Remarks at SDG16+ Reception: A Decade of Action for Peaceful, Just, and Inclusive Societies

Dear Ministers, Ambassadors, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to commend Pathfinders for their work accelerating action to implement the SDG16 targets on peace, justice and inclusion (SDG16+).

Lack of access to justice brings huge human and social costs as it cuts across many areas of life, contributing to increasing inequalities and leaving people behind.

Certain groups are particularly affected and face additional legal hardship, and it is key to focus efforts on them.

Those include children and youth, women, victims of violence and discrimination, people with disabilities, and indigenous communities,

We can see the positive impact of justice interventions when they target these groups. For example, in Ecuador, clients of legal aid clinics, mostly poor women and their children, reported a positive change in their lives after having benefited from legal aid services: 83% reported that their living situation was better, 77% said they felt safer and 66% indicated that their self-esteem had improved.[i]

The group that I want to focus on today, is children.

Inclusive and people-centred justice systems, must take into account the specific needs of children.  This requires at least three levels of actions:

First, we need to invest in data and evidence to measure and monitor access to justice. The OECD, jointly with the Open Society Justice Initiative, has  designed a Legal Needs Survey and Access to Justice Guide, to inform policy design. It helps to understand what people need when they seek justice, the obstacles they face, and the kind of justice they receive. We are now working to adapt it to be suitable to map children’s needs and experiences.

Second, we need a regular dialogue and a compendium of good practices on what works and has delivered. This is why we have created the platform Global Roundtables on Equal Access to Justice and developed a set of principles to help countries to ensure that their justice systems and services respond to the needs of people and advance the child-friendly justice agenda.

Finally, we need to strengthen the business case for access to justice for children by demonstrating the costs of lack of justice as well as the benefits of specific justice interventions. The OECD’s White Paper on the Business Case on Access to Justice shows that unmet legal needs can cost countries up to 3% of GDP, but we need to better understand how the children’s agenda fits into this, as their needs in terms of access to justice are complex and cross-cutting.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your attention. The OECD stands ready to support the implementation of this agenda and we look forward to working with countries and our global partners to continue building peaceful, just and inclusive societies and make justice a reality for all by 2030.


[i] OECD White Paper on Building a Business Case for Access to Justice

Keynote at the 2nd UNGA Local and Regional Governments Forum on the 2030 Agenda “Connecting Global Ambition and Local Action”

Gabriela Ramos delivered the scene-setting remarks for the forum’s second session entitled “Localising the SDGs: Good Practices and Experiences on Implementing the 2030 Agenda at Local Level” on the 24 September 2019 at the UNGA headquarters in NYC.

Dear Mayors, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to join you for the 2nd Local and Regional Governments Forum on the 2030 Agenda. Thanks to UN DESA, UN-Habitat, Local 2030, and the Global Task Force of Local and Regional Governments for convening this important event on “Connecting Global Ambition and Local Action” to achieve the SDGs.

Let’s begin by recalling that no country is on track for achieving all 17 Goals, and in developing countries alone the average annual funding gap for the SDGs amounts to 2.5 trillion US dollars.[i]

In the face of this challenge, the OECD established an Action Plan on the SDGs to support and guide Members, Partner countries, and the international community with the implementation of the SDGs.

One fact that stands out loud and clear is that we cannot do this without sub-national governments. The OECD estimates that at least 100 of the 169 targets underlying the 17 SDGs will not be reached without proper engagement and coordination with local and regional governments.

Cities are particularly critical. We know that urbanisation continues to grow all over the world, with cities accounting for over 80% of global GDP today and projected to house 70% of the global population by 2050.[ii] This makes cities hotspots for inequalities and environmental stresses. Income inequality – which has been rising in the last decades – is higher, on average, in cities than in their respective countries.

