In the years ahead, the global food and agriculture system will have to provide sustainably for billions more people and meet greater demands on quality, affordability and availability. Farming will be competing with other sectors for land, water and investment, while climate change adds new pressures.
Ministers and stakeholders from OECD member countries and key emerging economies gather in Paris on 25-26 February to discuss how best to respond to the challenges. We asked ministers from five of them–Austria and New Zealand as co-chairs, Canada, Germany and Chile–and leading representatives from Concern Worldwide, the International Federation of Agricultural Producers, John Deere, and the World Trade Organization:
“What actions are you prioritising to prepare the food and agriculture system for the needs of a rapidly changing world?”(3840 words)
How do our young students perform at school compared with their peers in other countries? Are they ready and equipped to take on the world of tomorrow? The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which surveys competence among 15 year olds around the world, gives ground for encouragement.(1125 words)
When G20 regulators met in Pittsburgh in September 2009–it had taken them a full year to react to the collapse of Lehman Brothers–they set out an ambitious financial reform agenda. No stone would be left unturned, no shadow in the banking system unexposed. Action would cover all financial market segments and players, and lessons would be learned from the crisis to ensure that the 2008 debacle never happened again.(1247 words)
In a global economy, the benchmark for educational success is no longer improvement by national standards alone, but the best performing school systems internationally. Latest results from the PISA assessment, the world’s metric for evaluating learning outcomes at school, issued 3 December, show striking changes in the world’s talent.(613 words)
Developing countries are a broad group. At the top of the pile are emerging powerhouses such as Brazil and China. At the bottom are a poor group called fragile states, such as Afghanistan and Somalia. Fragile states lack capacity to carry out basic governance functions and are unable to develop constructive relation with society. They are home to half of all children not in primary school and half of all children who die before reaching their fifth birthday. In the next decade, these countries will be the main battlegrounds in the war against global poverty, breeding instability with regional and sometimes global consequences.(358 words)
Dignity is all about people. Dignity is intrinsic–we’re all born with it. But dignity is also relational and is created among, and between people. Many of us don’t think about this, or notice it in our daily lives. But that’s only because we, our families and friends are fortunate enough to live relatively privileged lives. And because it can be difficult to establish the number of people living in difficult conditions–and their voices are less often heard.(649 words)
Development aid fell by 4% in real terms in 2012, following a 2% fall in 2011. Though this decline must be reversed, it is not the only issue to address. Also being questioned is how that aid is measured in the first place. As Jon Lomoy explains, while it is high time to revisit the concept of official development assistance, the outcome of the discussion will influence the effectiveness of development policy over the next decade or more.(932 words)
There are good reasons why the public has lost confidence in banking and finance. Two issues in particular must be addressed before it can be restored– moral hazard and conflict of interest. Reforms should ensure that banks and bankers–not taxpayers–pay the price of failure and are held fully accountable for their actions.
Give youth a chance
Young people are being excluded from economic life by a combination of joblessness and barriers to the creation of start-ups. Unleashing the energy, entrepreneurial spirit and technological genius of the young is not just a moral imperative, but an economic necessity.
The current crisis has continued to affect people’s lives across the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in the deteriorating labour market in many countries. Young people have been hit particularly hard and risk being permanently scarred from joblessness and even exclusion.(856 words)
Ultimately the economic crisis is about people, says Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s minister of foreign affairs. That is why respecting human rights and adherence to democratic principles are fundamental when addressing the current economic crisis. We are in this together, so we need multilateral solutions more than ever.(975 words)
Transport is not only a fundamental driver of economic activity, it is a major sector in its own right. But while transport has suffered from the economic crisis, as echoed in downturns in trade and activity generally, it could be a source of recovery too. We asked José Viegas, head of International Transport Forum, to explain.(781 words)
Education for all
Young people from poorer families are badly underrepresented in higher education. That risks exposing them to a lifetime of reduced earnings and undermines the foundations of wider economic growth. What can be done? Economically disadvantaged students benefit from a mix of grants and loans in third-level education, but they also need better support from the earliest years of their school careers.
A recipe for trust
Have the policy errors that contributed to the global economic crisis been rectified? Sharan Burrow, who heads the International Trade Union Confederation, shares her vision for building trust and restoring confidence in the countries still suffering from the crisis.
Time for an energy [r]evolution
We can’t use terms like “inclusive” and “green” as window dressing for the pursuit of economic growth as an end in itself. According to Greenpeace International’s chief, Kumi Naidoo, a real and profound change in how we think about growth is needed–one that doesn’t let special interests get in the way of creating a just, fair and sustainable economy with clean energy for all.
The cost of mistrust
Trust is at the heart of today’s complex global economy. But, paradoxically, trust is also in increasingly short supply in many of our societies, especially in our attitudes towards big business, parliaments and governments. This decline threatens our capacity to tackle some of today’s key challenges.
Climate change won't wait
The European Union may be facing some difficult economic challenges, but that's no excuse for not acting now to create an economy based on resource efficiency and low-carbon development. The benefits are potentially enormous, including lower greenhouse gas emissions, more efficient use of energy and resources, and rising growth and innovation.
