. That’s what we are here for.

With your help, we want to advance in four parallel tracks, inspired by four major objectives:

1. To help countries build a new social contract, one based on inclusion, sustainability and well-being;

2. To help countries strengthen integrity and regain public trust, for there is no possible transformation without the support of the people;

3. To help countries empower people for the future of work, because economic success, productivity and human progress are determined by the quality of our skills;

4. To help countries strengthen international co-operation, making it more efficient, transparent and reliable. Global challenges can only be addressed globally by multilateral co-operation.

With these four targets in mind, over the next two days, we will be debating about artificial and emotional intelligence, skills for the future of work, social media and identities. We will be talking about women in STEM, the male disadvantage in education, longevity and smart investment. We will reflect on how to reinvigorate democracy and the role of journalism, people power versus populism, and how architecture brings us together. All this energised by our Discovery Labs, Meet the Author sessions and Interactive Workshops.


Dear Ministers, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen:

We need to understand the frustrations of our people, the anger behind populisms, the feeling of unfairness of the many left behind. To design a new set of policies, to create a new social contract, a better and fairer economic system, a more inclusive and sustainable digital era, it will be crucial to add emotions to the policy-making mix.

Any policy that does not appeal to human passion is a dead policy. Any reform that does not generate people’s engagement will make little difference. Any policy that does not connect with people’s dreams will never get the necessary traction to succeed.

It is time for evidence-based emotional policies. It is time to connect algorithms with human values, economists with psychologists, bankers with philosophers, energy ministers with children!
Let’s remember the words of the 15 year old activist Greta Thunberg: “If solutions within the system are so impossible to find, then... we should change the system itself.” This is the voice of the future. Let’s listen to it! Let’s direct and harness the inevitable change, rather than be driven by it!

The world in eMotion needs your attention, your vision, your ambition, your sense of mission!

The world in eMotion needs your participation, your commitment!

The world in eMotion needs your emotion! 


Have a great Forum!


Related Documents


Annual report
OECD: The vision for the next decade
2022 Strategic Orientations