OECD Secretary-General

Renewal of OECD Secretary-General’s mandate by the OECD Council


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Paris, Thursday 30 September

Dear Ambassadors,
I am very grateful for your confidence and support shown in the decision to renew my mandate as Secretary-General of the OECD. This is a source of personal pride and encouragement, and a clear message that the journey we started four years ago to make this Organisation more relevant, more useful and more open, was the right one.

The renewal of my mandate coincides crucially with OECD @ 50, a milestone to take stock and to strengthen our will to build up the institution.

The proposals I tabled when assuming this position turned out to be appropriate and proved necessary over time. However, the international situation and the changes in the global economy demand that we increase the speed of their implementation. The pursuit of relevance was the goal then and it continues to be my guiding objective today. Relevance nationally and internationally, in order to improve the well-being of our citizens. Relevance as we continue to help in the design of “better policies for better lives”.

The "raison d’être" of this Organisation, is to be a source of evidence-based advice for governments and a standard setter to address many global challenges. We will do it armed with our foundational values: openness, objectivity, boldness, pioneering spirit and sound ethics.

It will not be sufficient to return to growth after the dramatic events we have witnessed since 2008. We will need to do it with the background of the fight against climate change, which continues to be a top priority, a very high rate of unemployment, particularly of the young and large fiscal deficits. We have established the analytical ground to do so with our Response to the Crisis, our Innovation Strategy and our Green Growth Strategy. Promoting growth (and searching for new sources of growth that are also “green”, more equitable and more “gender friendly”), has become a common objective to overcome the effects of the crisis, and to lift millions of people around the world out of poverty. This starts by measuring and defining what is understood as wellbeing in the 21st century. Remember, the “D” in OECD is about development and it is therefore a strategic priority.

Given the massive governance and business failures that caused the crisis and the resulting current fiscal situation, we are facing a just as massive loss of confidence by our citizens. As I said many times, a crisis is terrible for incumbents. The economic outlook points to low growth for quite some time. The perspective to recover the same level of output and employment as before the crisis will take years. Citizen’s perceptions on the future are bleak, and their tolerance to bad news is exhausted. They have lost patience but worse than that, they have lost hope. We need to change this outlook and this negative psychology. That is a role for the OECD.

To do so, I would like to propose a two-pronged-strategy. First, to go beyond helping member countries in designing policy issues. Maybe we could go a step further and include policy options for effective implementation, as long as this is done closely with member countries governments. The test of our relevance is how much we influence policy and to what extent we have helped with implementation and evaluation. This is what I call our role as advisors and as pathfinders. This is part of our monitoring role. But this will need to be supported by our "core" activities on economic, health, social, employment, education, skills and environmental and policies among many others; what I call the fundamentals of our work. They generate the substance we have to offer.

Second, we must continue to increase our relevance as an organisation that sets the highest standards for the world economy. We are a standard setter. This second task requires us to work closer to not only with our member countries but also and particularly with major emerging economies.

Here we face formidable challenges. Global imbalances are widening again and the international consensus needed to deal with major issues such as climate change, migration or poverty is not there. On the other hand, there is now an environment where international cooperation and multilateralism are seen as the best way to deal with these issues. The OECD, as an institution with one of the most advanced forms of cooperation and engagement, should contribute to build the necessary consensus to address these issues.

Indeed, we are witnessing a revolution in the way the world is governed and we will work to continue to be part of this new governance. This is increasing the relevance of our work on a global scale, but we should strengthen our efforts and we count on our members in this endeavour. We have to consolidate our presence, continue to deliver high quality, substantive contributions to the global debates and enhance our role as "standard setter".

The emergence of the G20 has presented us with another crucial opportunity. Before, the G8 was the only game in town - now this is no longer the case. We have been delivering to this process since the beginning, with inputs on the most important issues like taxes, balanced growth, investment and trade protectionism, anti-corruption, employment, and development. We were honoured by the invitation of President Obama, which opened the door to our permanent presence in this group. We contributed before that in London, and afterwards in Toronto. We now look forward to Seoul.

