The River Seine overflowing its banks is not an uncommon sight in Paris, as the winter catchment swells, causing water levels to rise and cover the lower banks, jetties and walkways. Apart from traffic caused by the occasional closure of a few expressways, there are few if any interruptions to daily life. The Seine has threatened worse once or twice in the past century, though the last catastrophic flood in 1910 is now the stuff of old black-and-white postcards and photo albums. Still, the risk remains, and if a flood were to occur, the damage to the city and its infrastructure would be considerable, a recent report warns. Over 5 million people would be affected, while the damage could be as much as €30 billion, affecting some 400,000 jobs in a worse-case scenario. Lives would also be at risk, as New York’s Hurricane Sandy sadly proved in 2012. Projects are under way in the Greater Paris area to improve flood defences, management and planning, and the report lists recommendations that could be taken on board. These include making sure insurance financing is up to the task, since a flood that knocked out Paris and its suburbs would deal a major blow to the French economy, the report says.

OECD (forthcoming, 2014), Seine Basin, Île-de-France, 2014: Resilience to Major Floods, Paris (available online in French: Étude de l’OCDE sur la gestion des risques d’inondation : la Seine en Île-de-France 2014).

Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, Italy's minister for the environment, and chair of the 2008 OECD meeting of environment ministers ©Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

Climate change is a pressing challenge, requiring leadership and determined action. At the same time, people are concerned that policies do not put them at an economic disadvantage or unnecessarily undermine their welfare.

Can governments balance these concerns? The OECD’s Environment Policy Committee meets at ministerial level on 28-29 April 2008 under the theme of global competitiveness. Some non-OECD developing countries will also participate, as will stakeholders from business, labour and civil society.

Ministers responsible for employment from around the world gathered at the OECD on 28-29 September to discuss the jobs crisis. In our eighth OECD Observer ministers' roundtable, we ask six representatives, from Canada (co-Chair), Italy (co-Chair), Sweden (vice-Chair), France, New Zealand, and Chile, which is a candidate for OECD accession: What new policy actions are you taking to improve the jobs situation in your country?

France Shapshot 2013

Find key economic figures and trends for France from OECD Yearbook 2013

People looking for models of public governance reform may not immediately think of France, but perhaps they should think again. In July 2007, France launched a reform programme called “General Review of Public Policies” (Révision Générale des Politiques Publiques, RGPP). Implemented at central government level, it adopts a novel approach that could prove a useful model for other OECD countries.

The budget deficit for the OECD area as a whole probably peaked at around 7.5% of GDP in 2010. That’s the equivalent of some US$3.3 trillion. A decrease to around 6.1% of GDP is expected in 2011, which will still be high by historical standards. But while the need to restore public finances is a global challenge, the state of government balance sheets varies widely. Economic starting points, causes of deficits and budgetary strategies also vary. Some countries have started down the road of austerity, others are maintaining stimulus and plan to rein in their deficits from 2011.

In December 2010 we asked finance ministers from a broad selection of countries facing different fiscal challenges–France, Germany, Indonesia, Ireland, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa–to answer this question: “What actions is your government taking to bolster public finances, while upholding growth and services?”

It would be easy to think that the organisation created in 1961 was the inevitable next stage in the evolution of the OEEC, the European body originally set up to administer the Marshall Plan in 1947. But the OECD did not simply "replace" the OEEC. Nor was its creation inevitable or easy.

© REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Fiftieth Anniversary of the OECD: President Sarkozy's speech.

Over the past 50 years, the OECD has undergone profound changes in order to cope with the emergence of new powers and, above all, new challenges. In 1989, with the fall of the Berlin wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the OECD forged new ties with countries freshly freed from the oppression of communism.

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