To mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary edition of the OECD Observer, we take a brief look at how the information world and the global economy have transformed since the OECD’s first secretary-general, Thorkil Kristensen, launched the magazine in November 1962.  

©OECD, Pittsburgh G20 summit 2009

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría has congratulated Barack Obama on his re-election as US president. Mr Gurría said the OECD was proud to have worked with President Obama and his team over the past four years, both on the home front and in international fora such as the G8 and G20 (our photo).

Two decades ago, when the first Rio Earth Summit took place in 1992, the most advanced economies were in an economic downturn. It was not as severe as the crisis many countries have endured since 2008, but asset bubbles had burst, unemployment had risen and recovery seemed a remote prospect.

©OECD

Having left the most difficult years of the global crisis behind us, it is now universally recognised that Turkey is one of the countries which has managed to put its economy back on the path to strong growth in a short period of time. 

©Government of Mexico

We live in a globalised world where a significant event occurring today in a given place has direct and immediate consequences in the rest of the world. Hunger in Africa and the political turmoil in the Maghreb have translated into new migration flows towards countries of greater relative development. 

©Reuters/Luke MacGregor

The coalition government of the UK is seeking to achieve two main goals by reforming funding of higher education in England.

The worst economic crisis in half a century still holds us in its grip. In fact, with a bleak short-term outlook, global public opinion could be forgiven for questioning the ability of political leaders and policymakers to find a way out.

The OECD 50th Anniversary Week 2011 was a momentous and inspirational occasion. Against the background of a fragile recovery of the world economy, 21 heads of state and government and deputy prime ministers, 86 ministers and state secretaries, and over 2,000 participants from business, labour and civil society gathered to identify and discuss the policies needed to achieve a more inclusive and greener path to economic growth and job creation.

We are celebrating the OECD’s 50th anniversary during the tail-end of the worst financial and economic crisis of our lifetimes. It’s a good moment to take stock and to ask the right questions. Why couldn’t we avoid the crisis? Were the policies and the policy mix we promoted the right ones, and how can we adjust these polices to new realities? What is more, are we doing enough to prevent another crisis? Are our economic theories, our models and our assumptions still appropriate? How should our organisation’s work be adapted so that we continue fulfilling our founding mission of promoting better policies for better lives?

What is the state of world economy as we enter 2011? Have we made progress over the past 12 to 18 months in putting an end to the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes and laying the foundations for a stronger, cleaner and fairer world?

Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD

When leaders of government, international organisations and civil society from around the world gather for critical discussions at the OECD summit meetings in Paris this June, one question will dominate the agenda: Is enough being done to restore confidence and long-term growth, and break the grip of the worst global crisis of our times?

©Charles Platiau/Reuters

2008 will be a decisive year in the battle against climate change. Hopefully, it will see us forge an international consensus so an agreement can be reached in Copenhagen in 2009 that will allow us to build on the Kyoto Protocol.

With the world economy today experiencing turbulence on a number of diverse fronts, OECD countries are preoccupied with meeting these challenges.

©OECD Observer

A 50% rise in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, higher temperatures, with more droughts and storms harming people, crops and buildings; more animal and plant species becoming extinct under expanding farmland and urban sprawl; dwindling natural resources; a billion more people living in water-stressed areas by 2030, with more pollution, disease and premature deaths ahead.

Energy has moved to the top of our policy agendas, and with good reason. First, there is the price of oil, which though easing a little in recent months, remains historically high. This has pushed up costs for producers and consumers alike.

©OECD/Nguyen Tien

This is my last editorial for the OECD Observer before I step down as secretary-general in May 2006. Nevertheless, I will focus on the future, rather than dwell on the past. That is not to say that we should ignore John Maynard Keynes’ advice that we should examine the present, in light of the past, for the purposes of the future. But sometimes the present and the future cannot draw many useful lessons from the past.

The Ministerial Council meeting and Forum this year provide a rich menu of issues for consideration including investing in energy, structural adjustment in response to globalisation, development challenges, as well as the progress of trade negotiations under the Doha Round.

Demography and climate change: as I read the literature and consult the experts, I am increasingly convinced that many of this century’s important challenges, especially for our children and grandchildren, will flow from these two phenomena. Let me sketch some scenarios and questions with respect to each.

Cover No 236, March 2003

The OECD might not be thought of as playing a role in water supply and management, but in fact it has a leading role, as it does in all areas of sustainable development.

When we in government look at our collective record on global sustainable development at the start of the 21st century, it is difficult to feel a sense of satisfaction. For despite the progress in some areas, we have been unable to reverse the worrying trends in global development. Too many people still live in abject poverty and in many places exploitation of water, land and other natural resources is well above critical limits.

The world is a living biological organism, not just a planetary rock with life somehow superimposed on it. This is the so-called gaia hypothesis developed by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis. In a recent interview Mr Lovelock noted: “Life clearly does more than adapt to Earth. It changes Earth for its own purposes. Evolution is a tightly coupled dance, with life and the material environment as partners.”

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q4 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.3% Apr 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.4% Mar 2018
Last update: 06 Jun 2018

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  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • International co-operation, inclusive growth and digitalisation lead the themes of the 2018 OECD Forum in Paris on 29-30 May, under the banner of What brings us together www.oecd.org/forum. It is held alongside the annual OECD Ministerial Council Meeting on 30-31 May, chaired this year by France with a focus on multilateralism www.oecd.org/mcm.
  • 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.
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  • Ambassador Aleksander Surdej, Permanent Representative of Poland to the OECD, was a guest on France 24’s English-language show “The Debate”, where he discussed French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
  • 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.
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  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
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  • 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.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • 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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