Development Centre

2020 New Year’s Message from the Development Centre


Responding to cries for improved well-being nationally and internationally

As 2019 has just drawn to a close, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for the invaluable support, insights and contributions you have brought to the OECD Development Centre over the past year. 2019 has not been without its trials and tribulations for multilateralism, but this has not stopped us from pushing ahead, holding up our commitment and reinvigorating our approaches to international co-operation. In taking stock of some of last year’s biggest achievements, I look forward to things to come, and what we have yet to accomplish, by pursuing our work together.

Progress over the last decades, has created unprecedented opportunities. However, while growth soared, inequalities have continued to increase, with a large part of the middle classes left feeling vulnerable and at risk of losing recently acquired benefits. As a consequence, discontent is increasing. Although triggered by different circumstances, mass protests around the world from Chile to Lebanon, passing through Indonesia and Iran, were all sparked by anger at a set of common issues: first, a growing disconnect between governments’ perception of people’s well-being and the reality, second, policies perceived as unfair and harmful to people’s well-being, and third, general discontent with the current economic growth models in place.

Far from being limited to the developing world, these trends are echoed by protests in countries such as France and social unrest the world over. Countries are in the same boat in facing environmental risks, new technologies, and long-term changes in social behaviour. Ultimately people want change, and it is our job to show them that through our work together, this change can be set in motion nationally but also internationally. Preconceived ideas about policy solutions are no longer the answer, there is no one-size-fits-all solution and the complexity of today’s challenges imply a plurality of development pathways.

The Development Centre pursued its work to support countries’ transformation of productive capacities to create jobs and enter a path of sustainable development; to help countries redefine and address economic, institutional and social traps with national and international tools such as multi-stakeholder policy dialogues and cross-sectoral analysis; and to improve people’s well-being in response to increasing discontent, by putting well-being indicators to use in policy-making and supporting countries in creating sustainable and inclusive development models.

Forging development pathways across continents

In 2019, our Governing Board, made up of both OECD and non-OECD countries, continued to map out development paths across continents, with a special emphasis on deepening engagement with the African Union. Since then, creating jobs in Africa by transforming productive capacities has been at the core of our efforts.  Just over a month ago, in partnership with the Government of Spain and the African Union, the 19th edition of the International Economic Forum on Africa took place in Madrid. The focus was on productive capacities of the private sector and investment priorities across the continent.  In this respect, earlier last year, we held a joint high-level policy dialogue with the African Union Commission at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), looking at how to accelerate the shift in Africa’s production structure. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to actively promote investments in infrastructure in Africa.

Discussions at TICAD were a preamble to the second edition of Africa’s Development Dynamics (AfDD) that was later launched in Addis Ababa. The publicationexplores policies for production transformation across the region, highlighting priority policy areas and decisive actions to enable African companies to move up the value chain.

In this line of action, the Production Transformation Policy Reviews (PTPRs) were implemented in Africa last year, starting with a first PTPR of Egypt, within the Initiative on Global Value Chains (GVCs). PTPRs provide roadmaps for economic transformation across continents, and in Latin America, a PTPR was launched with Colombia in Bogotá. Two High Level Plenaries of the OECD Initiative for Policy Dialogue on GVCs, Production Transformation and Development, which continues to be the go-to place for public and private dialogue on the changing nature of globalisation and development, were held in Egypt and Peru, and an upcoming plenary will be held in Addis Ababa in 2020.

Broader structural transformation for job creation is crucial for inclusive development. Our work on intermediary cities, particularly an upcoming report on Ethiopia, highlights the role of these cities in addressing the increasing demand for non-farm jobs, reducing the pressure on the capital city, and providing a more balanced urban system that is conducive for rural development.

The Centre-led Policy Dialogue on Natural Resources-based Development is another important tool that supports the transformation of economies, particularly with the endorsement - after a four-year multi-stakeholder consultation process - of the Guiding Principles for Durable Extractive Contracts Development in June 2019. This initiative also made an important contribution to the OECD GGSD "Greening Heavy and Extractive Industries" Forum and is now embarking on a new journey to assist fossil fuel economies transition towards a low-carbon future. 

Addressing the multidimensional nature of regional and global challenges

Looking at Latin America as a whole, the 2019 Economic Outlook on Latin America and the Caribbean (LEO), the findings of which were presented at the BAPA+40 Conference, offers a new approach for transitioning to more inclusive and sustainable development. Produced in the framework of the EU Regional Facility for Development in Transition, it provides a fresh multidimensional approach and recommendations to tackling the pervasive economic, social, institutional and environmental traps in the region, through new forms of international co-operation.

