©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.”

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