The OECD Ministerial Council and the Forum which precedes it provide an occasion for ministers and civil society to take stock of the achievements of the past half-century, and to update and refine the policy agenda for promoting shared growth and development.
Over the past two and a half years, there have been a number of high-level international meetings dealing with aspects of this agenda. The United Nations Millennium Summit, the Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development, the FAO’s World Food Summit, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development supported by the G8, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development have all set objectives for growth and development. I believe that the direct engagement of leaders and ministers has built up over time an international resolve to address the needs of present and future generations and to develop the tools for doing so.
Within the lifetime of many of us there has been an unprecedented expansion of prosperity, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Technological advances, the absence of major international conflict since the end of the Second World War, and the growth of trade and investment have been important factors. International organisations, including the OECD, have played their part by developing frameworks of rules and co-operative approaches to policy making. Globalisation has made shared community responsibility a far larger concept than it was previously.
This year the OECD Ministerial Council will be looking at how governments can promote confidence in the international economy, and even more importantly, at policies to support sustainable growth and inclusive development for the longer term. The OECD process, which brings the analytical work of the organisation’s secretariat together with the perspectives of member governments, is well suited to broad exchanges of this sort. I very much appreciate the opportunity for New Zealand to chair the meeting.
I expect that our discussions will cover factors such as: adjusting to demographic trends and promoting increased participation in the workforce; harnessing technology and innovation; developing skills to equip our people so they can thrive in the knowledge economy; discussing trade policies to create opportunities in member countries and the developing world; transparent financial systems and corporate governance practices which ensure a sound base for growth.
It is important for the OECD to be outward looking. A theme of this year’s meeting will be the impact of our governments’ policies on developing countries. We are pleased that ministers from key non-member countries will join us for discussions on sharing the gains from globalisation and on how we can provide political impetus for the WTO negotiations on the Doha Development Agenda at this critical stage.
I will be happy to share some thoughts on New Zealand’s approach in the areas being addressed by the OECD. Our government has benefited from international experience in formulating its policies. We have developed a Growth and Innovation Framework to guide our country in developing the skills, infrastructure, and international linkages to capitalise on our own innovation, and position New Zealand as a successful knowledge-based society. This is complemented by the government’s Sustainable Development Programme of Action, which encompasses the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainability. As well as providing strategic leadership, our government is working to build partnerships with business and civil society in pursuit of these goals.
The OECD Forum immediately preceding the ministerial meeting will allow a broader group of stakeholders to exchange views on a similar range of issues, under the theme “Grow, develop, prosper”. I welcome the opportunity to speak to the Forum and to hear from others who will be taking part.
I expect that there will be a large measure of agreement among OECD ministers on the nature of the challenges facing us all. There is no single prescription for all; governments must make decisions based on their own circumstances and the preferences of their people. But it will be immensely valuable to exchange experiences and deepen our understanding of the issues before us.
©OECD Observer No 237, May 2003