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When the First World War ended a hundred years ago in November 1918, more than a generation would pass before the world order regained some stability. Immediately after the war, there was a short boom followed by a stock market crash in 1929, a worldwide Great Recession, a resurgence of nationalism and then the outbreak of another, even more deadly, conflict. 

Africa is projected to have the fastest urban growth rate in the world–by 2050, Africa’s cities will be home to an additional 950 million people. 

Rina Matsumoto, Student Sakura team leader from Fukushima, plants a cherry tree at the OECD headquarters on the occasion of the Tohoku Cherry Blossom Ceremony, 2 September 2014. For more photographs of the occasion, please click here. ©OECD/Hervé Cortinat

In the garden of the OECD headquarters in Paris, a cherry tree was planted in the autumn of 2014 by a group of Japanese high school students, who had suffered the earthquake in Fukushima in March 2011. 

As part of an OECD Obsever Roundtable we invited a range of representatives, speakers of the OECD Conference on Culture and Local Development (Venice, Italy, 6-7 December 2018), to answer the following question: What government policies would you encourage most to ensure that cultural initiatives can promote economic development, social inclusion and well-being in our cities and regions?

What policy initiatives would you prioritise to promote regional integration in Africa and what international co-operation initiatives would you encourage most?

Engineers prepare to launch a medical drone, Rwanda 2018 ©Kristin Palitza/DPA/AFP

Accelerating the knowledge-led development of Africa through science driven policy and investments is important for boosting long-term growth and well-being.

A street destroyed by the earthquake in downtown Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 3 February 2010. ©Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Last year, actor Sean Penn called on world leaders to help Haiti deal with the "looming existential threat" of climate change. 

Advancing deforestation in the Amazon Basin ©Rickey Rogers/Reuters

We are eating our way through tropical forests. Whether it’s a cappuccino for breakfast, a burger for lunch or a chocolate bar as an after-dinner treat, the things we consume in OECD countries are often linked to deforestation in the tropics, where trees are falling at alarming rates.

One country that symbolised the crisis of the last 10 years was Greece. Its insolvency embarked the country on a long regime of bail-outs and austerity. This August, Greece officially emerged from the crisis, with the OECD forecasting GDP growth again. So, did the austerity work? The former Greek finance minister and co-founder of the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM) remains unconvinced. Mr Varoufakis was a guest at the OECD’s “10 years after the crisis” conference.

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In her Oscar-winning performance as the main character of the 2014 film Still Alice, actress Julianne Moore played a linguistics professor diagnosed with early-onset familial Alzheimer's disease, a rare form of dementia. It was a reminder of the struggle that is affecting the everyday life of a growing number of people worldwide.

“All human beings are born equal. But on the following day, they no longer are,” said French author Jean Renard in 1907. This is because sticky floors and ceilings–or rags to rags and riches to riches–define the bottom and top income distributions. Today, it takes four to five generations, on average, for children from the poorest 10% of the population to reach median income levels. Meanwhile, about 50% of children of wealthy parents will themselves remain rich in countries like Germany and the US.

These covers of the OECD Observer magazine, which followed the crisis as it unfolded, capture the story over 10 years, including the damage it wreaked on people and the exploration of new models, promising better policies for better lives. They offer a handy snapshot to mark the 10th anniversary of the fall of Lehman Bros on 15 September 2008 and the onslaught of what has been widely described as the worst crisis of our lifetimes. 

President Keïta at the OECD in 2015 ©Herve Cortinat/OECD

“I want to reconcile hearts and minds…so that all the different people can play their part harmoniously in the national symphony.” So said Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on being elected president of Mali in 2013, against a backdrop of violence and crisis. Now, five years later, with instability still an issue, can the recently re-elected President Keïta bring about the changes needed for a lasting peace?

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“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them,” said James Baldwin. Indeed, young children pick up most of their social and educational cues from their adult caretakers, as a recent–and unprecedented–OECD meta-analysis of 44 early childcare studies found. Collectively, these studies confirm that the quality of interactions between care staff and children is the key driver of children’s development in early childcare programmes.

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Korea has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world. Of developed economies, it also spends among the least money on employment insurance programs. On the outset, this makes a lot of sense. If you don’t have unemployment, why shell out on extensive unemployment benefit programmes?

Wherever in the world they are emitted, greenhouse gases have a global impact. Narrow national agendas are inadequate to deal with global climate change disruption. Without vision and resolve, more countries may yet retreat further into their national bunkers. We would all suffer in such a bleak scenario.

