The recent economic meltdown was at root not a failure of character or competence, but a failure of ideas.
According to President John F. Kennedy, the person who can solve the water problems of the world should receive two Nobel prizes, one for peace and the other for science. More than four decades after his death, the world is realising the complexity and urgency of the water-related problems facing humanity, and the relevance of his remark.
A Check-list for Public Action has been developed by the OECD and its partners to assist governments considering engaging with the private sector in the water sector. It is organised around the OECD Principles for Private Sector Participation in Infrastructures–some 24 principles grouped under five points that highlight sector-specific features, government considerations and available tools and practices:
World agriculture faces an enormous challenge over the next 40 years: to produce almost 50% more food up to 2030 and double production by 2050. With pressure from increasing urbanisation, industrialisation and climate change also rising, proper water management will be vital.
Development aid for water supply and sanitation projects has risen in recent years after a decline in the late 1990s. Considering the importance of safe water, perhaps it hasn’t risen far enough. In 2007-08, OECD Development Assistance Committee countries committed on average $5.1 billion in bilateral annual aid to the water supply and sanitation sector, 50% up on 2003-04 in real terms. When combined with aid from multilateral agencies, the total was $6.6 billion. Over the 2003-08 period, bilateral aid to water increased by an annual average of 15%, while multilateral aid rose 3% annually. Still, for DAC countries, aid to the water supply and sanitation sector rose to just 7% of all aid commitments in 2007-08, only slightly up from 6% in 2003-04.
Although agriculture and industry are the thirstiest of all water consumers, household water use accounts for some 10-30% of total consumption in developed countries. As governments develop strategies to promote water conservation, an OECD survey of households conducted in 2008 offers insight into what really works. Based on some 10,000 responses across 10 countries, the answer is as clear as what comes out of the tap: having to pay for water encourages water-saving behaviour and investment in water-saving appliances, thus reducing consumption.
Ever plodded through flood waters to get to a conference? In late January, the Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP) held their 3rd annual conference in Venice, Italy at the impressive Ca’ Foscari University. More than 200 experts from universities, governments and agencies converged to discuss the role that fiscal policies can play in greening growth. With the streets filling rapidly with water, nature (influenced by a changing climate) provided extra motivation to act immediately on this issue as participants flocked to indoor heaters and radiators to dry out their drenched shoes and socks.
Long ago I gave up trying to break through the so-called “glass ceiling” that has kept women like me out of higher management. Instead I decided to create new enterprises in which management could be reinvented by women. On 8 March 2005, I launched a business incubator devoted exclusively to projects by female entrepreneurs.
Just how significant is international migration in the light of other globalisation developments? One obvious starting point for answering the question is to ask how many of the current world population of 6.7 billion people are international migrants, defined as persons living outside their country of birth.
More women go to work today than 40 years ago, but their pay has not kept pace with men’s. Some 58% of women on average in the OECD area worked in 2008, up from 45% in 1970, ranging from 70% of women in the Nordic countries to less than 50% in Greece, Italy, Mexico and Turkey. Indeed, with fewer women staying at home, dual-earner families are now commonplace in most OECD countries; only in Japan, Mexico and Turkey are single-income families more common. However, men are often still the main earners in dual-earner families because so many women work part-time and for lower wages than their husbands. In the Netherlands, a relatively egalitarian country, 60% of women work part time, compared with 16% of men.
Has gender equality improved since International Women’s Day was first launched a century ago? The answers heard during this year’s global events on 8 March were mixed. Yes, progress has been made, but discrimination continues everywhere, which not only harms women but holds back society’s potential too.
The terrorist murders of 17 people in Paris on 7, 8 and 9 January were not only a human tragedy. They were a direct attack on the values of living together in the free, law-abiding, pluralistic societies we hold dear.
Following the terrorist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the OECD Secretary-General has expressed his condolences and support, on his behalf and that of the Organisation’s staff, to President Hollande and the French authorities. He also indicated that the OECD deplores this action, which is fundamentally opposed to the values we hold dear.
