Dear friends and colleagues,
As we enter 2021, after a year that some have called the ‘longest year ever’, I want to take the opportunity to thank you dear members, partners and friends of the Development Centre, for your support, adaptability and resilience during these extraordinarily trying times. From a deadly pandemic to a global movement against racism, 2020 has experienced its fair share of world-shifting events.
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed and widened the cracks in our system. Worryingly, as many as 150 million additional people are expected to be pushed into extreme poverty this year. The crisis has also disproportionately affected women in a number of ways, as women are more likely than men to be in temporary, part-time and precarious employment, with lower pay, weaker legal protection and less access to social protection. Additionally, declining middle-class income, stagnant wages, and rising levels of unemployment and underemployment, have taken a turn for the worse due to the coronavirus.
The disruption caused by the pandemic is compounding pre-existing trends of anaemic growth, deepening inequalities, deteriorating working conditions and climate change destruction. This begs the question: will we seize the opportunity this crisis has opened up to build stronger, more inclusive and fairer societies and economies? Or follow the same pattern as after the global financial crisis, and return to the unsustainable status quo?
The Development Centre’s member countries’ response to this question was clear when they gave the Centre the mandate to support a New Deal for Development at the 6th High-Level Meeting of the Governing Board. A new deal consisting in strategies and reforms that go beyond reconstruction and rebuilding, focusing instead on transforming globalisation to benefit the many rather than the few.
The crisis has revealed how reliant our inter-dependent world is on international co-operation and solidarity. We need a new system that measures and addresses vulnerabilities more effectively, puts gender-equality at the core, connects national development strategies to global challenges, and promotes global public goods and a better handling of systemic risks – such as health crises, the debt legacy of this crisis and the climate disaster.
This year, we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the decision to create the Development Centre. The world today is not the same as it was then. Which is why over the last ten years, the Centre has sought to adapt to fundamental changes and new realities, and was quick in recognising a shift in the world’s economic centre of gravity. It saw the need for a bigger, more representative “table”, enlarging its membership to 56 countries today, of which 14 are Latin American, 11 African, 8 Asian and 21 European, together with Turkey and Israel.
To open up and reach out beyond state actors, the Centre created its Emerging Markets Network (EMnet) in 2007, the Network of Foundations Working for Development (netFWD) in 2013 and the Centre on Philanthropy in 2018. Additionally, the Policy Dialogue on Natural Resource-based Development (PD-NR) was created in 2012 for countries to consult with extractive industries, civil society organisations, and think tanks to ensure a fair share of risks and rewards among governments, investors and communities. Also launched in 2012, the OECD Initiative on Global Value Chains (GVCs), Production Transformation and Development, provides a peer-learning platform open to the participation of multiple stakeholders across the private and public sectors.
As we have seen with the rise of countries like Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa – all members of the Centre – there is no ‘one trajectory for development’. This is why the Centre provides an inclusive space where countries can discuss, as equal partners, the individual development paths, innovative policies and forms of international co-operation they need to support them. The challenges that emerging and developing countries face are complex and multifaceted. To help policy makers design policies and strategies that meet these challenges, going beyond growth to focus on improving citizens’ lives instead, I created the Multi-dimensional Country Reviews (MDCRs), with the release of the first MDCR on Myanmar in 2013.
Moreover, in promoting new indicators, the Centre has sought to shift the focus from the outdated equation of GDP with a country’s level of development, to a multidimensional understanding of well-being as a basis for renewed international co-operation – what we have discussed as Development in Transition. The waves of unrest before COVID-19 struck tell us that we must not give up on our efforts to capture what citizens want and need, and identify innovative ways to involve them in the design of national development strategies.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, our teams have relentlessly worked to keep producing the rigorous data and analysis, and enabling the inclusive policy dialogues, that countries, regions and the international community need to inform a resilient and sustainable recovery. I would like to thank them for their hard work. And in doing so, I want to also thank our Governing Board Chair, Ambassador Manuel Escudero of Spain, for his strong and agile leadership, and our members and partners, for their proactive engagement and support. .
Let us seize this opportunity for change and let me wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.
OECD Development Centre
Special Advisor to the OECD Secretary-General on Development