Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which was founded in 1961, replaced the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), which had come into being in the wake of the Marshall Plan. The OECD today consists of 36 countries having a number of principles in common: a market economy, the rule of Law and respect for human rights. In addition, it is a unique forum to exchange ideas, and to outline and adjust policy lines.

From the moment it was founded, the OECD’s task was to provide the economy of its members with a sturdier foundation, improve its efficacy, promote the market economy and contribute towards the growth of the developed and developing countries. For this reason the Organisation comparatively analyses forms of policy, in which it follows the lessons learnt from its members’ experience and from an every-increasing number of non-member countries. The OECD assists countries in developing solutions for common sticking points and in co-ordinating national and international policy lines.

Its operations are related in particular to financial issues, compiling statistics, the environment, development, government management, anti-corruption, international trade, financial, tax and business matters, agriculture, science, technology and innovation, social policy, education (PISA programme) and skills, regional development and co-operation with non-members. This work is done on committees and subordinate bodies where the Member States, the Secretariat and, in some cases, Associate members, have a dialogue.

Two specialised organisations deal with energy issues: the International Energy Agency (IEA), an independent organisation which was founded after the first oil crisis in 1974, to co-ordinate energy policy; and the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), which was founded in 1958, the aim of which is to promote safety when using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

For approximately twenty years now the OECD has been making efforts to expand its field of analysis to all countries which are in favour of a market economy and it makes its expertise available to up-and-coming developping economies (in particular, countries having switched from a planned economy to a market economy). It also continues its efforts to develop dialogue with the dynamic Asian and Latin-American economies.

Course of events and prospects

Globalisation, speedy innovation and the digitalisation have brought about fundamental changes and create great challenges for political and economic stability factors. The OECD must adjust to these new horizons and work out what its position is in the international architecture. Work is in constant adaptation to new challenges and evolutions, as shown by the studies on taxation of digital trade or yet the economic analysis of global value chains.

Against the background of ever-increasing globalisation, the OECD had to explore new areas such as sustainable development and the fight against climate change, the digitalisation (artificial intelligence, blockchain technology), gender balance, a number of immigration aspects such as the integration of migrants in the labour market, the consequences of the ageing population and serious risk analysis, that threatens our economies and societies.

One of the main focuses of OECD action since its creation has been development and relationships with developing countries. This focus has increased since the Millennium Conferences, partly through the Belgian Presidency of the ministerial conference in 2002, which highlighted the relationship with NEPAD and Africa. This resulted in the adoption of a development strategy in 2012, whose objectives are to integrate the realities of developing countries into analyses and consulting, use a coherent development approach in all its actions and provide the OECD's skills in a wide range of fields of action. This should allow the OECD to become part of the new framework created by the sustainable development goals.

At the same time, thanks to its close involvement in the work of the G20 since the 2008 financial crisis, the OECD is endeavouring to deliberate on global issues such as green growth, the reinforcing of fiscal transparency through conventions aimed at fighting the fiscal base erosion and the profits transfer (called BEPS conventions) or yet, climate change. If we have to talk in terms of challenges for the Organisation, the following should be mentioned:

  • reconcile an outward-looking approach and prospective relationships with non-members, while maintaining the quality of the work and the standards of the Organisation at the benefit of the Member States.
  • the development of a global strategy of openness was adopted following the 2004 ministerial conference and constantly reconfirmed since then.

Chile, Estonia, Israël and Slovenia are the last countries that have joined the OECD (2010), together with Latvia (2016) and Colombia plus Lithuania(2018). Yet, Colombia still has to ratify its accession to OECD in 2019.

Furthermore, an enhanced engagement process with China, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil, seen as key partners is also on the Organisation's agenda. Four countries (Morocco, Kazakhstan Peru and Thaïland) are also engaged in a structured cooperation with the Organisation through the country programmes (Programmes-Pays).