Public governance

The call for innovative and open government


Public Governance Committee Meeting at Ministerial Level, Venice, 14 November 2010

Towards recovery and partnership with citizens: The call for innovative and open government


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be with you on the eve of this meeting of the Public Governance Committee at Ministerial Level.

I am sorry not to be able to stay with you for the proceedings, as there are some urgent matters I need to tend to back in Paris tomorrow, but I wanted to come to Venice, directly from the G20 Summit in Seoul, Korea, even if only for a few hours, to express my gratitude to Minister Brunetta for this initiative and to tell all of you of the importance we attach to this meeting.

It has never been more important to rethink the role of governments, two years into the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes. This crisis has shaken many of our old assumptions and governments are now called upon to assume greater responsibility in many areas. Some hard lessons have been learnt on the limits of markets as coordination mechanisms, lessons about information failures, transparency and conflicts of interest. The crisis is thus calling for a redefinition of the balance between the state and markets, and for new instruments to boost citizens’ trust in both.

Trust is a key intangible asset, necessary for the functioning of our market economies. Trust is also needed for governments to undertake the necessary reforms to restore long-term sustainable growth. Action in this area does not cost much in monetary terms, yet it offers significant returns. Improving interactions between the public and private sectors, addressing issues of integrity, making the public sector more like a "glass house", according to the words of Minister Brunetta; all this is necessary.

But also, one should understand that as the recovery remains patchy in many countries, governments will stay under great pressure to deliver more with less. The OECD is here to serve and support you in these difficult circumstances. This is the policy area where the Public Governance Committee has been active for nearly four decades, since its inception in 1961. And this is the policy area where the OECD will remain active in discussing how to build better governments, documenting trends and proposing policy options. This includes through our publication “Government at a Glance”, the second edition of which is turning in the presses.

This meeting is one of the first events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the OECD.  Let me thus take this opportunity to emphasize how the OECD acts as a "club of best practices", as a hub for global policy dialogue and exchange of experiences. Our role is to help design "Better Policies for Better Lives".

And this is what you will be doing in the next two days. You will hear from each other what worked for you and, more importantly, what didn’t, what failed.

Your agenda for these two days will include a discussion on how to deliver better services under fiscal pressure; how to improve the effectiveness of the public service, with a shift of focus toward performance; and how to promote open and transparent government. You will also consider how to strengthen government’s strategic capacity for foresight and innovation. All these are critical issues to restore trust, and to restore growth.

For sure, governments need to cut waste and streamline bureaucracy. But, more importantly, they also need to mobilize human resources. Ageing might be an opportunity in this regard. More generally, they could and should reap the benefits of ICT, a fantastic tool both to improve user-centred service delivery and to increase openness and transparency. Take, for example, the unemployment agencies. It is more than ever critical to help people get back to work, and the number of unemployed has dramatically increased. But at the same time, conditions are such that capacities can hardly be strengthened. It is only through human resources mobilisation, reorganisation and ICT that your can square the circle.

But to achieve all these ambitious objectives requires three main ingredients: dialogue, fairness and leadership. To get the latter, you will need to maintain buy in from your Prime Ministers for reform, not only for streamlining and reducing the public workforce. As for fairness, it is a condition sine qua non for the reforms to fly. And, to this end, dialogue with companies, unions and citizens is more important than ever, as much as dialogue with the civil servants themselves. That is why the presence of TUAC, BIAC, Civicus and Transparency International is so important.

Ladies and gentleman,

Building better governments will require a common and collective effort. I hope this Ministerial Meeting will contribute to a better understanding of available options and mechanisms to help us advance in the right direction, and ultimately to help put our economies on a renewed growth path. 

I just wanted to thank again our Italian Host, Minister Brunetta, and our Vice chairs from Australia, Mr. Terry Moran, and from Canada, Mr. Stockwell Day, for accepting to guide your discussions over the next two days.

I wish you a very successful Ministerial Meeting.



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