Building our future together

Secretary-General of the OECD

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?

We must draw every lesson we can from the crisis. What is clear is that a return to “business as usual” growth will not be enough to resolve the problems we face. They go from massive unemployment, particularly among younger people, widening inequalities and parlous public finances, high food and commodities prices on the one hand, to pressing global issues such as climate change, poverty, and food, water and energy security on the other. The economic model we must champion has to address these issues. It must incorporate the environment, equal opportunities and redistribution, as well as the effects of trade, investment and migration. Above all, our models must have people’s well-being as their top priority.

The crisis compels us to challenge conventional wisdom, including our own, and be bolder in advancing new thinking and approaches for addressing global problems. The OECD has not sat back. For instance, our institution can claim credit for having drawn policymakers’ attention to the issue of inequality and for designing economic tools for managing the environment. Our organisation is also leading the search for policy responses to demographic and migratory challenges. These are just some examples, and by building on such strengths, we can find solutions to many of today’s wide-ranging challenges. Growth remains key, though searching for new sources of growth that are greener, more equitable and more “gender friendly” is our common objective.

Inclusive and green growth should therefore permeate our thinking. Consider job creation, for instance. The OECD is determined to step up its much-valued work on employment, education, skills and social policies, and build on its traditionally strong collaboration with labour, business and civil society. Our concern is to create decent jobs, foster equal opportunities and combat social exclusion. Our focus must be on what I call the five E’s: Employment, Education, Entrepreneurship, Equality and the Environment.

As well as “going structural” to unblock growth, policymakers must “go social”; our future well-being depends on combining action on both these fronts, from active labour market and equity policies targeting the most vulnerable, through investment in skills and lifelong learning, to family and gender policies, and measures to bolster intergenerational solidarity and secure our children’s future. We must place even more emphasis on working with our social partners as we strive to reach these joint goals.

Another strategic priority is development. This is what the “D” in OECD means: indeed, the OECD story is one of promoting policies for development. We must continue to share our knowledge, analysis and advice with our partners in emerging economies and developing countries, not least in view of meeting the Millennium Development Goals. But as global wealth and power are shifting, we must also make a greater effort to listen to these countries and to benefit from their experiences.

At our 50th Anniversary Ministerial Council Meeting, we will propose to elaborate a broader OECD strategy for development with emerging economies, and to work with each other on an equal footing and in a more structured way, while adopting a mediumto long-term perspective. Moreover, we must work more closely with other partners in Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa and Southeast Europe, and, particularly in light of current events, with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. In this region, we should focus our efforts on an agenda for growth, but also for inclusiveness, investment, governance, employment, equality and gender, to make a real contribution to the transition.

Facing the future together demands having to work more coherently with other international organisations, while providing support for the G8 and G20. Better connectivity and more crossfertilisation among countries and organisations would have served us well before the crisis, but has become vital now. By strengthening our partnerships and networks, we can reinvigorate multilateralism and make global policymaking more effective.

However, the test of that effectiveness goes beyond growth to people’s welfare. How can that be measured? To find answers, we are launching the Better Life Index during our 50th Anniversary OECD Week. This unique instrument will enable ordinary people to assess their well-being according to their own preferences. Governments and citizens can then learn from this data and analysis to shape policies and get better results. The Better Life Initiative will empower everyone who cares about building a stronger, cleaner and fairer world.

”Better Policies for Better Lives” is much more than a birthday wish. It expresses the OECD’s unflinching determination to work on behalf of people’s welfare everywhere.

See also and

©OECD Observer No 284, Q1 2011

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