OECD Secretary-General

OECD Forum 2018 : Opening Remarks


Opening remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General 

OECD, France - 29 May 2018 

(As prepared for delivery)


Madame Hidalgo, Dear Ministers, Ambassadors, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen:

What brings us together?


We all come from different corners of the world, from different backgrounds, times and professions. We carry different cultures and stories, different concerns and life expectations, different hopes and fears. So what brings us together today, in Paris, at the OECD, this morning of the spring of 2018, while the world is going through one of the most convoluted, complex and turbulent phases in history?


What brings us together today is a belief, a conviction, a certainty that multilateralism is needed more than ever. We are here today because we agree that in a globalised, interdependent world, international cooperation is the most enlightened way to improve our wellbeing, perhaps the only one. We are facing challenges that none of us can solve on their own. Our countries are connected; our destinies interwoven; our solutions entangled. In the words of Dostoyevsky: “We are all responsible to all for all.”


Welcome to the OECD 2018 Forum and the OECD Week! Welcome to explore the DNA and the potential of collective action! Welcome to the OECD!


Lors du Forum de l’année dernière, nous nous sommes penchés sur les fractures de plus en plus profondes qui divisent nos économies et nos sociétés. Cette année, nous nous intéresserons à Ce qui nous rapproche. Nous rappellerons au monde que l’humanité est une communauté. Nous mettrons l’accent sur les défis communs auxquels nous sommes confrontés et les objectifs que nous poursuivons, afin de les transformer en politiques nouvelles et en normes internationales de meilleure qualité. Nous mettrons à profit notre diversité et renforcerons nos interconnexions pour définir une nouvelle approche du multilatéralisme, qui ne laisse personne de côté.


Nous devons jeter des ponts, miser sur les accords et nous efforcer de rapprocher les pays. Ce qui nous rapproche est tellement plus grand, plus puissant, plus pérenne que ce qui nous divise !


But it’s also time to ask ourselves why these pushbacks, why these “antibodies” to our common cause are emerging. It’s time to recognise that something is not working when the world’s richest 1% accumulate half of the world’s wealth; when more than 60% of the world’s employed work informally; when the richest 10% of the OECD population now earn almost 10 times more than the poorest 10%, up from 7 times in the 1980s; and when trust in governments, institutions, political parties, banks, enterprises and international organisations has decreased to record lows.


Why? Because national and global economic systems keep leaving too many behind.


Thus, we need to rethink and relaunch international co-operation. Multilateralism has delivered and is delivering in hundreds of fronts: think of hunger, extreme poverty, aids, malaria, child labour, the SDGs, the Paris Agreement. Here at the OECD we have reached remarkable agreements on tax transparency, BEPS, anti-bribery, better corporate governance and responsible business conduct, to name just a few. We are also advancing new major multilateral initiatives to make globalisation more humane, such as the Inclusive Growth Framework and the New Jobs Strategy, (which will be adopted at the MCM). Our collaboration with the G20 has grown over the years, helping us bring large emerging economies to adopt OECD standards on tax, corporate governance, investment; we have also reached crucial deals on women’s empowerment and steel over-production, to mention a few. A lot is already being achieved multilaterally!


Toutefois, beaucoup reste encore à améliorer pour rendre le multilatéralisme plus efficace, plus transparent, plus inclusif et plus fiable. Nous devons refonder le multilatéralisme pour des résultats plus responsables, plus efficaces et plus inclusifs ; tel est l’intitulé de notre Réunion du Conseil au niveau des Ministres (RCM), qui est cette année présidée par la France, et co-présidée par la Lettonie et la Nouvelle-Zélande. Nous devons rapprocher le multilatéralisme des populations, de la société civile, des universités ; le rapprocher des jeunes et d’un mode de vie durable sur notre planète. Nous devons améliorer la visibilité de nos travaux et mieux faire connaître nos activités et la façon dont nous les menons, afin que les gouvernements et les citoyens cessent de considérer le multilatéralisme comme un jeu à somme nulle et de le remettre en cause pour cette raison.


