Centres of Government Network Meeting, 2 December 2020


Remarks by Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, France, 2 December 2020

Dear friends,

Let me join his Excellency Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, in welcoming you to this virtual meeting of the Centres of Government. Let me also take this opportunity to thank Luxembourg for the chairmanship of the Centres of Government Network, one of our highest level policy networks.

We meet in unprecedented times. A year ago, we could have hardly imagined that we would be facing a global pandemic leading to nearly 1.3 million deaths and counting; a fall in global GDP by 4.5% this year; and a crisis that has already wiped out, in a matter of months, all the jobs created since the 2008 global financial crisis.

The OECD has been at the front lines of the global response to the crisis. Among others, we have delivered close to 160 policy briefs through our COVID-19 Digital Hub; we have facilitated high-level policy dialogue through the 2020 Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM); and, provided tailored advice to policymakers through our Ministerial Roundtables.
Governments have also hit the ground running, responding to the crisis rapidly and decisively. Trillions of dollars have been directed to households and companies across the OECD through income support and expanded sick leave.

The sheer magnitude of the response demonstrates how centres of government are a critical player for the recovery. We know that health workers, teachers and cashiers are at the front lines in responding to citizens’ essential needs. But you are also at the front lines of decision-making and helping our leaders to address complex challenges. This is the first “total crisis” that we face in our lifetime, with impacts in practically all sectors of our economies, in all countries, in every society.

Focusing on the recovery, I want to briefly touch upon three issues which highlight the paramount role of the centres of government.

First regaining citizens’ trust. The crisis has demonstrated the importance of trust in achieving the recovery. Results from 233 regions in 19 European countries show that where citizens trust their governments the most, compliance with lockdown measures was the highest.

This crisis has highlighted that citizens expect faster service and responsiveness. Going back to the ‘old normal’ will undermine trust, with consequences for democracy as a whole. It took OECD countries over 10 years to regain citizens’ trust after the financial crisis. At the centres of government, you are faced with the difficult task of understanding and adapting to these new needs and expectations.

Second, the importance of evidence-based data and transparency. The centres of government, have a unique opportunity to shape how data is used and communicated. The need for expertise has become even more obvious in this highly uncertain environment. Being transparent about the kind of data used, and how it is used, helps to diminish the wave of disinformation around COVID-19.

This crisis also presents us with an opportunity to integrate well-being, equality and sustainability in our frameworks. But we also need to use this unique moment to rethink how our policy eco-system, including the machinery of government, can achieve better societal outcomes for all.

And third, governments’ agility and adaptability remains crucial in tackling the pandemic. This crisis has shown us that policymaking can happen at breakneck speed. From one day to the next, our workforces were asked to stay at home, causing a huge uptake in digital government services. Chile, for example, saw a 5 time increase in digital-identity-enabled transactions from 6 million to 30 million between February and July. In a matter of weeks we went from ‘Going Digital’ to ‘Being Digital’.

The crisis has also increased co-ordination across government. The share of OECD centres of government responsible for co-ordinating policies across government has increased significantly. You have created new structures and tools to spur collaboration and innovation across government in ways that were inconceivable before the crisis.

Dear friends,

As countries around the globe continue to tackle this crisis, the work of the Centres of Government Network remains indispensable. We count on you to guide the OECD in how we can best support governments in the recovery and beyond. Rest assured that we will continue to work with and for you as we build back better together.

Thank you.


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