MENA-OECD Initiative on Governance and Competitiveness for Development - Designing a Roadmap to Recovery in MENA, 1 April 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 1 April 2021

Distinguished Ministers, distinguished Ambassadors, Dear participants,

For over a year now, our societies have been afflicted by a health, social and economic crisis on a level never seen before. Its dramatic consequences have however strengthened our desire to create fairer societies built on greater solidarity in a more environmentally friendly world. That is why this Ministerial Conference of the MENA-OECD Initiative on Governance and Competitiveness for Development is all the more timely, as it is an opportunity to reflect together on the challenges of exiting the COVID-19 crisis and to commit ourselves to mobilising around a common vision.

Economic forecasts have brightened in recent months, with signs of foreign trade and industrial production recovering as of the end of 2020. According to our latest estimates, global GDP growth is now projected to be 5.6% this year. However, this positive development will depend heavily on the outcome of the race between vaccines and emerging variants of the virus. That is why, in our latest Economic Outlook, we recommend speeding up vaccination, investing in the future and supporting all citizens.

As elsewhere, the pandemic has hit the MENA region severely. Countries have responded swiftly to contain the spread of the virus. They are sparing no effort to ensure a better, more resilient recovery. Still, the crisis is particularly affecting the region’s vulnerable, notably women, youth, and the low skilled, reinforcing existing inequalities.

Millions have fallen into poverty since the beginning of the crisis. Around 700,000 women in the region are expected to lose their jobs, while violence against women has increased. The youth, who are the hope of the region’s future, are losing trust in their government. Vaccination campaigns, while actively ongoing, have been uneven across MENA countries. Concerted multilateral action is essential, especially for those countries facing many simultaneous and mutually reinforcing challenges, including humanitarian, socio-political and climate crises.

For the MENA region to make its way towards a sustainable and resilient recovery, it must invest in the future, and in its people. We need more and better quality investment flowing back into MENA countries. Our new report on Middle East and North Africa Investment Policy Perspectives, launched just two days ago, proposes far-reaching reforms to attract investment that creates jobs and improves living standards.

The MENA region must reinforce its effort to seize the opportunities of the digital and green transitions through its recovery plans, to promote clean, efficient technologies and infrastructure for environmentally sustainable growth.

The success of this recovery will depend on the trust people have in the capacity of governments to deliver and safeguard their long-term interests. We must accelerate efforts to build more efficient economies, to deliver social welfare, to transform the informal economy, to ensure high-quality public services for all in the digital age, and to strengthen skills to better match societies’ needs of tomorrow. Public governance and competitiveness are at the core of this transformation. Together, we can provide the tools, the know-how, the networks and the institutional platforms needed.

The Ministerial Declaration to be adopted today reflects this ambition and the shared vision of inclusive and prosperous societies in the MENA region.

The OECD has been very active too. The MENA-OECD Initiative, together with its Training Centre of Caserta and the EU-OECD SIGMA programme, has made concrete progress in many areas, from public governance and women’s empowerment, to anti-corruption and investment frameworks. We have brought the youth into the core of our programme; we have opened our networks to private sector and civil society; we have built new policy delivery mechanisms.

Looking ahead, through the MENA-OECD Initiative on Governance and Competitiveness for Development, we will continue to deepen our support to advance important structural economic and governance reforms; accelerate the diversification of MENA economies; enhance regional integration through promoting trade, investment and regulatory reforms; improve public service delivery; and further empower women and youth.

Dear Friends,

I still recall with pride the opening of the 2016 Ministerial in Tunis alongside the Tunisian leaders who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prizefor leading the country’s democratic transition. I have also been inspired and encouraged by the passion of the region’s youth, by the determination of its women, by the commitment for development of its public officials.

To end, I would especially like to thank the government of Tunisia, for co-chairing the MENA-OECD initiative and this conference, as well as Minister Luigi Di Maio and Commissionner Olivér Várhelyi, along with their Ambassadors Antonio Bernardini and Didier Lenoir, for co-chairing the MENA-OECD Initiative with Tunisia. You can count on strong support from the OECD with this Initiative!

Thank you.


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