Remarks at high-level event on a new rural development paradigm and the inclusive and sustainable new communities model inspired by Saemul Undong


United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 side event

Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

New York, 26 September 2015

(As prepared for delivery)



Your Excellency, President Park, it is an honour to join you here today.

Excellencies, distinguished leaders,


Achieving the SDGs and advancing rural development are two sides of one coin.


As the international community launches the Sustainable Development Goals today, we know one thing for sure: rural development is key to their success. Achieving food security, sustainable agriculture and rural development are all part of the post-2015 agenda. In addition to being objectives in their own right, they are central to achieving the first SDG: eradicating poverty by 2030.


Globally, 3.3 billion people live in rural areas today. And that number is expected to continue growing in developing countries until 2028. So tackling human development means tackling rural development – the two go hand-in-hand.


We used to think the solution was rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. Now, we know that in well-performing economies, rural areas tend to be resilient, contributing to national wealth and social stability.


In these countries, characterised by solid institutions, local capacity and diversified rural economies, rural policy embraces multiple economic sectors and different levels of government. At the OECD, we call this approach “The New Rural Paradigm”.


What’s more, we think this approach can be applied and tailored in a range of contexts to help meet the challenges of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It reflects the experiences of a large group of both developed and developing countries. And perhaps most importantly, it recognizes the need to adapt previous experiences not only to the specific contexts of developing countries today, but also to the new challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.  


Korea offers important lessons, inspired by Saemaul Undong, for us all.


Our work on this New Rural Paradigm has been inspired by the experiences of Korea and its Saemul Undong programme, as well as the experiences of five developing countries.


Your Excellency, President Park, your country is living proof of how a multi-sectoral strategy for rural development can work. It shows the power of collective action, combining top-down and bottom-up approaches with monitoring and evaluation. It highlights the importance of education, of rural infrastructure, and of agricultural extension for rural development.


The Korean story – and in particular that of Saemaul Undong – is an impressive one. Between 1970 and 1979, the real incomes of farming households increased by an average 7% per year.


There is a Korean proverb that says ereek-ji-jangdo maj-deul-myeon nat-da [백지장도 맞들면 낫다]. Translated literally: “even paper is lighter when we lift it together” – or to quote an English proverb, “many hands make light work”.


Through Saemaul Undong, Koreans have demonstrated the power of collective action – of doing more by doing it together – to achieve transformative development outcomes. More than 30 developing countries have since adopted elements of Saemaul Undong, embracing community-driven development. 


The OECD is the perfect forum for sharing these lessons.


Today’s discussion on our research – led by the OECD’s Development Centre – should encourage the frank exchange of experiences between countries at all levels of development.


The proposed paradigm is diagnostic, not prescriptive. It offers the building blocks – not the blueprint – for effective rural development strategies and policies. Today’s conversation is just the start of a dialogue we want to continue with developing countries. By learning from one another, and by lifting together, we can design better rural development policies for better lives.


Thank you.