Open, representative and relevant

The 2008 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting and Forum, the high points of the OECD calendar, could not be more timely. The issues we will be dealing with and the policy responses we will discuss should pave the way for a better world economy. Christine Lagarde, the minister of economy, finance and employment of France–the OECD’s host country–will chair the ministerial meeting.
This year we will be welcoming the five candidates for OECD membership, Chile, Estonia, Israel, Slovenia and Russia, to the meeting for the first time, and we will also be welcoming Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa as partners in the organisation’s Enhanced Engagement programme.These are complex times. Fallout from financial market turmoil, the subprime debacle and high commodity prices has led us to revise down our growth forecasts since last year. Energy and food prices have soared, stoking inflationary pressures. Unemployment is rising in several countries, and world trade growth is slowing.It is precisely at such moments that OECD governments must keep their heads and stay focused on the fundamentals. And indeed, strengthening the world economy is vital, and forceful action by governments and central banks has started to restore confidence among market participants.The most challenging issue that concerns the future of us all is climate change. It is a problem that confronts us with the fierce urgency of “now”, which is why we have chosen the economics of climate change as the main theme of this year’s ministerial meeting.The OECD has been dealing with climate change for over two decades and is well placed to contribute to producing a sound economic foundation for the post-Kyoto architecture.The 2008 OECD Environmental Outlook delivered a strong, positive message which OECD environment ministers echoed at their meeting in April: with new policies we can overcome climate change, while maintaining economic competitiveness.The OECD is helping to build consensus on the key questions, such as the costs of action and inaction, and to design policies for promoting innovation, clean technologies in energy and transport, and actions for developing countries. OECD ministers must seize that common ground now, by making greater use of economic instruments, including putting a price on carbon, to spur efficient, low-carbon growth.Another development we will be addressing is sovereign wealth funds (SWFs). Their size, growth and the fact that they are owned by governments have raised eyebrows about whether these funds’ decisions could be politically motivated or target security-sensitive assets.The OECD has been responding to requests from members to devise guidelines and best practices for recipient country policies towards these funds, complementing IMF work on the funds themselves.We have discussed the issue with OECD and non-OECD countries, social partners, and SWFs too. OECD countries already have longstanding rules on investment and see no need for new legally-binding codes on SWFs. Instead, governments must keep investment regimes open and fair, and restore trust between SWFs and recipient countries. After all, these funds have a good track record, and could become a formidable force for development.This raises another vital issue OECD ministers must address at this year’s meetings, because once again the world’s poor are suffering, this time from higher food prices. This impacts the economies of all countries, but high prices punish the urban poor and major food importing countries in particular, not least in Africa. Many factors can explain higher food prices, from bad harvests and rising demand to competition from biofuels and speculation. Humanitarian aid will be needed, but one thing is certain: trade protectionism will not bring food prices back down. Open trade can, however, and more trade is therefore vital for meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Members must redouble their efforts to bring the Doha Development Round of trade talks to a successful close. A 50% reduction in tariffs and other trade-distorting support would generate over $40 billion in global welfare gains, which would benefit developing countries in particular.This year’s ministerial meeting is crucial for the organisation’s future, so we can deepen ongoing reforms. Finance is important for the OECD’s long-term capacity and to boost its responsiveness and impact in the interests of our members. There will always be fresh challenges ahead, in areas like inequality, migration, poverty, governance and healthcare, and from resource scarcity, notably freshwater. The OECD must be ready for such challenges if it wants to fulfil its mission of contributing to a better world economy.We are on our way to becoming a more open, representative and relevant organisation, and a hub for discussion on global issues. This demands action on many fronts, from investing in the quality of our work, to building strategic alliances with other organisations and strengthening communications at every level.I am looking forward to an enlightened discussion at our 2008 Ministerial Council Meeting. With the right policies, experience and resolve, we can address the challenges with confidence and build a brighter future for all.
©OECD Observer No 267 May-June 2008

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q1 2019 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% May 2019 annual
Trade: +0.4% exp, -1.2% imp, Q1 2019
Unemployment: 5.2% July 2019
Last update: 8 July 2019

OECD Observer Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Subscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To order your own paper editions,email

Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • MCM logo
  • The following communiqué and Chair’s statement were issued at the close of the OECD Council Meeting at Ministerial level, this year presided by the Slovak Republic.
  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2019