We also need to ensure effective implementation of our international standards to level the global playing field. The OECD has developed close to 450 multilateral legal instruments since its creation. More than half of these remain in force today. To keep them relevant we launched an OECD-wide Standard Setting Review to make sure that the OECD legal instruments continue to respond to the challenges faced by governments. We asked: what would you keep? What would you change? What would you scrap? We detonated a process where some 260 legal instruments were reviewed in little over six months, resulting in 32 abrogations of outdated instruments and follow-up actions for 134 instruments up to 2021. We will follow up closely and stay the course on this crucial reform.


We also need to strengthen our commitment with inclusive growth and put it at the heart of the multilateral system. In spite of recent improvements, inequalities have remained high and even continue to increase, blighting people’s lives, wasting their potential contribution, eroding their trust in democracy. This is personally unfair, politically dangerous, and corrosive for our economies. Our work shows that inequalities reduce aggregate productivity and growth because they reduce the capacity of the poorest 40% to invest in the education and skills of their children.


As we focus on the new Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth that we will present to Ministers, there is scope to strengthen business dynamism while simultaneously aligning wage growth with productivity growth. Stronger productivity growth is necessary, but not sufficient to sustain economic growth over the long-term, unless equity issues are also addressed. As we will highlight tomorrow in the presentation of our Economic Outlook, the upswing in the global economy is creating opportunities to ensure that growth works for all. We must seize them!


This Forum is also an opportunity to discuss the impacts and enormous potential of digitalisation. Digitalisation and its offspring – social networks, artificial intelligence, big data, the Internet of Things - are rapidly changing all facets of our societies and economies. They are bringing cascades of human progress, from health apps to genomic quantification, from e-government to surgical robots, from digital grids for renewable energy to crowdfunding and online education. Are they also changing our values, our freedom and privacy? Our psychological stability, our anxiety levels? Are they creating new global risks and vulnerabilities? Are they affecting the learning capacity of our children at school? Are they threatening our jobs?


We estimate that 14% of jobs in OECD countries are at high risk of automation, and a further 32% of jobs could face substantial disruption. There are also studies that foresee equivalent amounts of new digitally driven labour opportunities. But, will reskilling be feasible in all sectors? We need the evidence. And that’s what we are trying to produce at the OECD. Our Going Digital Project and the new OECD Jobs Strategy, which we will be presenting at our Ministerial Council Meeting, are taking a "deep dive" into these questions to advance our understanding of these new technologies and give policymakers evidence and policy options to widen connectivity, strengthen cybersecurity and make the most of the digital economy.


These are the central questions of this Forum. And there will be many other exciting discussions, on Start-Up Ecosystems, Women in Tech, Well-being Budgets, Biodiversity, Loneliness, The Future of Work. We will debate major global challenges, such as Integrating Migrants, The Different Faces of Trade, The Future of Democracy in a Digital Age, the State of Multilateralism, the Centrality of Data. All this will be dynamised by Idea Factories and Food for Thought Lunches. It will be a festival of ideas and solutions, a festival of better policies for better lives!


Dear friends:

In one of his most emblematic and multicultural books, “The Enchantress of Florence”, Salman Rushdie wrote: “This may be the curse of human race. Not that we are so different from one another, but that we are so alike.” And I say: nice shot Mr Rushdie, but I’m afraid it’s the combination of both, our diversity and similarities, which makes us resilient as a human race.


The countries that learn to make the best of both our differences and common traits, celebrating their national specificity and plurality, as much as their coincidences with “the others”, building bridges rather than divides, will lead this world. We are all cultural hybrids and need each other to succeed. It’s time that we turned that into a source of strength!


Je vous invite à faire de ce Forum et de cette Réunion du Conseil au niveau des Ministres une réussite ! Tirons pleinement parti de ce qui nous rapproche ! Rassemblons-nous pour réfléchir à un monde collaboratif plus inclusif et plus durable, et bâtissons ensemble ses fondations !


Attelons-nous tous à concevoir, développer et mettre en œuvre des politiques meilleures pour une vie meilleure !


Je vous souhaite un excellent Forum !


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