The health implications of inequalities in cities is striking: while the richest 40% of urban dwellers are likely to reach the age of 70 or more, the poorest struggle to reach 55 years.[iii]

Cities are also major polluters, being responsible for over two-thirds of energy consumption and more than 70% of CO2 emissions globally. The OECD has estimated that outdoor air pollution could cause 6 to 9 million premature deaths a year by 2060, with cities particularly hard hit. And of course, many cities are on the front line of climate change. In fact, the data shows that 89% of cities – home to over 2 billion people – are located in areas that are highly vulnerable to economic losses from natural disasters. [iv]

But cities also play a huge role in determining the response to these multiple challenges. Data from the OECD World Observatory on Subnational Government Finance and Investment shows that subnational governments are responsible for almost 60% of total public investment in the OECD, and for almost 40% worldwide. They are also responsible for 64% of environment and climate-related public investment.

For all these reasons, the OECD launched last year at the High Level Political Forum in New York a Programme on “A Territorial Approach to SDGs”, which aims to support cities and regions to develop, implement and monitor strategies to overcome these challenges and deliver on all of the SDGs.

We are currently monitoring ‘pilot’ cities and regions in Denmark, Japan, Argentina, Russia, Belgium, Germany, Iceland, Norway, and Brazil that are already using this Territorial Approach to guide their policy actions.

Following the impressive work that these regions and cities are conducting, we have identified four main findings:

First, we clearly see that the SDGs provide a framework that helps cities and regions to address local issues. We see it in Kitakyushu for instance – the city is leaning on the SDGs related to clean energy (SDG7) and climate action (SDG13) to rethink its environmental action. It is working on eco-industry development and offshore wind power generation as new avenues to improve the local environmental footprint and create jobs.

Second, cities and regions are not just using SDGs to track progress and measure performance, but also to guide decision-making, design local development plans, allocate their budgets, and shape policies and strategies. This is the case for instance in the Belgian region of Flanders and in the city of Bonn.  Its  Municipal Council adopted earlier this year the city’s first sustainability strategy that is building on the SDGs to set ambitious objectives in terms of energy-efficient building standards, clean and affordable energy and low-carbon means of transport.

Third, cities and regions value the SDGs as a vector to collaborate more and better with the private sector. For instance, subnational authorities can promote sustainable public procurement to promote greener practices in the private sector, or de-risk private investments for SDG-related solutions. This is already the case in the country of Viken, Norway and the province of Cordoba in Argentina, for example.

The fourth and last finding I would like to highlight is that, while cities and regions are already using existing local or national indicators to measure their progress vis-à-vis the SDGs, an internationally-comparable and localised indicator framework is still missing.

To fill this important gap, we are developing an OECD Localised Indicator Framework for SDGs, to be launched at the 10th World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi in 2020, that will allow over 600 regions and 650 cities in OECD and partner countries to measure their progress on the SDGs at the local level, and to learn where they stand vis-à-vis their peers.

The framework will build on the OECD’s unique Regional and Metropolitan databases as well as on UN statistics, the Gallup World Poll, the Global Human Settlement population grids and more, to consolidate over 100 indicators.

Ladies and gentlemen,

the 2030 Agenda will not happen without cities and regions. The SDGs offer cities and regions and a dynamic and global opportunity to step up their efforts, and put people at the centre.

The OECD is committing to continue playing a leading role, working at the international, the national, the regional, the sub-regional and the local level. Which is why I call on all of you to join us at the 2nd OECD Roundtable of Cities and Regions for the SDGs on 9 December in Bonn to advance this vital work together.

Thank you.


[i] https://undg.org/document/unlocking-sdg-financing-findings-from-early-adopters/

[ii] UN-Habitat, 2016

[iii] UN-Habitat, 2015

[iv] UNDESA, 2018

United Nations Climate Action Summit: OECD High-Level Event: Placing Well-Being at the Heart of Climate Policy: Accelerating mitigation actions and achieving well-being benefits