A worker in a state-of-the art factory, in Slany, Czech Republic, March 2018. ©Milan Bures/The New York Times-REDUX-REA

Roughly 14% of jobs in OECD countries are highly automatable, while another 32% will be transformed by automation. By 2019, it is estimated that 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world. How can local firms and their workers adapt to this? How can policy help?  As policymakers and experts gather to discuss such issues at the 14th OECD Forum for Local Development Practitioners, Entrepreneurs, and Social Innovators in Porto, Portugal 18-19 September, we ask our panel:

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“Intelligent machines will help build a better future if we guide the development to favour the consumers, the citizen, and freedoms–human well-being and human health. The OECD has a role to play in helping people overcome fears and find smarter ways for humans and machines to work together”, Garry Kasparov says. Watch the video:

Last stand: this photograph became an icon of the crisis, and shows bankers attending an emergency meeting at the London office of Lehman Brothers as the firm slid towards collapse, 11 September 2008 ©Gwion Moore/Reuters

Have we learned the lessons of the 2008 crisis? Could a new bubble form and burst? This chapter from Donald Johnston’s 2017 book, Missing the Tide: Global Governments in Retreat, provides food for thought.

©Suvra Kanti Das/ZUMA-REA

On 24 April 2013, the world woke up to the reality of garment factory conditions in Bangladesh when more than a thousand workers were killed and over two thousand injured after the Rana Plaza garment factory complex, supplying western brands, collapsed. 

Less than a fifth of plastic waste is recycled, with the rest being landfilled, burned or polluting our environment. Sorting and processing plastic waste is expensive, and some plastics cannot be recycled because of the hazardous chemicals used to make them. What are the solutions? Watch our video:

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Sveikiname Lietuvąwelcome to the OECD, Lithuania! The Baltic country became the 36th member of the organisation on 5 July 2018, just one day before its Statehood Day, which commemorates the coronation of the first Lithuanian king, Mindaugas, in 1253. Lithuania is the third Baltic Republic to come on board, alongside Estonia (2010) and Latvia (2016). The country, which is also member of the EU, NATO and several other multilateral organisations, has a population of 3.1 million, uses the euro as currency and has one of the fastest growing economies in the OECD area–its GDP grew by 3.8% in 2017, above the OECD average of 2.6%.

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Our world seems to be at a crossroads, and with it, the multilateralism that has been the bedrock of international co-operation since the Second World War. Where do we stand? How do we move forward? The latest international discussions provide some answers.

There'll be much to juggle when it's all over too: Opening Ceremony of the FIFA World Cup in Moscow June 2018 ©Grigory Dukor/REUTERS

The 2018 football World Cup has kicked off in Russia, and people around the globe are by now glued to their radios, televisions, and laptops, living each save, each goal, every triumph, every loss. Excitement reigns, but at the same time, some are also turning their thoughts to the future, to 2022 and beyond. Organising and hosting an event on the scale of the World Cup is a massive undertaking, as FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, the OECD, and even the voters of the Swiss canton of Valais, know well.

©Ira CHAPLAIN/SINOPIX-REA

When an 8-storey building in Rana Plaza in Bangladesh crumbled in 2013, over a thousand garment workers died. For those of us who buy fast fashion, it confirmed something we suspected: that many of the people who make the clothes we wear are, at the least, badly exploited, if not treated as slave labour. They work in fire traps. They receive death threats when they try to organise a trade union. They work long hours without a break so that factories can make their deadline. 

David Rooney

No 26: Fear the working dead; Where do countries get their tax revenues from?; How to trade in fake goods?; Greening Hungary; Cities for citizens

Given current trade tensions, this question might seem fanciful, but what would happen if tariffs were reduced, rather than raised? 

Following our “fantasy global trade” scenario posted here, let’s look at another trade hypothetical: what would happen if the US, China and Europe all raised trade costs on all goods, but not services, by 10 percentage points for all trading partners?

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In a witty attempt to explain two new global institutions of his day, renowned economist John Maynard Keynes once famously observed that the World Bank should be called a fund, and the International Monetary Fund called a bank. In short, what mattered was that they both finance global economic development, and indeed both have long played an invaluable role in the ASEAN countries. But what of the OECD? What added value does this organisation bring to the prosperity of the region? 

No 25: How sustainable is wealth inequality?; Better teachers for better lives; Ageing with dementia; Changing technology, skills and jobs; Germany versus bribery

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.5% Q3 2018 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.9% Sept 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.2% Sept 2018
Last update: 22 Nov 2018

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  • 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!
  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • 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.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • 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 www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

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