Development Centre at 40

OECD Observer

The OECD may be seen by some as a “rich countries’ club”, yet for four decades it has devoted considerable resources and effort to the global task of promoting development in non-OECD countries.

It is home to the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which is responsible for over 90% of global official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries, as well as home to the regionally focused Sahel and West Africa Club. And celebrating its 40th anniversary this year is the Development Centre, which has been an active forum for professional consultation, intellectual exchange and policy advice between the OECD and the emerging and developing economies of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

US President John Kennedy first proposed the creation of the Development Centre in 1961 in a speech to the Canadian Parliament: “…that the OECD establish a Development Centre, where citizens, officials, students and professional men of the Atlantic areas and the less developed countries can meet to study the problems of economic development.”

The US is no longer a member, yet since its creation, the Development Centre has developed a rich “knowledge” network throughout the world, and has generated an impressive roster of cutting-edge research, exchange programmes, seminars and conferences. Recent studies include references like The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective and the African Economic Outlook, while its technical publications on financial stability, trade, education, income distribution, environment and health are in good demand. The Development Centre is marking its 40th anniversary with a publication of reflections and recommendations on development issues, called Development is Back.

One notable achievement is the Development Centre’s work with the regional development banks–the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank in particular–to generate dialogue and frank exchange on global development challenges. And its informal seminars have included such speakers as former French prime minister Michel Rocard, Nigerian Head of State Olusegun Obasanjo and US economist Paul Krugman.

An impressive record, but the biggest goal of all has yet to be achieved: helping to make a serious dent in world poverty. The challenge continues.

©OECD Observer No 234, October 2002

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