But it is still a challenge to become full citizens of the process - to have a passport instead of a day pass. Like we did with the US, the UK and Canada, we are working closely with Korea for Seoul 2010 and with the upcoming G20 French Presidency on key deliverables for 2011. But we need better engagement and support from our member countries. Both the ones that do not participate in the group and the ones that do. You are the ones that can secure our role in the process and allow the non G20 OECD members to channel their concerns and proposals through the OECD. I will insist on our initiative of creating a network of international institutions that will work closer together to better serve our members and the global governance architecture. I have been doing this since 2007, when we first met on the initiative of Chancellor Merkel. This was then reflected in the G8 Communiqué in Toyako 2008 and in L’Aquila in 2009. International Organisations should be considered as integral partners in the G20 process.

More broadly, regardless of these “G” groups, the global relevance of our Organisation depends on a more effective relationship with the emerging economies. On enhanced engagement, as we have called it three years ago, I believe that the path that we have established, to gradually increase the knowledge base mutual understanding via sectoral work and participation at the Committee level, is simply not enough. This is not going to produce a breakthrough. It will put us in a “business as usual mode”. We need to run faster if we want more.

We are in the presence of a truly global transformation and need to speed up our strategy just to be able to keep up. Are we prepared to accept and process a request for membership of one or several of the EE5 countries today or would we neglect it? But even before that, we need to find more effective ways to get them “on board” on the substantive issues.

We should present our recommendations in a way in which emerging economies, in their own self-interest, will decide are worth following. As we have learnt from the Global Forum for Tax Transparency and Information Exchange, there are ways of involving them in substantive work and developing a sense of ownership of such work. This is one model which may not be applicable to all issues, but it is an interesting one as long as structures remain connected to the OECD.

We must pursue mutually agreed-upon frameworks and issues for analysis. We also need more permanent presence and better dissemination efforts in EE5 countries. We need to go beyond doing one or two reports per country per year. We need to generate more knowledge and analysis about those countries, and present it there, to increase the value of this Organisation for them, and to influence their policy making. We have some good examples of institutional innovations such as the SIGMA project that have served the eastern European countries well. I believe strongly in the quality and the substance of our work, and the many doors that it can open. But we need to keep those doors open.

Another new promising element of a reinforced strategy would be to invite the emerging economies to help update our instruments. If there is a systematic revision process of our tools, we should invite these countries to revisit, evaluate and redefine such instruments and methodology, like we are doing with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. We need to propose topics which are in partner countries’ interest, so that it is more appealing for them like, for example, health and education. As a matter of fact, we should take advantage of our anniversary to revisit all our tools and assess how useful they are, what are the gaps and how we can reinforce them, and elicit the participation of EEs in the process.

Let me use this opportunity to acknowledge the excellent work that my colleagues in the Secretariat do on substance. I frequently say that it is easier to communicate than to produce substance. In the case of the OECD, we suffer from the opposite syndrome. We have the substance, but we need to sell it much better. It is not a question of “headlines”; but of championing our recommendations to improve policy making.
Let me also express my highest appreciation to Ambassador Ferro and to the smooth way in which he conducted the process of my mandate’s renewal. Thank you very much, Ambassador Ferro. It has truly set an excellent standard.

Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentleman,

The OECD needs you, your government networks, your active engagement and ownership in our joint journey for inclusiveness, impact and relevance.

We need to act together - to “row” in the same direction but also at the same pace. Here in Paris you have a role; in a broader OECD strategy you have a mission. You are not only the Ambassadors of your countries to the OECD, you are also the Ambassador of the OECD in your countries when it comes to your governments’ reform agendas but also - as some of you have been already trying to do – in explaining what the OECD is attempting to do. The OECD can help with policy options and advice with policy implementation. We need support from you! In the domestic debate! In the global debate! To increase the impact of our recommendations! And we need you, your high level officials, your governments and your embassies abroad to speak more on behalf of the OECD in your relationship with other countries, in particular with the emerging economies.

I look forward to our joint efforts in the next five years in preparing this wonderful Organisation for the next fifty years, and to making it even more relevant and useful for its member and partner countries, and within the new architecture of global governance. Better policies for better lives! This will be the imperative for my new mandate, our new mandate!

Thank you!