Multidimensional also means intersectional. In 2019, a long-term commitment was made in the form of the new EU-OECD DEV Facility in Asia which will be launched in 2020. The Facility will create, among others, a unique community of practice devoted to regional policy dialogue among policymakers working on social issues, and those working on competitiveness, trade and investment issues. Addressing the interconnected nature of the region’s challenges, the Economic Outlook on Southeast Asia, China and India 2020, launched at the 2019 ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Bangkok, looks at the ways in which education systems will need to adapt and produce new skill sets in the digital era.

An effective multidimensional strategy that is aligned with the SDGs, is one that ensures gender equality. In March of last year, the Development Centre published the 2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) Global Report, measuring discrimination against women in formal and informal laws, social norms, and practices across 180 countries. In Africa, the SIGI 2019 shows clear progress with political commitment, new legislation and gender-sensitive programmes, however these are still not being translated into real changes for women and girls in many African countries. More locally designed solutions are needed in combination with adequate legislation. SIGI continued working with UN Women and World Bank on officially monitoring the SDG indicator 5.1.1 “Whether or not legal frameworks are in place to promote, enforce and monitor equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex”.

Responding to cries for improved well-being nationally and internationally

In the words of Joseph Stiglitz, if we measure the wrong thing, we will do the wrong thing. For the first time, the Development Centre took part in the Delhi Process V. An important takeaway was the unanimous consensus that upgrading international cooperation starts by finding common ground to measure development impact, along with the need to create new spaces for dialogue that allow room for the multiplicity of actors in development. Co-operation that responds to people’s cries for a better quality of life and well-being needs to look beyond economic growth. In this vein, the International Conference on the Policy Uses of Well-being and Sustainable Development Indicators in Latin America and the Caribbean in Bogotá, was an important step forward, serving as a knowledge-sharing platform on the design and use of multidimensional indicator sets in policy-making.

For people to experience improved well-being, countries need to provide better quality public services. To offer these services, additional tax revenues need to be raised in fair and efficient ways. We pursued our work to help improve domestic resource mobilisation, namely with the release of Revenue Statistics reports for LAC,  Africa - with Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mauritania, Nigeria and the Seychelles joining the initiative - as well as Vanuatu for Asia, in 2019. Beyond indicators, national development strategies as a whole need to reflect the multi-dimensionality of well-being and be aligned with the SDGs. The Centre pursued its work with countries with the production of new Multi-dimensional Country Reviews for Peru, Paraguay, Vietnam and Thailand, along with Mutual Learning Group sessions to facilitate peer learning across member countries and the implementation of policy recommendations.

At the Fifth High-Level Meeting on 21 May 2019, our Governing Board adopted a Policy Statement on Universal Social Protection, calling upon all countries to live up to their commitments to develop nationally owned social protection systems. Following through on our mandate, we pursued our work to drive the expansion of sustainable social protection systems. The Social Protection Systems Programme, a joint effort with the EU and the Government of Finland produced two key studies: Can Social Protection be an Engine for Inclusive Growth? and Tackling Vulnerability in the Informal Economy.

The Centre continued to work with the international community to strengthen links between migration and development, through contributions to the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) and the UN Migration Network’s efforts to reach the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) objectives. In December, we convened major actors, experts and policy makers for a full day of debates on migration.

Finally, our Networks of private sector (EMnet), foundations (netFWD) and development communicators (DevCom) continued to successfully gather state and non-state actors, to discuss and find relevant policy solutions to advance the global development agenda. To bridge the data gap on global philanthropy for development, the Centre on Philanthropy released a report on India’s Private Giving: Unpacking Domestic Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility, examining data from 50 of the largest domestic philanthropic organisations in India in a way that is comparable with other sources of funding for development, such as international philanthropic flows and Official Development Assistance (ODA). DevCom worked across sectors and regions to support governments in building and communicating narratives on sustainable development that truly speak the language of citizens.

With robust data and analysis, inclusive dialogue and debate and by delivering a fresh approach to international co-operation – we are highly equipped to continue forging the right partnerships and applying the best tools to create high-impact policies that leave no one behind. In the volatile context we live in, continuing our work in this line of action - towards the implementation of policies that citizens want and need - is indispensable.

On that note, I’d like to thank our Governing Board Chair Ambassador Manuel Escudero of Spain for his knowledgeable leadership, our members and partners for their deep engagement, and our staff for their remarkable talent and expertise.

With these ambitious yet achievable tasks ahead - thanks to the work we continue to do together - I wish you a happy and fruitful New Year!  

Mario Pezzini


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