Pushing the boundaries forward

Secretary-General of the OECD

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.

Concrete policy actions for tapping new sources of growth, including green growth, expanding employment through innovation, skills and trade, and embarking on a new, broader strategy for development, were discussed. Our member countries defined a vision for the organisation as an open, inclusive, global policy network together with our partner countries. Overall, the OECD’s 50th Anniversary Week was a milestone in the history of the organisation.

From jobs and debt crises, to energy and the environment, including deepening concerns about poverty, inequality and food insecurity, no one can underestimate the challenges facing the world today. Our leaders, under the chairmanship of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, identified political priorities and gave us a firm mandate to address some of these challenges. What are those priorities?

First and foremost, ministers asked the OECD to enhance its contribution to international development through an OECD Strategy for Development. This strategy will be based on a broader approach that goes beyond aid. Growth-oriented, inclusive and based on knowledge-sharing and dialogue, the strategy will help us deepen our policy work with developing countries in areas such as domestic resource mobilisation and taxation, investment, innovation, trade and governance, and to address issues such as food security. Just this summer we established, together with the South African government, a Centre for African Public Debt Management and Bond Markets.

A second priority is to place the environment at the heart of a more inclusive and greener growth model. The OECD’s Green Growth Strategy, which our members have welcomed, shows that by combining the right economic and fiscal tools with policies for innovation, education and regulation, we can help expand our economies, create jobs, and safeguard the environment at the same time. Green and growth go together, and people everywhere expect action. OECD and partner countries can set the example.

Third, skills are a vital ingredient for the advancement and success of our economies. This is true, not just for green growth and the industries and services we rely on, but above all to enable people to participate and cope with the demands of the future. Skills are vital for overcoming today’s jobs crisis and fighting social exclusion. The OECD Skills Strategy, discussed and welcomed at the ministerial meeting, will deliver a cross-cutting report on the way forward in 2012.

Fourth, empowering women is central to OECD efforts to foster stronger, fairer, economic growth. By strengthening women’s participation in the labour force, and improving their employment, education and entrepreneurship prospects, we could promote growth and reduce inequalities and poverty at the same time. Social and workplace measures all count, as do attitudes and culture. The new OECD Gender Initiative, launched at the MCM to examine barriers to gender equality, make data more comparable and highlight good practices, will provide policymakers with invaluable support.

Fifth, trade also has an impact on jobs and workers’ lives, and to promote and accelerate this cross-fertilisation, ministers welcomed the launch of the International Collaborative Initiative on Trade and Employment, whose findings will be ready for 2012.

Sixth, building a fairer world also means achieving “better standards for better lives”. The updated OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises adopted at the ministerial meeting now address human rights, thereby reinforcing this renowned benchmark. In mining, ministers adopted the Recommendation on Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict- Affected and High-Risk Areas. Meanwhile, Russia took another step towards OECD accession by joining our Working Group on Bribery.

Last, but by no means least, we need to find new measures of well-being that go beyond GDP. The OECD has been leading groundbreaking work on measuring progress for a decade, and the successful launch at the OECD Forum of Your Better Life Index, an online tool which lets people everywhere rank the factors that they feel matter most for measuring well-being, has been a big step forward.

These highlights from an inspiring OECD Week confirm that at 50, ours is very much a “happening” organisation: not a thinktank, but rather a “do-tank” that all countries can benefit from. Our ability to evolve stems from the solid knowledge base we have built up over half a century. Our data and agreements, our committees and public forums, our peer reviews and standard setting, our best practices and our strategic work: all of this has given our policy advice a reliability that our members and partners value. It gives us the confidence to continue pushing the boundaries forward. At 50, our work begins anew.

OECD Strategic Orientations, Vision for the OECD and other ministerial documents can be found at www.oecd.org/mcm2011

See also www.oecd.org/secretarygeneral and www.oecdobserver.org/angelgurria

©OECD Observer No 285, Q2 2011

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