Lobbying in the 21st Century, 20 May 2021

 

Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 20 May 2021

Vice-President Jourová, Madame Speaker, Distinguished guests,

Welcome to the launch of the OECD report Lobbying in the 21st Century: Transparency, Integrity and Access.

An integral part of the OECD’s effort to promote “better policies for better lives” is to strengthen the effectiveness, as well as the transparency and integrity, of policy-making processes. Lobbying is a legitimate and important tool to inform and shape public policies. It can help ensure that different voices are being heard. However, we must also guarantee that lobbying procedures are fair and transparent.

For over a decade, the OECD has been leading the global debate on this issue through its Recommendation on Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying, the first international standard for governments to address risks related to lobbying.

The report we are launching today demonstrates that the political environment is more complex than ever. It reflects on the new 21st century challenges and risks related to how special interest groups attempt to influence public policies. The report also reviews tools adopted by countries to safeguard impartiality and fairness in the decision-making process. Allow me to briefly highlight three of the report’s main points:

First, the report observes an increasing influence of government policies by third-party organisations, such as public relations firms, grassroots organisations and think-tanks. Moreover, less than half of OECD countries know who is lobbying their governments, as the work is often done indirectly or by proxies, raising the need for more transparency around these actors.

Second, digitalisation has affected the policymaking process. Social media strategies can be used to inform, misinform or change public perceptions. Lobbying is changing from handshakes to hashtags. Therefore, the rules need to change too. Foreign influence activities have also raised global concerns on the integrity of public decision-making and electoral processes. To date, only three OECD countries - Australia, Canada and the US - have rules on lobbying and influence in domestic affairs by foreign governments. Others need to follow.

And Third, through the use of sophisticated methods, new ways of influencing public policy can lead to an unbalanced representation of interests, abuse of power, unfair distribution of opportunities, sub-optimal policies and outcomes, ultimately damaging citizens’ trust in government. At the same time, the effect of lobbying, both on everyday policymaking as well as in addressing major global challenges, remains severely underestimated.

Dear friends,

As the recovery plans are being designed and implemented across the world, this report contributes to the broader OECD effort to help governments prioritise the public interest, build resilience, and protect policies from undue influence, unfair competition and policy capture. To respond to the evolving lobbying landscape, the OECD will prepare an update of the Recommendation on Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying within the next two years.

Alongside this new set of Principles, the OECD will continue to promote transparency and integrity in policymaking, to achieve “better policies for better lives”.

Thank you.

 

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