Gabriela Ramos moderated the OECD High-Level Event: Placing Well-Being at the Heart of Climate Policy: Accelerating mitigation actions and achieving well-being benefits at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City on 23 September 2019. The session featured a presentation of the OECD Report’s key messages by Secretary-General Angel Gurría. The high-level panel featured H.E. Mr. Linas Linkevicius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Lithuania H.E. Mr. Richard Brabec, Minister of the Environment, Czech Republic H.E. Mr. Juris Pūce, Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Latvia H.E. Ms. Lucía Delfina Ruiz Ostoic, Minister of Environment, Peru (invited) H.E. Ms. Nezha El Ouafi, Secretary of State to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development, Kingdom of Morocco (invited) Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) Ms. Thembi Nkadimeng, Mayor of Polokwane and President of the South Africa Local Government Association Mr. Michael Liebreich, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Liebreich Associate with a special intervention by Ms. Helena Molin Valdés, Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) Secretariat, Untied Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Dear Ministers, Esteemed Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Permanent Missions of the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and the OECD, I am very pleased to welcome you to this event on Placing Well-being at the Heart of Climate Policy.

The UN SG has convened this climate summit with the objective of boosting ambition and accelerating climate action because we are still not doing enough.

To achieve either a 1.5°C or below 2°C goal, the IPCC assesses that global CO2 emissions will need to fall by 20-45% by 2030 relative to 2010.[1]

Yet energy-related CO2 emissions rose by an estimated 1.7% in 2018, driven by rapid increases in energy demand.[2]

This is very concerning, and is an alarm bell for increased action, which is sounding alongside the demands of our young people, who are striking in the streets, and leading the first UN Youth Summit .

I add my voice to theirs: we need radical action, and we need it fast. We have seen some steps in the right directions in the lead-up to the Summit, with some countries and actors making important efforts to accelerate action. For example:

— Last month France and the UK pledged to double their contributions to the Green Climate Fund, joining a similar pledge last year from Germany and Norway.

— The private sector is also making progress, with 21 companies with a combined market capitalisation of over USD 1.3 trillion committing to step up efforts to cut emissions from their operations in line with limiting gobal temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.[3]

-The OECD is playing its part to drive this action to be faster and more ambitious. And in line with the our inclusive growth initiative and productivity-inclusiveness nexus, we are advancing climate actions that are more people-centric, that exploit synergies to improve people’s lives and the health of our planet and its rich biodiversity.

We just launched a report Accelerating Climate Action: Refocusing Policies Through a Well-Being Lens which applies a well-being persepective to identify synergies and trade-offs between climate action and well-being goals.

The aim of this event is to explore how placing people’s well-being at the centre of decision making can increase political and social support for more ambitious mitigation action.

To take us forward, I would like to call on the OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurría, to tell us more about this study and share his vision for solutions to the climate emergency, that also foster well-being and inclusion.

Dear Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Latvia for co-hosting this important event.
We have gathered at a decisive moment. Across the globe, July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded, and this builds on a worrying trend: 9 out of the 10 hottest months of July have happened since 2005.[i] With an increase in global temperature of around 1 degree Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, we are now witnessing a plethora of extreme weather events and damaging threats to unique ecosystems. Land degradation and deforestation are exacerbating this effect and put global food security at risk, as the latest IPCC report warns. All of this comes at a time when we are already facing the planet’s sixth mass extinction of biodiversity.
Our planet is in crisis! Moreover, at a time when we urgently need co-ordinated and
far-sighted action to safeguard our collective future, the willingness and ability to act for the common good is in short supply.
Progress is being made, but it is not enough
Some countries show that ambitious climate action is possible. Costa Rica is on track to become the world’s first carbon-neutral nation. Sweden will be carbon neutral by 2050. New Zealand has banned new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration. Norway is dropping fossil fuel investments from its national pension fund, the world’s biggest wealth fund, to redirect 20 billion US dollars towards renewables.[ii] Twelve countries have already communicated their long-term low-emissions development strategies to the UNFCCC.
Although these steps are important, they are not enough. Overall global emissions and investments are still going in the wrong direction. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are growing at an alarming pace. The emissions pathways set out by national governments will take us to a world that will be around 3 degrees (Celsius) warmer by 2100.
Furthermore, although climate change was historically caused by industrialised nations, emerging economies are now also major contributors to the problem, and the impact and consequences are strongly felt across the globe. Wealthier countries will need to move faster and further; but all countries
will need to contribute to achieving zero net carbon dioxide emissions globally in the second half of the century. 
We need to do more, we need to do it better, and, most importantly, we need to do it faster.

