Welcome remarks at the 46th Development Assistance Committee (DAC) High Level Meeting


Welcome remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General at the 46th DAC High Level Meeting, Opening Session

Paris, 21 May 2008

Ministers and Agency Heads, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me welcome you to the 46th DAC High Level Meeting at the OECD’s new Conference Centre; right at the same spot where ─61 years ago─  the visionary speech by US Secretary of State, General Marshall, offering US support for European reconstruction, started building a new global reality. That statement ─with its briefness and clarity, its down to earth language, its optimism in the midst of daunting challenges, its belief in the power of cooperation and the transformative impact of collective action─  still stands as an example for articulating public policy at the global level.

Your agenda for this meeting introduces major global policy challenges:

  • How to position the DAC in a world in constant change.
  • How to end conflicts that keep a billion people from escaping poverty.
  • How to integrate climate change into development cooperation in order to avoid the high costs and the human disasters that threaten so many people in poor countries.
  • How to act collectively and coherently to address the food price crisis.
  • How to follow through on the aid effectiveness agenda of the Paris Declaration, and on the public commitments of OECD Heads of State to scale up aid.

This rich agenda reflects, among other things, that globalisation is demanding increased and better global governance. This means a world community of closely cooperating states, supported by an efficient international infrastructure of intergovernmental institutions.

Last November, the Chancellor of Germany, Mrs Merkel invited me, along with four other Heads of multilateral agencies to discuss just this issue: how to ensure that we have an effective global governance framework that addresses the right issues, performs the right analyses, generates consensus about policies and facilitates timely and coherent action. I offered the full participation of the OECD with our comparative advantage, that of searching for the best practices through a multidisciplinary approach based on objective, evidence based analysis.

But to be fully effective, we also need to increase cooperation with emerging economies. Thus, in opening up the OECD’s membership through our enlargement and enhanced engagement programmes, we are inviting some of the major developing countries to participate in important discussions of the international economic agenda. In doing so, we are strengthening the OECD role as a hub for global policy discussions.

Thus, the ongoing accession process for five countries (Chile, Estonia, Israel, Russian Federation and Slovenia) and the new enhanced engagement programme for a further five (China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa) with a view to possible membership.

Let me conclude with a focus on the OECD’s role in development cooperation and the key issues that you will be discussing.

In the context of our commitment to a network of cooperating international institutions as part of an improved global governance infrastructure, I have been working with OECD development partners to help shape the understanding of global issues.

Last November in Geneva, we partnered with the WTO on the first Global Review of Aid for Trade. We provided the evidence ─”Aid for Trade at a Glance”─ and we are working with other international institutions to move this new process under which the aid community works with the trade community. This monitoring work is beginning to give us a better picture of who does what and how well it works; and that in turn will contribute to improving aid effectiveness.

Last December, I led a team of senior OECD officials for a seminar with World Bank counterparts where we defined working relationships across a range of subjects which we can better address by joining forces.

On African development challenges, I was invited to join the Steering Group of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Africa MDG Initiative. It is in that context that I have just accepted a torch and promised to champion the ODA delivery and predictability, as well as the MDG 3 on gender equality and women empowerment. We are also contributing innovative work on forward information on aid levels and aid allocations; including aid channelled through multilateral agencies and global funds.

The IMF has contributed with a new perspective on how it should treat medium term fiscal balances ─having concluded from its recent evaluation of structural adjustment lending that its traditional approach was creating a bias against the absorption of increased aid.

But here lies a challenge for the aid community in this room today. Collectively, we are not providing aid predictability which could enable countries to plan and scale up investments and capacity in the MDGs and to work with the IMF on medium term financial scenarios. There is a major information failure in the aid system as it currently functions.

This is one of the key issues to be confronted at the Accra High Level Forum. I am committed to go to Accra to help push forward the agenda on aid effectiveness. I hope very much that my colleagues from the World Bank and the IMF will be there too, so that we can work together to help map the way forward. We must send a strong message to Accra, because we are running a high risk of not making it in fulfilling our MDGs commitments.

Let me finally touch upon two major horizontal projects within the OECD in which the DAC is a key contributor.

Our major OECD work on climate change is designed to provide a sound economic and analytical footing for a post Kyoto architecture that will lead to the most cost-effective and equitable approaches to reducing greenhouse gases to sustainable levels. This will be the major item at our OECD Ministerial Meeting next month.

The work of the DAC with the Environment Policy Committee on integrating climate change into development cooperation is path-breaking. There are also complex issues regarding the use of ODA in financing climate change programmes and projects. I know that the two Committees are giving careful consideration to another joint Ministerial meeting next year to take these issues forward ahead of the COP15 Copenhagen meeting in 2009.

And our new OECD-wide project on innovation has important implications for developing countries which are still not taking advantage of this force that now drives our economies forward. This project can make a major contribution to catch-up growth. Here we are providing an important development tool.

This morning at breakfast, we discussed the implications of the food price crisis for development cooperation. Here again, the multidisciplinary character of the OECD can generate a special contribution to addressing this issue. As you will see in the discussion note which we will present during the OECD Ministerial meeting in a couple of weeks’ time, we are proposing an important new OECD-wide project on development strategies, with a focus on agriculture; a focus that will go beyond agriculture, since the food problem and the poverty issues have multidimensional causes and implications.

We know this is a complex process on the ground; a great challenge indeed. Considering that the DAC has accomplished recent important work on pro-poor growth and agriculture, I very much look forward to the contribution you can make to this OECD project.

In closing, let me wish you a fruitful meeting. Every time I hear the very meaningful and action oriented discussions that take place in the development community and the DAC, I feel greatly encouraged, because I notice that the OECD mission of making the world economy work better is feasible.

Thank you for your leadership and support.


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