Globalising OECD

OECD Observer

In “The battle for world progress” (OECD Observer No. 236, March 2003), Ron Gass discusses the uneasy march of globalisation, and proposes that the OECD take a leadership role in the “socio-political leg of the fair distribution of wealth” of Arnold Toynbee’s theory of progress; that OECD provide the policy bridge between the “Davos” forces and the “Porto Alegre” forces. 

Although this suggestion is a noble idea, it is flawed, because in the eyes of those who lead the second leg – those involved in the alternative globalisation movement – the OECD has unfortunately sacrificed its vaunted impartiality by serving as the main forum for the development and the eventual implementation of the multilateral agreement on investment (MAI), a strategy that, some argue, was outside the OECD’s original mandate.

Further, Mr Gass states that, as the successor to the OEEC (Organisation for European Economic Co-operation), the OECD should retain the spirit of the Marshall Plan, and “keep the notion of progress alive” for the world as a whole. Alas, the OECD’s definition of progress is filtered through the eyes of its member countries – as Mr Gass notes, it is labelled by some as “the rich man’s club” – and this manifestly skews its position, promoting the agenda of the privileged. And, as the protests against the MAI showed, this definition of progress is not even universally supported by the OECD’s own citizens.

Fundamentally, if the OECD really wants its reports and findings to be heard and used by people on both sides of the globalisation debate, so that “more countries can play an autonomous role in the world economy”, then the organisation will have to instead play a lower-key role in controversy, on topics ranging from biodiversity to trade, in order to retain its avowed professional impartiality and regain its credibility.

—Claude Théoret, Paris, France

©OECD Observer No 239, September 2003

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