Accelerating Climate Action: Refocusing Policies through a Well-Being Lens
Accelerating climate mitigation action to achieve the Paris goals is vital to our collective well-being. But we need to rethink our approach. In many cases, climate mitigation raises concerns such as the effect of carbon prices on affordability of energy, and the impact of climate policies on jobs. It is also important to remember that those most at risk from these challenges are developing countries and the world’s most vulnerable populations. These concerns may limit policy action.
But we must also remember that our climate-change inducing habits can also take a major toll on well-being.
 
Take air pollution from coal plants, for example: in 2013, nearly 23,000 premature deaths in the European Union could be attributed to coal plants. That’s almost equivalent to the number of fatalities in road-traffic accidents (26 000)![1] In another recent study, we calculated the tremendous burden of ambient air pollution: this cost was estimated at around 3.2 million deaths and 5.1 trillion US dollars in BRIICS and OECD countries in 2015.[2]
We need to leverage synergies between mitigation policy and other well-being goals. We also must anticipate, manage, and minimise trade-offs that could otherwise block progress.

The OECD’s recent report on Accelerating Climate Action: Refocusing Policies through a Well-Being Lens, identifies and addresses three key actions to move forward:
First, we must refocus our climate policies through a well-being lens. Placing people’s well-being at the centre of decision-making helps increase the political and social support for more ambitious mitigation action, and also overcome the barriers to change. The “well-being lens” put forward by the report takes into consideration the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) when analysing a range of economic sectors. Adopting this approach can lead to different policy perspectives on climate mitigation in five economic sectors, those that are responsible for more than 60 percent of global emissions: electricity, heavy industry, residential, surface transport, and agriculture.
 
In the transport sector, for example, the well-being approach would prioritise accessibility, and not only physical movement, which too often leads to car-dominated cities, congestion, and air pollution. Moreover, it would ensure that people could easily access jobs, services, and amenities using sustainable transport modes, such as walking, cycling, public transport, and even new modes of transport.

Second, we must rethink societal goals. The OECD recognises that promoting better policies for better lives requires a rethinking of societal goals. It means prioritising improvements in people’s well-being that include – and go beyond – traditional economic activity indicators such as GDP. We must ensure that policy decisions consider multiple well-being objectives – including climate – and do not focus on single goals in isolation. This means defining our goals by how healthy we are; the quality of our air, our water and the nature of our societies, alongside material dimensions such as jobs and income.
Third, we must reframe our measurement system. We need to take a more comprehensive set of indicators that can help monitor and set criteria to ensure progress on multiple policy priorities, while making synergies and trade-offs between them visible. For example, Transport for London is using multiple accessibility indicators to guide new development and leverage private investment in infrastructure improvements. These indicators describe the extent to which citizens are able to access the transport system and travel between locations to access jobs and services.
This is also why the OECD is supporting initiatives launched today at this UN Climate Summit. In particular, we are supporting the Leadership for Urban Climate Investment initiative (LUCI), by developing a tool to measure and track subnational climate finance.
 

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,  
The climate action goals that were agreed upon in 2015 in Paris, while challenging and ambitious, are also achievable. But we are lagging behind on what needs to be done. We must accelerate action, for the good of our planet, our well-being today, and for the good of future generations.
I very much hope that the agenda of putting people at the centre of climate action can help governments take the necessary steps to save our planet.
The OECD is here to help. Let us not lose hope. You can count on the OECD!
Thank you, and I look forward to the fruitful discussions this afternoon.


[1] CAN et al., 2016
[2] Roy, R. and N. Braathen (2017), “The Rising Cost of Ambient Air Pollution thus far in the 21st Century: Results from the BRIICS and the OECD Countries”, OECD Environment Working Papers, No. 124, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/d1b2b844-en.


