"Emerging Challenges and Shifting Paradigms: New Perspectives on International co-operation for development"


Opening remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

Monday 24 September 2018, New York, USA

(As prepared for delivery)



Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

I am delighted to be here with so many champions of development:

  • Ms. Amina Mohammed Deputy UN Secretary-General,
  • Ms. Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission,
  • Mr. Stefano Manservisi Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate for International Co-operation and Development,
  • Ms. Alicia Bárcena Executive Secretary of ECLAC, 
  • Mr. Mario Pezzini, OECD Development Centre Director and my Special Advisor on Development.

We are brought together today by a fundamental recognition: all countries are in a process of continuous development; all are working to address structural challenges and many are struggling to achieve the necessary development outcomes. To deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development we need to acknowledge and comprehend this reality. We also need new multidimensional approaches; we need innovative and triangular forms of co-operation. We need development fit for our complex, rapidly-changing, interconnected and globalised world. That is why we are here today to discuss “Development in Transition”.


Always a work in progress

Let me begin by recalling that development, as we know, is always a work in progress. And much has been achieved already. In 1990, more than a third of the global population lived in extreme poverty; today about a tenth do. Over the same period, the number of children who die before their fifth birthday has been halved, and today more than 90% of children globally attend primary school.


And while we need to safeguard  these achievements, we still have a long way to go. Poverty, inequalities, regional disparities, limited fiscal capacities, mismatched skills for productive work, the depletion of natural resources and climate vulnerabilities remain roadblocks on the path to a more sustainable and inclusive growth.


The challenge is not just restricted to helping low-income countries to eradicate extreme poverty, build effective institutions and participate in global value chains. We also need to support middle-income countries, which are home to 73% of the world’s poor. In fact, in a quarter of middle-income countries, over 50% of the urban population lives in conditions that the United Nations classifies as slums.


And if we look at  OECD countries, the relative poverty rate stands at just above 10%, with many more living precariously under the threat of poverty. Drawing on evidence from 25 OECD countries, last year’s OECD How’s Life report found that more than one-third of people would fall into poverty if they had to forgo just three months of their income.


This illustrates powerfully the challenge that development does not expire at a GDP threshold. Virtually all countries face development challenges, and most countries need ongoing support in one form or another to deliver on the SDGs. That is why the OECD has joined the United Nations, the European Commission and other partners to mainstream “Development in Transition” across our work.


Development in Transition is a new approach

The Development in Transition approach calls on development actors to rethink both domestic policies and international co-operation to help countries turn income gains into lasting development gains. This is not about graduating from concessional aid, nor is it about middle-income countries competing with low-income countries for resources.


We need to move away from the binary paradigm that classifies countries between donors and recipients, between developed and developing. Development in Transition calls instead for a gradation approach, which understands development as a continuum of many categories and embraces well-being as inherently multidimensional. This is closely related to what in the OECD we call inclusive growth, and which we have put at the centre of our policy research and recommendations.


Development in Transition calls on us to rethink not just what we want to achieve, but how and with whom. The complex and cross-border challenges faced by countries at every stage of development require intense collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders, including foundations, civil society, academia, migrants’ associations and the private sector.


In particular, we need to engage more closely with how countries like China and India approach development through South-South and triangular co-operation as we look for new synergies and develop new opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and knowledge-sharing.


OECD is mainstreaming Development in Transition

The OECD is mainstreaming this Development in Transition approach across our wide range of development tools. We are applying innovative approaches to look at national challenges. At the same time, we are expanding global tools to prepare our citizens for the future of work, reduce gender inequalities, improve social contracts, address climate change and push broader and different co-operation while tackling shared bottlenecks. Let me highlight just a few examples.


Our Multi-Dimensional Country Reviews (MDCRs), undertaken so far with over 10 countries, design national policies and strategies that promote development in a holistic sense, drawing on synergies across policy areas to help remove binding constraints to sustainable development and well-being improvements.


Through OECD instruments like PISA for Development and the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) that cover both low and middle-income countries, we are helping to tackle inequalities and promote inclusive growth. 


Through  OECD’s work on TOSSD – or Total Official Support for Sustainable Development – and on blended finance we chart new pathways for financing development. Initiatives like the OECD/UNDP Tax Inspectors Without Borders use peer-learning and knowledge-sharing to strengthen domestic resource mobilisation.


Through our efforts on good governance reforms, we deliver more effective institutions and promote integrity, often in collaboration with the UN. Just look at the mutually reinforcing efforts between the OECD’s anti-bribery and public integrity analyses and the United Nations Convention against Corruption, or our joint work with UNDP on anti-corruption, or our work on urban development issues with UN-Habitat.


We also continue our close work with the UN to prepare next year’s Second United Nations Conference on South-South Co-operation, otherwise known as BAPA+40, as well as with the G20 and others to advance triangular and other forms of co-operation.


Last but not least, on the environmental agenda, the OECD is showing, with tools such as last year’s “Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth” report, that integrating climate action into growth policies can have a positive economic impact. The OECD is also looking at how to help countries leapfrog carbon-intensive energy paths altogether. In support of these goals, we are working with the UN to produce and disseminate harmonised environmental data.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano taught us that whenever we move towards utopia, utopia moves away from us. If we move ten steps closer to it, it moves ten steps ahead. He asked himself: What is the point of utopia? And he responded: it helps to keep us moving forward. This is the essence of development!


As the name captures perfectly, Development in Transition, is by definition an ongoing process, a process of constant improvement and deepening engagement, moving forward while leaving no one behind.


The OECD stands ready to continue this journey with all of you, to design, develop and deliver better development partnerships and policies for better lives. Thank you.



See also:

OECD work on Development


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