After three years of sacrifice, hard work and difficult reform, Ireland has fought its way out of the depths of the financial crisis to become one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe and one of the best countries in the world in which to do business.
The world economy remains stuck in low gear, and a "stronger policy response" is needed, particularly to boost demand in the euro area, OECD Chief Economist Catherine L. Mann said today, 25 November.
Case studies of specific products, particularly in the electronics industry, show that value creation along a global value chain tends to be unevenly distributed among activities. The highest value creation is found in upstream activities, such as the development of a new concept, research and development (R&D) and the manufacturing of key components. But it is also found in downstream activities, such as marketing, branding and customer service.
Tourism has shown remarkable staying power in recent years. Despite political instability, wars, natural disasters and a global financial crisis, the industry keeps getting up for another round. Japan is good example. After the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident, the number of visitors to the country plunged. But in 2013 more than 9 million tourists visited the country, a record high.
Are global companies improving their environmental, social and governance performance? There is good reason to be optimistic, though there is much work to be done.
On 24 April 2013 the Rana Plaza, a commercial building and garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, collapsed, claiming some 1,130 lives and injuring thousands more. The shock was felt globally. How could this happen? Who was to blame? If the building was not fit for purpose, why was it being used? How could such a disaster be prevented from happening again?
The shortfalls of GDP that were already apparent before the crisis but made starker during it have led to a panoply of new initiatives to find metrics that can measure wellbeing rather than just economic growth. But while GDP has stood accused of overlooking the environment and human well-being, it has one advantage which policymakers and analysts appreciate: the methods are objective and clear. Whether measuring output or expenditure in an economy, GDP produces a single number that is easy to adjust and compare.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Japan’s membership of the OECD. Japan joined our organisation on 28 April 1964, marking a significant milestone as the first Asian country to do so.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a long-lived gas. Almost half of the CO2 emitted in 2013 will still be in the atmosphere a century from now. This means that its concentration, and warming potential, increases over time, unless the rate of accumulation can be cut to zero. This is the goal that the OECD is urging all countries to achieve: zero net emissions by mid-century. To accomplish this, the explicit price of carbon dioxide emissions should be aligned more closely with their true cost, while avoiding expensive policy options that could be replaced by more cost-effective ones.
How can we increase employment and strengthen social cohesion? The prime minister of Norway argues that we need urgent action to ensure that an entire generation of young people remains connected to the labour market. We must also address the issue of income distribution to protect the vulnerable and guarantee greater equality of opportunity across our societies.
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.
A recent OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Clinical Trials issued in December 2012 could improve the outlook for fighting deadly diseases around the world. Here is how.
How to get it right
Austerity programmes to restore order to public finances can add to the woes of already struggling economies, leading to more job losses and social hardship. But there are ways for governments to put their fiscal houses in order, while supporting growth and reducing income inequality at the same time.
What the BEPS are we talking about?
Bloomberg’s “The Great Corporate Tax Dodge”, The New York Times’ “But Nobody Pays That” and the Guardian’s “Tax Gap”: these are some examples of the wide media attention given to global tax issues in recent weeks. The public is understandably becoming alarmed, since what is at issue is how profit shifting by multinationals is eroding their national tax bases. OECD initiatives on tax policy can help.
The new performance frontier
By helping emphasise the importance of a “better life” as a key component of societal progress, the OECD has made considerable efforts in recent years to help promote a school of thought that places people’s well-being at the heart of economic growth. After examining the issue of growth and productivity gains, and recognising the question of the environmental cost of our economic activity, the time has come to turn our attention to another area that is equally crucial: fostering a more human economy.
The new OECD/WTO database on trade in value-added is not just about changing the numbers, but policymakers’ approaches too. It gives trade fresh importance, and a place high on the agenda of the UK’s G8 presidency.
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