High Level Meeting for the Development Centre’s 50th Anniversary - Secretary General's Speech


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General


Paris, 1 March 2012

(As prepared for delivery)


Ministers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to this High Level Meeting, to celebrate the OECD Development Centre’s 50th Anniversary. Today is the first time ever that all of the Development Centre’s Members come together for a High Level Meeting and we are truly delighted to see you all here.

I want to extend a special welcome to China and Russia: we attach great importance to having OECD member countries and key partners as part of the Development Centre. I also want to welcome representatives from other International Organisations: the UN family, the Regional Development Banks, the World Bank and the IMF.

50 years of the Development Centre: looking back at its creation and mission

Let me just start by taking you back to 17th of May 1961: Speaking in Ottawa, Canada, President John F. Kennedy suggested that the OECD should build the foundations for a Development Centre. His vision was to create a space, where advanced and developing countries could work together, free from politics and ideology, to help developing countries overcome their economic and development challenges.

In 1962, this vision came to life. A group of wise and forward-looking men, including economist and Nobel prize-winner Jan Tinbergen, outlined the Centre’s objective: to help policymakers find solutions to the challenges of development, poverty and inequality.


The Centre would share the expertise and experiences of OECD member countries in ways which were adapted to the needs and circumstances of developing countries. This was not about aid, it was about development! It was not about asking governments to follow OECD policies. Instead, it was about strengthening policy dialogue in pursuit of common goals. By the way, this may sound familiar to those of you who are currently working with us on the OECD’s Development Strategy. 

The Centre has been tasked to pursue these goals–by conducting rigorous economic analysis, stimulating contacts between OECD countries and developing countries, exchanging information and ideas, and increasing our knowledge about economic growth and progress.

A defining feature of the Centre’s success has been its inclusiveness; its ability to convene countries around the table on an equal footing and with an equal voice. Your presence here today bears testimony to this approach. In the last 10 years in particular, the number of developing and emerging economies at the Centre has increased substantially, and today, the Centre is proud to count 17 emerging and developing countries and 25 OECD countries as members.

But the Centre does not just engage with governments. Over the years, the Centre has also built up strong links with key players in the development debate, including major firms in the private sector; leading think-tanks, research institutes and academics; and with civil society partners, many of whom have joined us here this week.

The Centre’s achievements over the years have been huge. It pioneered the analysis of the shift in the centre of the world economy towards the East and South, starting with the early work of economic historian Angus Maddison, who was remembered yesterday in the first ‘Angus Maddison Lecture on Development’. In his honour the Centre published its flagship report Perspectives on Global Development on the theme of ‘Shifting Wealth’.

Beyond its work on global development, the Centre’s regional Economic Outlooks - on Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia - have become trusted references for governments and investors alike. The Centre has also championed thinking on social development and on building competitive economies.

The Centre is celebrating its Anniversary in a world which is changing profoundly

At 50 years young, the Development Centre continues in the spirit of President Kennedy’s inspiration, but finds itself in a new reality.

Over the last ten years developing and emerging-market economies have greatly increased their contribution to global growth, shifting the economic centre of gravity to the South and the East. Developing and emerging-market economies now account for nearly 50% of world GDP, a far cry from the 36% that these countries represented when the OECD Development Centre was created in 1962.

Though the world may have changed in many ways, challenges remain. Poverty is still a worrying and stubborn challenge, even in the fastest growing developing and emerging economies. Inequality is on the rise in many parts of the world, including in many OECD countries. Social development and well-being are being constrained by a lack of basic public services, such as education and health care.

Governments will also have to respond to the growing aspirations of the new middle class for a better standard of life. Today almost half of the global middle class live in developing and emerging economies. By 2030, it will be nearly 4 billion. Yet, this new middle class is more vulnerable than its counterpart in more mature economies. The young, well educated are looking for adequate employment. Most members lack basic social security coverage. Illness or loss of employment can quickly send whole families back into poverty.

Meanwhile, in an increasingly interconnected world, development challenges go beyond national policy making. Governments will need to improve their capacity to adapt to global trends.

The OECD is changing the way it works on development

In this changing world, the OECD is also changing the way it works on development and with developing countries. Although development has always been at the core of our mandate – it is the ‘D’ in the OECD – a broader approach is needed.

Therefore we are working on the OECD Development Strategy with a view to increase the coherence of our own policies and support developing countries in designing better policies.

A new approach to development requires new thinking about development. “Development” is no longer seen as a policy challenge for developing countries alone. Inequality, climate change and conflict make development a global objective with implications for both developed and developing countries.

Looking at the examples set by countries around this table today, it is clear that there is no single trajectory for economic growth. The progress made in many developing and emerging economies – and in many advanced economies as well – has been based on a diversity of policy solutions.

All countries are unique: a product of their history, institutions and stages of development. There are good ingredients for growth, but no single “check-list” or magic recipe.  We need to analyse which policies work in practice, which ones don’t, and in which context. The OECD will seek to adapt its instruments and learn from its partners in the development of new policy recommendations and tools, their co-ordination and sequencing.

Knowledge sharing has been and will continue to be a vital part of the OECD’s work. Huge value can be gained by bringing together countries that face similar structural challenges – be it that their growth is based on natural resources, be it that they are climbing the global value chains – so that they can discuss policies and learn from each other’s successes and mistakes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The OECD will keep working with countries, international institutions and other actors at the country and global levels, to build on our strengths and ensure that we complement the good work done by others. Together we can work to improve inclusive policymaking in Member and partner countries, and to support developing and emerging economies in defining their own national development strategies.  

If we do this, we will meet the goals set by our founders and promote better policies for better lives in emerging and developing countries. Today we are looking forward to your views on the Development Strategy. We are keen on your ideas on how this Organisation can deliver on its commitment to fight poverty and to contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Thank you very much!


 Useful links:


Related Documents