Secretary-General Strategic Orientations: “Better Lives Through Better Policies And Multilateral Co-Operation”


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

Paris, France, 7 June 2017

(As prepared for delivery)


Dear Minister Samuelsen, dear Ministers and delegates, dear friends:

I am delighted to present to you my Strategic Orientations. They lay out my vision and ambition for the Organisation moving forward.

During its 56 years of existence, this Organisation pioneered many causes that sounded daring at the beginning, but are now internationally recognised as key enablers in the improvement of our societies. Climate change, PISA, BEPS, Development work… In 2012 we launched NAEC, an initiative to bring our analytical tools and methods in line with the complexity and interconnectedness of the modern world. NAEC gave birth to our Inclusive Growth project which now permeates the work of the Organisation.

A document that responds to the urgency of these times

Never before have we been so worried about our world. If we do not address people’s discontent with the way we are managing (or not managing) globalisation, we risk a reversal in the progress we have achieved over the years.

My Strategic Orientations acknowledge that globalisation has brought great benefits: it has increased the “size of the pie” and also lifted millions out of extreme poverty. But it also reflects that these great benefits have not been fairly distributed. Many people feel they are losers. Many people feel they are left behind. Many people have lost hope. And that despair is dangerous.

We have been documenting the roots of this discontent for decades: the rise in inequalities; the stagnation and even reversal in living standards; the erosion in prospects for social mobility; the anxiety generated by disruptive megatrends.

As a result, we now have widespread populism and protectionism, loss of trust and serious doubts about the process of globalisation. The problem is that this backlash can lead to isolation, which will be more damaging, precisely at a time when the world is more interconnected.

Policies to promote well-being and address exclusion

My Strategic Orientations are motivated by the urgency of these critical and uncertain times. We need to preserve what is positive, and address what it is not working; be honest but confident; self-critical but forward-looking; realistic but visionary. We do not have all the solutions, but we can get them by posing the right questions.

Both domestic policies as well as international standards are running behind the accelerated economic and technological transformations that are taking place. We cannot live in a world of “Technology 4.0” with “Politics, Policies and Institutions 1.0”, with rules and institutions of the 20th Century, when parts of our societies and technologies entered the 21st Century long before it arrived in the calendar.

I am advocating the need to advance further our inclusive growth narrative, putting people’s well-being at the centre of our policy efforts and harnessing the full potential of globalisation, ensuring that it works for all while preserving and protecting our planet. These Strategic Orientations are built around 3 pillars:

  1. The first pillar is a people’s center growth model. One that enhances the well-being of citizens, our ultimate goal. Growth, productivity and open markets are only means towards an end. We need to better measure and understand what we mean by better lives. We need new metrics and analytical frameworks that account for complexity, refining our evidence-based policy advice.

  2. The second pillar addresses the main challenge we confront today: exclusion. This is evidenced by growing inequalities of income, opportunities and outcomes, as well as by growing wealth concentration. We need to tackle these challenges more vigorously, drawing on our Inclusive Growth, the Productivity-Inclusiveness Nexus and the NAEC initiatives. We need to understand the distributional impact of the policies we take, and introduce considerations related to equity and fairness.

  3. The third pillar is a response that taps on both domestic policies and multilateral co-operation: there is only so much we can accomplish at the national level to tackle challenges that spill across borders. This is why we advocate for stronger multilateral co-operation, rooted in better coordination and in standards that clearly set global rules of the game. 


What does this mean for the OECD?

My Strategic Orientations suggest how the OECD can best support its Members and Partners in these endeavours. They chart a path to address issues which are at the core of today’s discontent with globalisation: growing inequalities, wealth and market concentration, the effects of technology and digitalisation on jobs, the impact of economic activity on the environment, or the sense of disengagement between citizens and politics.

We can do this by capitalising on our expertise, knowledge and comparative advantage. I propose to focus our efforts on issues like:

  1. The nexus between productivity and inclusiveness, by replacing “growth first, distribute later” thinking with a policy framework that puts growth and inclusion side by side.

  2. The interdependency of policies undertaken at the sub-national, national and international level, with better integrated approaches that address the “geographies of discontent”.

  3. The role of the state in our economies, with creative solutions to ensure access to quality services and opportunities for all citizens to thrive in life. This requires an Empowering State that also acts as a catalyst for private sector mobilisation.

  4. Bringing about a new trade and investment approach where commercial transactions are free and fair and where investment flows are unhampered by political constraints.

  5. Addressing market concentration and winner-takes-all dynamics, especially with strong standards on competition, corporate governance, responsible business conduct, digitalisation and anti-corruption.

  6. Continue supporting the implementation of the multilateral agreements reached by the international community in 2015, including climate, the SDGs and the OECD tax agenda.

To deliver on these and other key areas in the document, we need a sharper and better OECD, more effective, more efficient, more inclusive and more global.

This is why our discussions on the Organisation’s enlargement and future size and membership are so important, as well as our contribution to global governance processes like the G20 and the G7. And this is why my Strategic Orientations also underscore how the Organisation can remain at the leading edge of good management practices, as well as provide value for money to its members.

Ministers, Ambassadors, friends:

These Strategic Orientations suggest how we can best leverage the extraordinary capacities and experience of this powerhouse that is the OECD, so that it can be of better use to you, our Members and Partner countries. They reflect the rich expertise of our teams, and draw heavily on the reflection and exchanges that we have had over the past few months with you, with your Ambassadors, with experts, with citizens.

There are moments in history that demand to go the extra mile. This is one of those moments. I invite you to think big, to be bold, and, together, to design, develop and deliver better policies for better lives!

Thank you.


See also

Secretary-General's Annual Report to Ministers 2017

Ministerial Meeting 2017: The Secretary-General's Strategic Orientations


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