OECD Global Forum on Development 2018


Opening remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

Paris, 5 April 2018

(As prepared for delivery)



Your Royal Highness,  Excellencies, Dear colleagues,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the OECD for the 2018 Global Forum on Development. My particular thanks to Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark for opening the Forum with me this morning.

Youth and women must be at the centre of sustainable development

Putting people at the centre of economic development lies at the core of the OECD’s efforts, and of the call, set out in the 2030 Agenda, to leave no one behind. For several years now, we have been deepening our understanding of multi-dimensional well-being and its determinants through our Inclusive Growth initiative.


Of the world’s 7.6 billion people today, more than 4 billion are more likely to be at a disadvantage in terms of health, education or economic opportunities simply because they are young, a woman, or both.


Young people in developing countries are three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. Women account for 50% of the global working-age population but generate only 37% of global wealth since they are more likely than men to work in low-productivity and low-wage sectors. And when women work, it is more often part-time or less in paid employment.


In fragile and conflict-affected settings, both youth and women face greater challenges to accessing opportunities.


A growing body of evidence shows that these and other inequalities harm our economies. For example, the cost of young people not in employment, education nor training in emerging economies such as Viet Nam can be as high as 2.5% of GDP.


According to recent estimate, discrimination against women in laws, social norms and practices costs the global economy an estimated 12 trillion USD per year. Conversely, allowing women to play the same role as men in labour markets could add 28 trillion USD to global growth by 2025.


There has been progress, but it is insufficient and uneven

When we studied the aspirations of young people in developing countries as part of a large project we are undertaking with the European Union, we found that they just want a decent life. To be able to make their own choices. And to succeed. Yet for many, the gap between aspirations and the realities of the labour market is large.


In many emerging and developing countries, economic growth simply creates too few quality jobs. In Africa and South Asia especially, slow demographic transitions will put further pressure on labour markets in the next decades. Worldwide, some 600 million jobs will need to be created over the next 15 years to maintain current employment rates.  


The rise of populism in different parts of the world may also be weakening the global consensus on advancing the rights of women. In some places, women's rights, including sexual and reproductive health rights, have taken a major step backwards. And in no country in the world, including OECD Member countries, have we succeeded in removing all legal discriminations in both private and public spheres. Our Social Institutions and Gender Index -- the SIGI – shows this clearly.


Better policies can and must make a difference

Governments have a responsibility to invest in women and youth; to remove the obstacles I have just described; to create opportunities; and to empower them.


The OECD is playing its part. Allow me to share just a couple of examples:

First, we help with data
. SIGI – which I mentioned just a moment ago – is one good example of this. It is also being used to track progress on SDG 5 with respect to discrimination against women and girls. We also gather data on the aid donors direct to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Second, we bring analysis and policy advice
. The Youth Inclusion project that I mentioned, for example, assesses the specific policies that can improve education, training, health and employment outcomes for youth. We’re also looking at how we can take existing OECD tools – such as PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment), in the area of Education, and adapt these so that an even greater range of countries can benefit from them. And, more recently, we’ve started looking at gender through a policy coherence lens, trying to understand how the full range of policies – tax, social protection, education, infrastructure, to name only a few – impact on gender equality.

Third, we help deliver development co-operation to unleash the potential of youth and women
. Recent research undertaken in Nepal, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia has looked at the linkages between gender equality, conflict and fragility. We found that women’s active participation in peacebuilding and state building contributes to sustainable peace and resilience, and I understand you will have the opportunity to explore some of these issues further over the course of the day. We have also been working closely with countries through our MENA regional programme to look at how young people and women in the region engage in public life.


Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, dear colleagues,

Empowering women and young people empowers us all.

Today, we will talk with youth leaders, with passionate champions of gender equality, with Ministers in charge of youth and gender portfolios.

But these champions will not succeed alone. The empowerment of youth and women is a cause for us all to champion; not just for the Minister of youth or gender, but also for the Minister of Economy, of Finance, of Transportation, of Education. And the work is not just for governments, but also for the private sector and civil society.


I hope that today’s Global Forum on Development can help build consensus and generate momentum where they are most needed. In this endeavour, please count on the OECD to support you to design, develop and deliver better development policies for better lives.

Thank you.



See also:

OECD work on Development

OECD work on MENA





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