Putting cities at the heart of the fight for inclusive growth


Launch of the Inclusive Growth in Cities Campaign

Remarks by Angel Gurría

Secretary-General, OECD

29 March 2016

Ford Foundation, New York



Mayor de Blasio, Ambassador Yohannes, Mayors, Ladies and Gentlemen,


I am thrilled to be here with Darren to launch the OECD Inclusive Growth in Cities Campaign.


For the last 4 years, the OECD and the Ford Foundation have been working hand in hand to put inclusive growth at the heart of the global policy priorities.


Our All on Board for Inclusive Growth Initiative has provided decision makers across the world, from the US to China, with the data and tools to promote fairer and more prosperous societies. Together, we have also helped to set the inclusive growth agenda in key international fora like the G20. 


Thank you, Darren, and the Ford Foundation for all your efforts. We have achieved so much, but we have so much more to do!


Before I address the topic of the day, I would like to acknowledge Mr. Yvan Mayeur, Mayor of Brussels, who had to cancel his participation in this event following last week’s terrible attacks. One of the objectives of this campaign is precisely to defend the values of solidarity and equity to help build more just and prosperous societies. It is only by coming together that we can find appropriate solutions to overcome the challenges related to terrorism and insecurity within our cities.


Inequality is a global, national and local concern


Rising inequality has become one of the defining challenges of our time. Today, across the OECD, the average income of the richest 10% has grown to almost 10 times that of the poorest 10%, up from just 7 times 25 years ago. That’s an increase of around 40% in a generation! Here in the US, the gap is greater still. Since the late 1980s, the income of the top 10% has climbed to more than 16 times that of the bottom 10%.


And in cities, we see even starker inequalities, especially in large cities, where rich and poor people often live segregated in different neighbourhoods. For instance, people living in the highest earning neighbourhood in downtown Melbourne make more than 9 times as much as those in Melbourne’s poorest suburb. We see this pattern repeated in cities across the world, from Mexico City to Tokyo, Santiago to Paris.


But inequalities are not just about income. They touch every aspect of people’s lives. In the US, for instance, where you live can have a dramatic influence on how long you live, with life expectancy varying by six years across US states. Across the OECD, your chances of getting a job depend on your zip code!


This is profoundly unjust. But it is not just those at the bottom who suffer when inequalities scale new heights – we all do. When the poorest are unable to fulfil their potential, we all lose out on the visionary leaders, the innovators, and the economic growth that could have come to pass.


Clearly, we need to take action. If we are to succeed, then we have to ensure that cities are at the heart of the fight. After all, while it is in cities where the pernicious effects of inequalities are most acutely felt, it is also in cities that the most innovative and effective solutions can be brought to bear.


Launch of the New York Proposal


Across the world, Mayors are already flying the flag for inclusive growth. Indeed when more than half of the world’s population live and work in urban areas, and when across OECD countries two out of three people live in cities, this is where policies to embed inclusive growth must start. It is in recognition of Mayors’ efforts – and to spur them on further – that we gather here today to launch the Inclusive Growth in Cities Campaign and a global coalition of Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth.


To date, 43 Champion Mayors have answered the call from Paris to New York, Minneapolis to Medellin, Stockholm to Dakar and beyond. I would like to thank personally Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo who was the first Champion Mayor and has played a key role in this impressive mobilisation.


Together, Champion Mayors have signed on to the New York Proposal for Inclusive Growth in Cities.


The New York Proposal is a call to arms and a roadmap for change.It sets out our common commitment to a policy agenda to ensure that cities work for all of us.


As OECD’s Inclusive Growth Initiative has made clear from the start, we need policies that put people first. In cities and metropolitan areas, this means:

  • Providing education and training systems that enable people of all ages and backgrounds to develop skills and improve their life chances; and
  • Promoting labour markets that make the most of women, youth, the handicapped and the foreign-born populations.
  • But it also means changing the way we build and move around and within our cities:more affordable housing, effective transport networks, and quality infrastructure. 
  • Here, I would especially like to praise the efforts of Mayor de Blasio, who has truly championed policies for a new era of affordable housing in New York City, a critical element of inclusiveness and a big challenge in most cities.


Next steps


Most of you are already making inclusive growth a reality in your cities. All of you want to do so. That is why you are here. This new platform will help you to continue to champion inclusive growth in your cities.


We will also use this platform to facilitate coordination between national and local actions and regulation, a key ingredient for successful policy making. The OECD will work with you in this endeavour, bridging gaps in communication, and promoting dialogue. We will define common measurement tools and share best practices, so that we can see what works and help good ideas spread across the world.


Our efforts will support and inform other global agendas that aim to advance more sustainable, inclusive and resilient cities, from the UN-SDGs, to the New Urban Agenda and the Post-COP21 programme.


We will work hand in hand with partner institutions: Cities Alliance, the C40, ICLEI, the National League of Cities (NLC), United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), and United Way Worldwide.


Mayors, Friends,


In the OECD, in the Ford Foundation, and in other partner institutions present today,we are here to support you! To work with you but mostly for you. We look forward to partnering with you to ensure that everyone has a shot at success. 


This is what this gathering is about! The mission is clear, and the ambition is high. Together we can, we must, and we will deliver better inclusive growth policies for better lives.


I’m very pleased to introduce the Mayor of New York City, Mr. Bill de Blasio.


Bill is, of course, far from being a newcomer to the conversation on Inclusive Growth.


From his early days as a young City Hall staffer, to serving on his local school board, to his most recent position as Public Advocate for the City of New York, Bill de Blasio has been a longtime advocate of equality and innovative municipal policy.


Since taking office in 2014, Bill has become even more resolute in his battle against inequality, making it a priority issue for New York City Hall, and elevating it as part of the national debate in the United States. And this has led to impressive results already. Just last week, he oversaw the passing of a landmark policy to help secure affordable housing for New Yorkers.


Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Mayor de Blasio to the group of Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth. Thank you.