The political landscape of global governance is changing profoundly. This is posing great challenges to policy makers and organisations such as the OECD.

Joan Clos ©UN-Habitat

If urbanisation is one of the most important global trends of the 21st century, with some 70% of the world’s population forecasted to live in cities by 2050, then urbanisation in Africa–and the ways in which that growth occurs–marks one of the most significant opportunities for achieving global sustainable development.

Ugo Rossi ©Rights reserved

Since 1982 the OECD Programme on Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) has advised governments and local authorities on how to respond to economic challenges in a fast-changing world. One key initiative in this regard came in 2003 when it set up the Trento Centre for Local Development, with the Italian government and the Autonomous Province of Trento in Italy, with a mission to help build capacity and inform policy actions. So far the Trento Centre has issued more than 127 reviews, studies, guides and manuals; over 21,000 local development policy makers and practitioners have also benefited from Trento Centre capacity development seminars and activities.

©David Rooney

Now more than ever, the digital economy is the economy. Digital technologies, or Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), are boosting trade, innovation, entrepreneurship, and with them growth and social wellbeing. Those benefits depend on openness. Openness has technical, economic and social dimensions, from open standards for core technologies and protocols, and competitively priced access for users, to the respect for human rights, freedom of expression and privacy. In essence, openness enables people to access, and do more things with, digital technologies: start a business online, create new products and business processes or revolutionise existing ones, express opinions, raise capital, share knowledge and ideas, conduct research, interact with government, improve skills, and much more. 

©Serprix

The digital economy is a transformative process, brought about by advances in information and communications technology (ICT) which has made technology cheaper and more powerful, changing business processes and bolstering innovation across all sectors of the economy, including traditional industries. Today, sectors as diverse as retail, media, manufacturing and agriculture are being impacted in some way by the rapid spread of digitalisation. In the broadcasting and media industry, for instance, the expanding role of data through user-generated content and social networking have enabled internet advertising to surpass television as the largest advertising medium.

©Dennis MacDonald/Alamy Stock Photo

Connectivity is the foundation for the digital economy. The Internet has already connected more than three billion users across the globe and about 14 billion devices. 

© Klaus Ohlenschlaeger / Alamy Stock Photo

Running for elected office is a worthy but often costly business, and election campaigns increasingly rely on funding. But at what price for the political system? What are the democratic risks associated with the funding of political parties and their election campaigns? How might regulation address those risks and tip the balance in favour of the interests of all citizens, and not just the well-off? Financing Democracy sheds light on these key–and somewhat taboo–questions. 

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Given Korea’s prowess in digital goods, it should come as no surprise to see the country leading the field in e-governance. Its lead, notably in open data, owes much to government efforts and investments in digital infrastructure and systems since the 1990s. In 2014 more than 70% of all Koreans reported having used the internet at least once over the previous 12 months to interact with the public authorities, whether to obtain information on a government website, or to download or file a form, for instance. That’s far more than the OECD average of 55%. 

In October, world leaders will gather in Quito for the Habitat III summit to launch the New Urban Agenda. This is on top of the start this year of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

©Charlotte Moreau

Sanctions need to be imposed on offshore centres to make money laundering more expensive. And, in response to shell companies investing their wealth in the London and New York property markets, French stocks and German bonds, a worldwide financial register should also be created. 

©David Rooney

I’m sure you’ve all heard about “the open Internet.” The expression builds upon a rich pedigree of the term “open” in various contexts. It gives the impression that “open” is some positive attribute, and when we use the expression of the “open Internet” it seems that we're lauding it in some way. But are we, and if so, in what way?

©Alamy

The rapid rise of a new generation of connected, intelligent devices—collectively known as the Internet of Things, or IoT—is more than just the latest digital enabler to impact organisations of all sizes. The IoT presents vast opportunities for governments and businesses to improve internal efficiencies, serve their customers or constituents better, and enter new markets or provide new services. Such services will transform the way we work and live every day. As the IoT develops, it is essential that security-by-design be a core feature of the connected device ecosystem.

©David Rooney, originally for OECD Observer No 220, April 2000. All OECD Observers since 1962 are on www.oecd-ilibrary.org

Four decades after their adoption, the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises have never been more relevant to ensuring that businesses behave responsibly, wherever they operate.

If there is a silver lining to the 2008 financial crisis, it is that it was a catalyst for the unprecedented progress we have made in building robust international tax standards for the interconnected global economy of the 21st century.

In 2011 the Social Movement for Public Education led the biggest demonstrations since Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile. Since then, one of the main campaigns in Chilean society has been for the recognition of education as a social right, under the slogan of “free, quality, public education” (educación pública, gratuita y de calidad).

©Charlotte Moreau

With the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has set itself ambitious targets for the next 15 years. But ambition will also be essential if we are to collect and process the data needed for monitoring the goals. Thanks to more than half a century of experience, the OECD is well-placed to support this global project.

©AFP

When it comes to global wealth inequality, we know how bad it’s getting, but what do we know about who is responsible? When Oxfam reports that 1% of the world population owns more than the other 99% put together, the question arises: who or what is making the rich so much richer, and the poor so much poorer?