[i] According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), https://www.noaa.gov/news/july-2019-was-hottest-month-on-record-for-planet
[ii] https://www.wsj.com/articles/norways-sovereign-wealth-fund-boosts-renewable-energy-divests-fossil-fuels-11560357485

Speech given by Secretary-General Angel Gurría

Thank you Angel for presenting the key messages of the new report, highlighting the potential of a shift in perspective, of a new people-centred narrative, in accelerating climate mitigation actions.

I am now delighted to introduce our panel:

  • H.E. Mr. Linas Linkevicius is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania
  • H.E. Mr. Richard Brabec is the Minister of the Environment of the Czech Republic
  • H.E. Mr. Juris Pūce, Minister for Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Latvia
  • Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme
  • Ms. Thembi Nkadimeng, Mayor of Polokwane and President of the South Africa Local Government Association, who will give us her perspective on the relevance of these issues at the sub-national level
  • Mr. Michael Liebreich, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Liebreich Associates, who will share his views in light of his wide expertise, which includes environmental, energy, infrastructure, gender, and finance amongst others.

To H.E. Mr. Linkevicius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Lithuania: 

Lithuania faces two simultaneous challenges. On the one hand, the energy mix is dominated by – largely imported – fossil fuels; on the other, inequality remains high relative to most advanced economies.

  • Applying a well-being lens, how can the need to decarbonise the energy mix be reconciled with political pressures to take into account labour market conditions? What are the opportunities for responding to these issues in an integrated manner?

To H.E. Mr. Richard Brabec, Minister of the Environment, Czech Republic:

In the Czech Republic, a steady decrease in industrial energy consumption has contributed to a 60% cut in energy-related GHG emissions. Still, the Czech Republic remains one of the most energy-intensive economies in the OECD, largely due to heavy industry. 

  • How could application of the well-being approach put forward by the OECD support efforts to reduce GHG emissions from the industrial sector while ensuring continued employment as well as not impoverishing communities?

To H.E. Mr. Juris Pūce, Minister for Environmental Protection and Regional Development, Latvia:

In Latvia, we have seen that with an increase in per capita income, a growing share of the population has relocated from city centres to the suburbs where they can buy larger homes, resulting in urban sprawl, and a rapid increase in the number of private vehicles.

  • Considering the government’s commitment to limit GHG emissions by, among other “developing an environmentally friendly transport system ”, how can Latvia overcome the challenge of having to manage emissions from the transport sector while at the same time taking broader well-being and development considerations into account?

To Ms. Thembi Nkadimeng, Mayor of Polokwane and President of the South Africa Local Government Association:

Polokwane has a reputation for being one of the greenest municipalities in South Africa, as well as being one of the fastest growing.

Polokwane is managing urban sprawl using densification policies that have the potential to reduce GHG emissions and bring other benefits, e.g. public transport and less pollution. But these benefits depend on how the city takes into account the well-being implications of mitigation policies not only at the city-level, but also at the neighbourhood level and in individual dwellings (e.g., homes, apartments, etc.).

  • How has the city government integrated its policies towards the residential sector with its aims of improving and scaling up public transport in the city?

To Mr. Michael Liebreich, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Liebreich Associates:

Decarbonisation of the electricity sector has become a policy priority. Still, the sector is off-track to meet global mitigation goals.

  • How can we accelerate the decarbonisation of the energy sector while bringing in well-being benefits?

To Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme:

The UN adopted in 2016 the New Urban Agenda, which outlines that cities and human settlements should be the places where all inhabitants enjoy equal rights and opportunities in just, healthy, affordable and sustainable areas. Based on UN-Habitat’s experience in defining this Agenda, what are the opportunities for a focus on well-being to further advance progress on mitigation in urban contexts?

Thank you for those insights into the breadth of opportunities related to applying the well-being approach to accelerating climate action.

