OECD Secretary-General

Panel discussion with civil society representatives


Opening remarks by Angel Gurría 

OECD Secretary-General

19 November 2018 - OECD, France

(As prepared for delivery)



Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to welcome you all to the OECD for this panel discussion with a selection of civil society representatives, together with Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, State Secretary for Economic Affairs of Switzerland and the Chair of our Global Strategy Group.


The OECD has a long tradition of engaging with civil society. In fact, the OECD Council Resolution on relations with civil society dates from 1962, one year after our establishment. Formally, BIAC and TUAC are our two main entities with which we interact regularly, but we have seen over time a growing engagement of our committees with Civil Society Organisations.


It is not by chance that we are holding this event immediately before the Global Strategy Group meeting, which will begin this afternoon. It was very much our aim that some GSG delegates and OECD ambassadors would be able to attend this event. We think that it will be very useful for them, as for us, to hear the perspectives of these civil society representatives on the same themes that will be discussed in the GSG over the coming two days.


I am pleased to see that this is the case, with many countries following the lead of the Swiss Chair to join us this morning. Moreover, the Chair has invited our panellists to join the plenary session this afternoon so that they can give a summary of this morning’s event to all the GSG delegates. We see today as a great opportunity for policy makers to listen to some less-often-heard voices on how innovation is affecting people’s lives for good and ill, and to think about the policy implications of that.


And this is not, of course, a one-off. The OECD has for a long time recognised the importance of engaging with civil society, which serves two functions. First, by expanding the range of the voices feeding into our policy debates, it improves the quality of our research and our policy recommendations. Second, it can help to spread awareness and acceptance of the OECD and its recommendations in the societies which we serve.


This is why we are always seeking to broaden and deepen our engagement with civil society. The status of one of the panellists, Marc Rotenberg, as Head of the OECD Civil Society Information Society Advisory Committee (CSISAC), which was created in 2008, is one concrete sign of this long-running effort. Through CSISAC we formalised civil society input into one part of our work. This is a good model, which could be emulated in other areas around the house.


Of course, a challenge that we face in seeking to strengthen our engagement with civil society is that the diversity of the civil society community extends even beyond the wide array of opinion-shapers that we are currently engaging with, including through events like today’s. Even civil society itself is a constantly evolving concept, with shifting modes of citizen engagement with public discourse and policy. But these are challenges we are determined to take up, because the gains are worth the effort.


As for today, the theme on which our distinguished panellists will be speaking concerns the implications of innovation broadly – and the digital transformation in particular – for different groups in society, both in advanced and developing economies. They will share examples of the huge potential for harnessing innovation to benefit all citizens, and in particular disadvantaged groups, and they will highlight some particular challenges. I am also sure that they will share some ideas about the public policy implications of their experiences and their work across different countries and regions of the planet.


This is of course an area where the OECD is extremely active. In particular, we are now coming to the culmination of the two-year-long Going Digital project which aims to help policy makers better understand the digital revolution and, in that context, to make recommendations for proactive – rather than reactive – policies to improve the well-being of citizens. We will be holding a high-level event to share the findings of the project and identify avenues for further work in Paris on 11-12 March 2019.


And later today we will be launching the Science and Technology Outlook, our regular flagship report in this area, which underscores how the nature of innovation is changing, becoming more digital and more global, involving more stakeholders, and moving beyond traditional science and technology fields to encompass social and organisational innovations. That message fits well with our discussion this morning.



See also:

OECD work with Civil Society

OECD work on Science and Technology


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