Amoral fibre: Michael Douglas as Gordan Gekko in “Wall Street”, and Leonado di Caprio as Jordan Belfort in “The Wolf of Wall Street”. ©20th Century Fox/DPA/AFP; ©Archives du 7eme Art/PHOTO12/AFP

When I was interviewing 200 bankers and banking staff working in Europe's financial centre the City of London, perhaps the most telling was the language. Not so much the profanities– though there were many of those–nor the technical stuff and three-letter acronyms (TLAs). Most striking were terms that seemed designed to sidestep any possibility of ethical discussion. When discussing their banks’ use of loopholes in the tax code to help corporations and rich people legally evade taxes, bankers used words such as “tax optimisation” or “tax-efficient structures”. Financial lawyers and regulators who went along with whatever banks propose were “business-friendly”; cases of proven fraud or abuse became “mis-selling” and exploiting inconsistencies between two countries’ regulatory systems was 'regulatory arbitrage'.

©Ivan Alvarado/REUTERS

The world cannot resolve today’s development challenges with purely national approaches. We need to complement them with local approaches, too. We live in an era of enormous transformations, in which our traditional political structures and forms of democratic participation must adapt. That means casting a bigger focus than ever on the important role of local power and communities. Local territories and cities are essential players in the pursuit of a just and sustainable development, and their voices must be given more sway in international forums.

With internet and technology use constantly expanding, data abound. So many data are collected and stored every day that we are seeing new jobs and entire sectors emerging just to deal with them all. Data-Driven Innovation explores the potential uses for and issues of this era of “big data”, providing a resource from which to see the big picture, with the promises and risks for well-being and productivity. 

The 30% Club is a group of company chairmen, chairwomen and CEOs committed to achieving better gender balance at all levels of their organisations through voluntary actions.

A growing economy means increased need for office space, housing and infrastructure. Can Ireland meet that demand? 

Handewi Purwati Saliem, Director, Indonesian Center for Agriculture Socio Economic and Policy Studies (ICASEP) Handewi Purwati Saliem

Agriculture faces a challenging future. The world’s population is rising and pressures on natural resources are mounting, while environmental issues such as climate change loom large.

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Over the past 20 years, support provided to agricultural producers in 49 countries analysed by the OECD has been following a downward trend. 

Becoming an entrepreneur has become increasingly popular since the economic meltdown of 2008, not least in Europe.

©Roy Philippe/HEMIS.FR

How to improve water systems is one challenge; financing them is another. Public authorities in most countries play the main role in implementing and funding water infrastructure, but it is a model that is under increasing pressure, with government budgets stretched and banks still prudent about issuing credit. 

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Are digital tools simplifying our interactions with public authorities? From document browsing to downloading of forms as well as administrative procedures, governments in most of OECD countries now offer a wide range of online services. 

The ancient Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro once wrote, “Divine Nature gave the fields, human art built the cities.” The adage is still very relevant at the turn of the 21st century. Nowadays, nearly two-thirds of the population of the OECD area lives in cities. Ten years from now there are expected to be about 500 “megacities”, each one home to over 1 million inhabitants. How do cities govern themselves as they expand beyond their boundaries?

California dreamin' at the World Agricultural Expo in February 2015 ©David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

Investing in infrastructure for water is important, but how we govern water is more critical than ever. 

Policies that are not aligned with efforts to fight global warming risk hindering the transition to a low-carbon economy, and can worsen climate change. They should be addressed. 

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  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • “Nizip” refugee camp visit
    July 2016: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría visits the “Nizip” refugee camp, situated between Gaziantep and the Turkish-Syrian border, accompanied by Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek. The camp accommodates a small number of the 2.75 million Syrians currently registered in Turkey, mostly outside the camps. In his tour of the camp, Mr Gurría visits a school, speaks with refugees and gives a short interview.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • Queen Maxima of the Netherlands gives a speech next to Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (not pictured) during the International Forum of Financial Inclusion at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2016.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • OECD Environment Director Simon Upton presented a talk at Imperial College London on 21 April 2016. With the world awash in surplus oil and prices languishing around US$40 per barrel, how can governments step up efforts to transform the world’s energy systems in line with the Paris Agreement?
  • Happy 10th birthday to Twitter. This 2008 OECD Observer interview with Henry Copeland said you’d do well.
  • 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.
  • Once migrants reach Europe, countries face integration challenge: OECD's Thomas Liebig speaks to NPR's Audie Cornish.

  • Message from the International Space Station to COP21

  • The carbon clock is ticking: OECD’s Gurría on CNBC

  • If we want to reach zero net emissions by the end of the century, we must align our policies for a low-carbon economy, put a price on carbon everywhere, spend less subsidising fossil fuels and invest more in clean energy. OECD at #COP21 – OECD statement for #COP21
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Pole to Paris Project
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • How can cities fight climate change?
    Discover projects in Denmark, Canada, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
  • Climate: What's changed, what hasn't, what we can do about it.
    Lecture by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, hosted by the London School of Economics and Aviva Investors in association with ClimateWise, London, UK, 3 July 2015.
  • Is technological progress slowing down? Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on www.ft.com.
  • 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 .

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