United Arab Emirates

6th World Government Summit: Global Platform on “Governance of the Future”


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday 11 February 2018

(As prepared for delivery) 



Dear Excellencies, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to open the 3rd OECD Global Platform on “Governance of the Future”, an initiative of the MENA-OECD Governance Programme which I launched here two years ago. I would like to thank the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for hosting us at the World Government Summit, which has become a major global hub for strategic discussions to make governments and societies fit for the challenges of today, but more crucially, of tomorrow.


The world is changing – governments must change with it

Today’s discussions focus on “disruptive technology and innovation”. This is a timely topic as the tectonic shifts brought about by digitalisation are transforming our economies, governments and societies in the most profound way.


While these processes have the potential to spark innovation and to develop new tools and policies for promoting inclusiveness and sustainable development, they also bring disruption in many ways. Their impact on jobs and employment is one crucial concern. We estimate that 9% of jobs in the OECD are at high risk of being automated, while for an additional 25%, tasks will change significantly because of automation.


With rising inequalities and anxieties around technology and globalisation, more than ever governments have to show people that the right policy settings can improve their lives and the lives of their children. This is particularly true in the context of the current confidence crisis, with levels of public trust at record low levels. In the OECD, only 4 out of 10 citizens trust their government. More than ever, governments have to show they are up to the challenge of embracing a future of unknowns, uncertainties and “unprecedented unpredictability”, as the OECD’s recent GSG Meeting called it.


Embracing Innovation in Government: Global Trends 2018

The good news is, governments are making progress. The OECD Observatory of Public Sector Innovation (OPSI) has joined the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Government Innovation to develop a global review of frontier public sector innovation. And I am pleased to launch here today the fruit of this partnership, our new Embracing Innovation in Government: Global Trends 2018.


The report, which draws on leading-edge innovation practices and methods from 58 countries, highlights three key and positive trends:

  • First, governments are exploring new ways to provide identities to individuals and businesses by using emerging technologies, such as biometric and blockchain. For instance, India’s high-profile Aadhaar identity programme provided a biometric identity for 1.2 billion Indian citizens—that’s 15% of the global population—to access public and now private sector services.

  • Second, governments are transforming the way services are provided through “systems approaches”. For example, Canada’s “Free Agents” and “TalentCloud” programmes are transforming the public workforce model by building a pool of talented and interdisciplinary experts who can be deployed on-demand to work on priority projects.

  • Third, we are seeing a greater push for innovative programmes promoting inclusiveness. Norway’s “Asker Welfare Lab”, for instance, is supporting vulnerable citizens by connecting all relevant city services and providing them with investment training to collectively “invest” in a person’s wellbeing. 

These are great advances that are challenging the status quo and transforming lives. However, much more needs to be done to cope with increasing complexity and uncertainty and rapidly evolving technologies.


The importance of a “systems-wide approach” to navigate in the uncertain future

We need to work together to drive collective, systems-wide solutions. Innovation must burst upwards and spread from towns and cities, to states and regions, to countries, and accross the globe.

  • We must be aware. We must be aware of the risks ahead and of the trade-offs that techonological disruption may bring. For example, while technological advancements can provide countries with incredible tools for innovation and transparency, they also leave them more vulnerable to privacy and security risks, such as cyber crimes.

  • Second, we must be prepared. Governments must be agile, reactive and prepared in the face of these risks. Last autumn, Estonia quickly suspended some features of over 700 000 biometric ID cards as a precaution when their underlying hardware was found to be vulnerable to identity theft. Thanks to their rapid response to update the affected cards, identity theft was prevented.

  • Governments need to look to the future. There are still very few examples of countries innovating through specific welfare or labour market programmes to support the many people whose jobs will be lost to automation. A stronger focus on the future is needed, including a focus on skilling, re-skilling and upskilling. The OECD is well positioned to work with governments in all these areas. We are already working to advance the use of strategic foresight in policy making through our Government Foresight Community, a hub for experts in national administrations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Mariana Mazzucato underscored the crucial role of the public sector in delivering radical, epoch-defining innovation: “Not only has government funded the riskiest research, whether applied or basic, but it has indeed often been the source of the most radical, path-breaking types of innovation. To this extent it has actively created markets, not just fixed them.”


The OECD is here to help governments assume that role and face the challenges that lie ahead to navigate an uncertain future. We are building a global community and a global knowledge base to support and disseminate innovations like the ones I have mentioned today. We invite you to connect with us so that together we can design, develop and deliver better public sector innovation for better lives. Thank you.




Also see:

OECD work on MENA

OECD work on Going Digital

OECD work with United Arab Emirates



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