By Pedro Sánchez, President of the Spanish Government and Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD
You may view the OECD 60th anniversary Leaders’ Commemoration Event here.
On 14 December this year, we are commemorating the 60th anniversary of the signature of the Convention establishing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD succeeded the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), which was created in 1948 to administer American and Canadian aid under the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War. Solidarity, ambition and international co- operation inspired the development of the Marshall Plan and the creation of the OECD. Today, perhaps more than at any other time in the last sixty years, the world needs, once again, to draw inspiration from those values, as it confronts the worst health, economic and social crisis since the Second World War.
The OECD’s vocation has always been to achieve greater well-being for its Members and partners around the world by advising governments on how to deliver policies that support resilient, inclusive and sustainable growth. The OECD has helped advance structural reforms and multilateral solutions to global challenges through evidence-based policy analysis as well as recommendations, standards and global policy networks in increasingly close collaboration with other multilateral fora, such as the UN, the G7 and the G20. Examples of the OECD’s influence include the “Polluter Pays” principle, developed in the 1970s, student assessments under PISA or ongoing efforts to promote tax transparency and harness the potential of human-centric Artificial Intelligence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left no country or region untouched. As we continue to fight the virus and prepare for the recovery, our efforts at home need to be complemented with an equally decisive and ambitious response through international co-operation. This crisis must be an opportunity, a turning point, for reinforced and more effective multilateralism. We need to work together to develop effective global solutions for today’s global challenges: the COVID-19 recovery, climate change, biodiversity loss, growing inequalities, the concentration of wealth, digitalisation, or the future of work.
This has been the main message of the OECD Ministerial that Spain chaired this year. For the first time in four years, OECD Members were able to put aside their differences and agreed on a statement reflecting their collective vision for a strong, resilient, inclusive and green recovery from COVID-19. This was a powerful message: when it was needed the most, the OECD and its Members stepped up to the challenge with a single voice.
It is now time to put this vision in motion, to turn words into action. Our collective efforts should focus on three key areas.
The first priority for the recovery should be to contain and eradicate the virus. The trade-off between lives and livelihoods is a false dilemma. The imminent roll-out of effective vaccines is excellent news. But to be effective in beating the pandemic, vaccines and treatments need to be produced at scale, equitably distributed worldwide and affordable for all.
Ensuring that all people can be immunised is both a humanitarian imperative and a precondition to secure health and prosperity. If disease is thriving anywhere, it remains a threat everywhere. Having strong, resilient and inclusive healthcare systems is another lesson from this crisis and one that needs to be incorporated in domestic priorities, but also as part of our development co-operation programmes. We need to support the most vulnerable countries, which do not have the financial means to respond to the pandemic and lack solid social protection systems to cushion its effects on their populations.
The second priority is to create the conditions for a broad-based recovery. We need to work together to develop common approaches to restore international mobility as soon as possible. We must also preserve the benefits of free, fair and inclusive trade as an engine of growth and prosperity, while strengthening the resilience of global value chains and levelling the playing field. The post-COVID-19 world is going to be more digital, and international co-operation is required to make sure we address the issues of skills, privacy, security and competition. Reaching a global, consensus-based solution by mid-2021 on the tax challenges arising from the growing digitalisation of the world economy, based on the OECD’s initiative, is another critical objective.
The third priority is to support a transformative recovery and develop a new narrative on economic growth. National recovery and resilience plans constitute unique opportunities not just to jump- start our economies, but also to undertake bold and transformative action to make them more equal, cohesive and environmentally sound, in line with the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. The COVID-19 crisis has increased inequalities, while climate change, biodiversity loss and other environmental emergencies loom large. Analysis by the OECD shows that ambitious climate action to decarbonise our economies can be a source of growth, incomes and jobs. The COP26 in Glasgow and the UN Biodiversity Conference, both to be held in 2021, will be tests for our collective determination. Our single, most important intergenerational responsibility
is to protect the planet. This new narrative also requires fostering an economic and productivity growth model based on fair wages, decent working conditions and enhanced social dialogue.
Over the last decade, the OECD has been a leading voice in promoting an approach to economic growth that combines inclusiveness and environmental sustainability. Building on solid evidence and data, we need to work together to develop this narrative further, measuring outcomes beyond GDP, and developing a consensus around a new economic framework that reconciles people, prosperity and the planet.
We are living in extraordinary times. The challenges ahead are too significant for any one country to tackle them alone. Only through collective action will we be able to address them and “build back better” towards more resilient, more inclusive and greener economies and societies. With a long- term vision, a strong ambition and an enlightened sense of mission, as we celebrate the OECD’s 60th Anniversary, let us draw inspiration from its history and its accomplishments, to deliver better policies for better lives for the generations to come.
Working with over 100 countries, the OECD is a global policy forum that promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.