For a better future

This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of a remarkable organisation which has brought a huge and, in many ways, immeasurable impact to the economic and social development not only of its members, but of the world community of nations.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, better known as the OECD, was forged from the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) charged with the administration of the Marshall Plan.

The Marshall Plan was a historic achievement, even today not sufficiently appreciated, in that it not only buried forever the brutal military record of western Europe, but replaced it with a common and mutually supportive economic space among former enemies. The OEEC was a limited forum for intergovernmental co-operation in all areas of public policy, supported by a skilled secretariat and committee network of unprecedented reach and quality.

After 14 years of extraordinary accomplishment in a European context, the developed world, with Canada very much in the vanguard, recognised the unique value that an enlarged OEEC would offer to a larger constituency. There were some voices of resistance, notably among a few smaller countries, who wished to preserve the old European organisation. But others felt that the OEEC had to spread its wings, to become the OECD, with an ambitious, more global, reach.

The OECD is the only living international legacy of the Marshall Plan, except of course for Europe itself. A paragraph in the preamble to the OECD Convention reads as follows:

“Recognising that the economic recovery and progress of Europe to which their participation in the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (the predecessor of the OECD) has made a major contribution, have opened new perspectives for strengthening that tradition and applying it to new tasks and broader objectives.” Thus was born the OECD, with Canada becoming the first country to deposit its ratified signature of the Convention on 10 April 1961.

Two days later the US followed suit, and by 30 September when the OECD officially opened for business, 17 countries had officially ratified, with the European Commission participating as well. Three more countries, including Italy, officially joined in subsequent months, and Japan became a member in 1964. Today, the OECD has 34 member countries, and has strong relations with scores of other countries around the world, including major emerging markets.

It is timely to recall the aims of the organisation set forth in Article 1 of the Convention, and to do a stocktaking in general terms as to where we have met those aims and where we have fallen short. They were: (a) to achieve the highest sustainable economic growth and employment and a rising standard of living in member countries, while maintaining financial stability, and thus to contribute to the development of the world economy; (b) to contribute to sound economic expansion in member as well as non-member countries in the process of economic development; and (c) to contribute to the expansion of world trade on a multilateral, non-discriminatory basis in accordance with international obligations.”

The OECD was seen as a government instrument for keeping an equilibrium between economic growth, social stability and political stability, all three of which must be achieved through good governance in order to deliver the economic and social progress for which the OECD was created.

The Ottawa Conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the OECD on 2 June 2011 offers participants the opportunity of doing what John Maynard Keynes counselled: “Examine the present in light of the past for the purposes of the future.”

How well has the OECD fulfilled its role over this half-century and what does the future hold? We believe that conference participants and other observers will conclude that the role of the OECD, with its committee system, the creation of soft law enforced by peer review of performance among members and the comparison of best practices, which has served the membership so well in the past, will be the way of the future in this rapidly evolving global community.

A challenge will be to manage these processes in a much enlarged international community and, quite probably, a growing OECD.


References

See www.oecd.org/about

Clarke, Rory and Lyndon Thompson (2011), “A majestic start: How the OECD was won”, in OECD Yearbook 2011, Paris, available at www.oecdobserver.org/yearbook2011


©OECD Observer No 284, Q1 2011




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • 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 .

Most Popular Articles

Poll

What issue are you most concerned about in 2016?

Unemployment
Euro crisis
International conflict
Global warming
Other

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2016