Before opening the floor to questions from the audience, I would like to invite Ms. Helena Molin Valdés, Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Programme, to contribute to the discussion from an international perspective.

Helena, what are your thoughts on how broader well-being considerations could lead to climate mitigation actions?

Closing remarks

Thanks to our panel and to all of you for a very interesting discussion. There is a lot of value in shifting our perspective on well-being and climate action, and I look forward to the release of the second part of this report, which puts forward detailed policy recommendations for each sector, in early 2020.

I would like extend special thanks to the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania for co-hosting this event. And I look forward to working together to ensure an acceleration to climate  action that  fosters well-being and safeguards the needs of future generations.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us.


[1] The 45% reduction for a 1.5°C goal assumes little overshoot of CO2 emissions and therefore limited

requirement for atmospheric CO2 removal. The 20% figure corresponds to a 66% chance of keeping the

temperature change below 2°C.

[2] See: https://www.iea.org/geco/emissions/.

[3] https://iccwbo.org/media-wall/news-speeches/companies-commit-set-1-5c-climate-targets-aligned-net-zero-future/


 [LNE1]WE have not yet received their confirmation, doing our outmost to get that as soon as possible

               We will provide a separate document with questions for Morocoor and Peru that can easily be added to this brief if they confirm.

 [LNE2]Her team has indicated that she will only be able to join at around 4.30 and have requested that we list her as the last speaker

 [LNE3]Her team has indicated that she will only be able to join at around 4.30 and have requested that we list her as the last speaker

Remarks at Generation Unlimited: Third Global Board Meeting

The Third Global Board Meeting of UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited took place on 23rd September 2019 in New York City on the occasion of the UN General Assembly.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to represent the OECD in this discussion.

Let’s remember that almost 1 in 10 jobs held by workers under 30 were destroyed during the crisis. In Spain, Greece and Ireland, the number of employed youth halved between 2007 and 2014. A decdade since the crisis, despite rapid technological change and growing global integration, many young people have grown up with persistent unemployment, poor quality jobs, high social exclusion, and stalling social mobility.

The OECD’s recent study The Broken Social Elevator, showed that it takes on average five generations for a child born in the poorest families in OECD countries to reach the median income.

Youth are being left behind. Almost 14% of OECD youth are not in employment, education, or training (NEET), with the rate for young women five percentage points higher than for young men. Migrant youth are also affected. In most OECD countries, youth born outside their country of residence are 1.5 times more likely to be NEET than native-born youth.

As the future of our youth remains uncertain, and inequalities prevail, young people are losing hope and losing trust. Trust in government among youth is below the level of the 50+ generation in the OECD, and the civic disengagement  of youth with a migrant brackground is even higher.

Despite this crisis, existing youth policies remain insufficient: over one fifth of countries do not have a youth policy, and many do not invest sufficient resources in young people.

The OECD is working across many fronts to address these shortfalls: we have over 20 country-specific youth action plans and we are developing national policy reviews to promote youth entrepreneurship, youth well-being policy reviews, and country-tailored analysis advice for migrant integration, including migrant youth.

The OECD is also working with countries to equip youth with the skills, the resilience and the confidence to seize the opportunities of the digital age, including through the PISA Global Competence Framework and national skills strategies.

The OECD is committed to continue our collaboration and stands ready to collaborate on (1) GenU country work; (2) the creation of a knowledge platform; and (3) the update of the 2007 World Development Report.

The OECD will support GenU by working to refine and measure targets, making countries aware of specific GenU initiatives and sharing relevant information and knowledge gained through OECD engagement with member countries on youth policies and projects.

Additionally, the OECD can support GenU in developing youth action plans. Looking at the list of countries that GenU plans to work with [Kenya, Bangladesh, India, Rwanda, Mexico, South Africa and Ethiopia], the OECD is particularly well-placed to mobilise its extensive knowledge on Mexico, South Africa and Ethiopia.

The OECD can also contribute to the update of the World Development Report of 2007: Development and the Next Generation, to analyse what has happened since 2007, what worked, what did not, and where that ‘next generation’ stands now.