As humans, we face a constant internal conflict between immediate gratification and more prudent living. This conflict is also apparent in society. How can we ensure that the homo economicus within us takes the decisions that best affect our lives, and economies?(43 words)
Science and technology play a central role in our society. They are part of everybody’s life, they help to tackle the grand challenges of humankind and they create innovation and jobs and improve quality of life. Science and technology are part of our culture, and in essence define us as a species that “wants to know”–hence why we are called Homo sapiens. But do we really give science its proper value when it comes to taking political decisions?(756 words)
In 2002 Henry Copeland, chief of Blogads and Pressflex.com, wrote about how blogs, largely unknown at the time, would change web writing and publishing forever. He was right. Then in 2008 in these pages, he told us to bet on Twitter several months before it took off (the OECD opened its first accounts in April 2009). So where is the information world taking us now? Henry provides some fresh thoughts.(645 words)
People create policy, but underpinning their work, and in some ways hidden from view, is a well-developed, smart information and communications infrastructure. It is a fundamental driver of progress.(697 words)
In a globalised world, social unrest occurring far away can have transnational ramifications, with effects nearer to home. This has been evident in recent years with movements such as Occupy and Indignados, and the Arab Spring. Unrest could also be the consequence of a terrorist attack, but even the threat of one can lead to widespread panic. The upshot can be disorder and economic turmoil.(346 words)
The Internet is much more than a multi-billion dollar industry. The world’s economy now depends on this global “cloud”, which was once little more than a means of connecting different computers over a phone network. Today, the digital age has vast new potential to serve as a force of progress in the global economy, but better, smarter public policies will be needed for that potential to become reality.(339 words)
Making strides in scientific innovation is no longer an initiative of just a few select high-income countries. Research and innovation have become increasingly democratised; indeed, Asia’s emerging economies are now gaining prominence as world hubs of scientific research. While the United States remains at the top in terms of the volume of scientific publications produced and collaborations made, these countries are eager to develop their own innovation capabilities, and strengthen their research and academic partnerships.(212 words)
Getting information and communications “right” has always been a necessary condition for delivering sound policy advice; today, there are many more possibilities to generate and to share evidence-based policy insights, but there are also many more competing messages and messengers. Here are two examples.(328 words)
After five years of crisis, the global economy is weakening again. In this we are not facing a new pattern. Over the recent past, signs of emergence from the crisis have more than once given way to a renewed slowdown or even a double-dip recession in some countries. The risk of a new major contraction cannot be ruled out. A recession is ongoing in the euro area, the US economy is growing but below what was expected earlier this year, and a slowdown has surfaced in many emerging market economies.(664 words)
The current economic climate has put increased pressure on young firms trying to raise money and develop their businesses. Banks remain reluctant to provide loans to start-ups and venture capital firms prefer to invest in later stage companies. Now, a growing class of experienced entrepreneurs and business people–known as “angel investors”–is stepping in to fill this funding gap. Could this be encouraged further?(830 words)
In May 2012 the OECD Ministerial Council endorsed the OECD Strategy on Development, describing it as an essential tool for adapting the organisation’s work to fast changing realities. What are the factors behind the new strategy and what are the aims?(949 words)
Wherever I go, in every country, women are demanding that their voices are heard. From the Arab states, where women continue to stand up for freedom and democracy, to all regions of the globe, the calls for equal rights, opportunity and participation are spreading and have brought significant change over the years.(1251 words)
In a relatively short time, microfinance has become a major tool of international development. But too many potential entrepreneurs still have little or no access to financing. Innovation and government policy have a central role to play in correcting this imbalance.(952 words)
The continuity of our societies and the sustainability of our planet will necessarily depend on how we, as a collective, can devise the solutions to the paramount and multifaceted difficulties that have arisen from the changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution. In fact, if we are to successfully transform these challenges into opportunities, what we need is nothing short of another revolution. And in today’s revolution the bayonets, unquestionably, need to be green.(1008 words)
Microcredit has become a popular way to finance small businesses and local development projects, particularly in poorer countries. Economist, author, founder and first chairman of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Jacques Attali is founder of PlaNet Finance, which runs microfinance programmes in over 80 countries. In the run up to the OECD Forum in May 2011 where he is due to speak, Mr Attali talked to the OECD Observer.(908 words)
How can we all learn from a crisis? Today, we find ourselves in a disappointing, if not altogether unexpected, predicament. The very governments who took bold and decisive action in the period of the financial crisis 2008-09 to bail out banks and keep financial markets alive now find themselves on the receiving end of severe punishment from financial markets. How could this be?(1497 words)
As efforts to restart the stalled Doha Development Round negotiations intensify, the policy focus on world trade, and, specifically, its relation to development aid and growth in poorer countries, has become more acute. Trade is a powerful engine for economic growth, as the OECD’s founders argued 50 years ago, and, as such, can contribute to reducing poverty. However, efforts to improve trade in developing countries are often hampered by domestic constraints, particularly a lack of adequate economic infrastructures, as well as institutional and organisational obstacles.(302 words)
The financial crisis has taken a heavy toll on government finances and taxpayers are still footing the bill. Could private investors do more to help out? Mohamed El-Erian, CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO, believes they should. He explains to the OECD Observer.(991 words)
We are celebrating the OECD’s 50th anniversary during the tail-end of the worst financial and economic crisis of our lifetimes. It’s a good moment to take stock and to ask the right questions. Why couldn’t we avoid the crisis? Were the policies and the policy mix we promoted the right ones, and how can we adjust these polices to new realities? What is more, are we doing enough to prevent another crisis? Are our economic theories, our models and our assumptions still appropriate? How should our organisation’s work be adapted so that we continue fulfilling our founding mission of promoting better policies for better lives?(872 words)
Will the world economy brighten in 2014 compared with 2013?