Better policies for better lives!

As the OECD reaches 50, it must continue to become more relevant, useful and open within a new architecture of global governance, argues Angel Gurría, in this extract from remarks delivered following the renewal of his mandate as OECD secretary-general.*

I am very grateful for your confidence and support shown in the decision to renew my mandate as secretary-general of the OECD. […]

The proposals I tabled when assuming this position turned out to be appropriate and proved necessary over time. However, the international situation and the changes in the global economy demand that we increase the speed of their implementation. The pursuit of relevance was the goal then and it continues to be my guiding objective today. Relevance nationally and internationally, in order to improve the well-being of our citizens. Relevance as we continue to help in the design of “better policies for better lives”.

The “raison d’être” of this organisation is to be a source of evidence-based advice for governments and a standard setter to address many global challenges. We will do it armed with our foundational values: openness, objectivity, boldness, pioneering spirit and sound ethics.

It will not be sufficient to return to growth after the dramatic events we have witnessed since 2008. We will need to do it with the background of the fight against climate change, which continues to be a top priority, a very high rate of unemployment, particularly of the young, and large fiscal deficits. We have established the analytical ground to do so with our response to the crisis, our Innovation Strategy and our Green Growth Strategy. Promoting growth–and searching for new sources of growth that are also “green”, more equitable and more “gender friendly”–has become a common objective to overcome the effects of the crisis and to lift millions of people around the world out of poverty. This starts by measuring and defining what is understood as wellbeing in the 21st century. Remember, the “D” in OECD is about development, and it is therefore a strategic priority.

Given the massive governance and business failures that caused the crisis and the resulting current fiscal situation, we are facing a just as massive loss of confidence by our citizens. As I have said many times, a crisis is terrible for incumbents. The economic outlook points to low growth for quite some time. The perspective to recover the same level of output and employment as before the crisis will take years. Citizens’ perceptions on the future are bleak, and their tolerance to bad news is exhausted. They have lost patience, but worse than that, they have lost hope. We need to change this outlook and this negative psychology.

That is a role for the OECD. To do so, I would like to propose a twopronged- strategy. First, to go beyond helping member countries in designing policy issues. Maybe we could go a step further and include policy options for effective implementation, as long as this is done closely with member countries’ governments. The test of our relevance is how much we influence policy and to what extent we have helped with implementation and evaluation. This is what I call our role as advisors and as pathfinders. This is part of our monitoring role. But this will need to be supported by our “core” activities on economic, health, social, employment, education, skills and environmental policies, among many others; what I call the fundamentals of our work. They generate the substance we have to offer.

Second, we must continue to increase our relevance as an organisation that sets the highest standards for the world economy. We are a standard setter. This second task requires us to work more closely not only with our member countries, but also and particularly with major emerging economies.

Here we face formidable challenges. Global imbalances are widening again and the international consensus needed to deal with major issues such as climate change, migration or poverty is not there. On the other hand, there is now an environment where international co-operation and multilateralism are seen as the best way to deal with these issues. The OECD, as an institution with one of the most advanced forms of co-operation and engagement, should contribute to build the necessary consensus to address these issues.

Indeed, we are witnessing a revolution in the way the world is governed and we will work to continue to be part of this new governance. This is increasing the relevance of our work on a global scale, but we should strengthen our efforts, and we count on our members in this endeavour. We have to consolidate our presence, continue to deliver high-quality, substantive contributions to the global debates and enhance our role as standard setter.

The emergence of the G20 has presented us with another crucial opportunity. Before, the G8 was the only game in town–now this is no longer the case. We have been delivering to this process since the beginning, with inputs on the most important issues, like taxes, balanced growth, investment and trade protectionism, anti-corruption, employment and development. […]

The global relevance of our organisation depends on a more effective relationship with the emerging economies. On enhanced engagement, as we have called it three years ago, I believe that the path that we have established, to gradually increase the knowledge base, mutual understanding via sectoral work and participation at the committee level, is simply not enough. This is not going to produce a breakthrough. It will put us in a “business as usual” mode. We need to run faster if we want more.

We are in the presence of a truly global transformation and need to speed up our strategy just to be able to keep up. Are we prepared to accept and process a request for membership of one or several of the EE5** countries today or would we neglect it? But even before that, we need to find more effective ways to get them “on board” on the substantive issues. […]

I look forward to our joint efforts in the next five years in preparing this wonderful organisation for the next 50 years, and in making it even more relevant and useful for its member and partner countries, and within the new architecture of global governance. Better policies for better lives! This will be the imperative for my new mandate, our new mandate!

*The secretary-general’s remarks were delivered on 30 September 2010. The full 2 000-word speech can be found at www.oecd.org/secretarygeneral. Mr Gurría became OECD secretary-general in June 2006.

**EE5 countries are Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa.


©OECD Observer No 281, October 2010




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