The OECD would also like to draw attention to vulnerable youth in developed countries. For example, young people who are living in foster families or institutions. OECD countries are working to address the distinct challenges and exclusion they face, but initiatives are often difficult to scale up.

The OECD therefore encourages GenU to expand its framework and strategy to include vulnerable youth in developed countries.

We look forward to deepening our engagement with GenU in the ways I have just described, to give all young people the skills to thrive in the future they deserve.

Launch of the 2019 UHC Global Monitoring Report at UNGA

The first UHC monitoring report, produced by the WHO and the World Bank was published in 2015. In their 2017 declaration, G20 health ministers invited “the WHO to identify appropriate indicator frameworks and to monitor progress on HSS [health systems strengthening] and UHC worldwide, working jointly with the World Bank, the OECD and other relevant stakeholders”. Both the 2015 and 2017 Global monitoring reports had two main chapters – service coverage and financial protection. The 2019 monitoring report focuses for the first time on gender issues and primary health care (PHC). The OECD has previously provided data, particularly in the development of the 2017 report.  We also contributed to the drafting of the 2019 report. Chapter 1 presents data on service coverage.  Overall coverage is improving, although the rate of improvement is slowing.  At the same time coverage of non-communicable diseases and service capacity have hardly changed. Chapter 2 covers financial protection.  The overall finding is a situation where financial protection is deteriorating, pushing more people into poverty.  The World Bank will cover this chapter in the panel discussion.

What for you are the key messages on social determinants and data gaps in this report?

As the report shows, poor people have lower coverage, even for basic health services., including those that have achieved universal or near-universal coverage of services, health outcomes are directly linked to the socio economic status of people. And according to OECD evidence, some low income group  life expectancy is lower among the poor and less educated. In some East European countries the gap is larger than 8 years!

We know that across the OECD people with low income are less likely to see a doctor or utilise preventive services, the poor are 12% less likely to see a specialist than the rich and  are more likely to smoke and be obese.

The OECD Inclusive Growth Initiative has led the way in demonstrating that one dimension of inequality can serve to entrench others,  they reinforce themselves in a vicious cycle of accumulated disadvantages (which is why it now takes an average of five generations in the OECD from a child from the lowest income group to reach the median). Poor education contributes to poor health, and you add the low quality jobs, and you have a tragic picture. No wonder people are angry and lack trust.

Being in the climate weak, environmental impacts on health outcomes are also strongly determined by our socio economic status.

As we take this inclusiveness approach, we also have to apply the gender lens and this report shows that health coverage is lower among women living in poverty and in rural areas, and while access to sexual, reproductive and child healthcare services is improving, many women and children are still not being reached, especially in Africa.

The push back to progress in this field is also being affected by a new wave of highly conservative attitudes in major economies.

To address these challenges we need healthcare systems that put people’s health outcomes at the center. Managing complex health systems could push goverments to focus on inputs, and on pressures from different interest groups, but the focus should be people’s health.

At the OECD this is what we are trying to do with our policy tools on health, ranging from tackling the opioid crisis and obesity, to looking at the quality, beyond the the covereage of healthcare.

We need data and policy analysis that goes beyond national averages and sheds light on inequalities by gender and socioeconomic status, as well as on people’s experiences and needs as patients.

This is why the OECD has created a new Patient-Reported Indicators Survey, called PaRIS.

Yes closing data gaps is key, but what really matters is what we measure, and how to ensure it is connected to people’s experiences.

 We also need to increase spending, but the finance will deliver better if we bring it together with an strategic approach focused on best practices and knowledge sharing, because countries are spending vastly different amounts with very diffierent outcomes.

In education, we have this with PISA, and I invite everyone to join PaRIS, to help shape healthcare systems that delivers for the SDG’s.

Please count on the OECD to keep working with all of you in this collective effort.

Key message: what would your take away message be?

One key takeaway – we need to do better. Much better. We need to ensure health systems are responsive to people’s needs; and we need to improve our measurement of the quality of care across socioeconomic groups.

How do we do this? – We do this by incorporating the outcomes and experiences of patients and communities into health policy. We need to move to a situation where patients and local communities help to design and build the health systems of the future, making them truly people-centred.

These are areas where the OECD can make a difference, including with our PaRIS survey. We are looking forward to working in collaboration with you, our partners, to make progress.

Opening Remarks: NAEC Conference: Averting Systemic Collapse

Opening of the NAEC Group Conference on 17 September 2019 with Gabriela Ramos, Laurence Boone and Martine Durand at the OECD. Photo OECD / Maud Bernos

Welcome to the NAEC group. I am very pleased to welcome a record participation of the Chairs of OECD committees. I would also like to welcome the Ambassadors and Economic Counsellors. We are looking forward to your views and guidance on how to take NAEC forward.

This gathering is timely as the global community grapples with an urgent set of interconnected and complex economic, environmental and social challenges.

It brings together experts who believe our current policy approaches are no longer adequate to address them, and that have worked with us to develop a better understanding of the interaction of risk and complexity.  They have also joined us in adopting a “systems thinking” approach to promote anticipation and resilience.

Our point of departure is that the systems that govern our lives are under stress. Conservation scientists warn that up to a million plant and animal species face extinction and we see our kids striking. Ocean acidification and warming is driving rapid and dramatic changes in marine ecosystems and nearly one million species are currently threatened with extinction driven by our increasing demands for food and energy.[1] After a three year plateau from 2014-2016, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are rising again, reaching unprecedented levels in 2018.[2] Climate experts say rising sea and temperature levels will impact the health and security of billions of people, and is already destroying the life in the sea. Economists wonder when the next global financial crisis or economic recession will hit. They are also puzzled by the secular stagnation in many countries. People worry, with good reason, about widening social divides and societal and political fragmentation, and the fast pace of digital transformation. Social mobility is broken: OECD evidence shows that for the child of a poor family to reach the average income would take 5 generations on average across OECD countries. Meanwhile, the Amazon burns.

The question is straightforward. Are our strained systems meeting their limits? Are we approaching a tipping point? How resilient are our systems to shocks?

Fundamentally, these challenges are to the systems we inhabit and interact with, the biophysical environment, the socio-political system and the economic system. These are interlinked, and complex, made up of the interactions of billions of actors in trillions of exchanges. These interactions generate convoluted causal chains, emergent macro-phenomena, and are often governed by non-linear dynamics including tipping points and feedback loops.

We must acknowledge that the understanding of such systems and the devising of solutions to wicked problems more often than not stand in opposition to the mainstream linear thinking that has been dominant in economics. We must recognize the shortcomings of our models, that include many assumptions that are at odds with reality, including the general equilibrium, the representative agent, or the rational behaviour. Looking at aggregate outcomes and average results, on stocks and not flows is not going to help.

The obvious place to start was with the models being used across the world by financial institutions, governments, international organisations and academics. In the field of economics, we are often told the story of homo economicus as guiding principle. A rational individual capable of complex optimisation problems. Under the false premises of homogeneity, we can aggregate all such individuals in a linear fashion, reducing the complex dynamics of groups, regions or countries down to a single, or few, representative agents. Real people are not like that.

The economic, social and environmental crisis we are confronting tell us that life is more complex than what our models can capture, that our economic systems are influenced by culture, hope, fear, perceptions, and a host of other fundamentals of human interactions that sociology, psychology, history and biology, to name but a few, can help us understand.

Indeed we are seeing the weaknesses in our existing economic models exposed with every step taken to adapt them to our complex reality. Essentially, economics in the early 21st century was, and still is, in a position similar to that of astronomy in the middle of the 16th century, just before the Copernican revolution, where the models were becoming ever-more sophisticated technically to try to compensate for the fact that they did not correspond to reality.

Opening of the NAEC Group Conference on 17 September 2019 with Gabriela Ramos, Laurence Boone and Martine Durand at the OECD Photo OECD / Maud Bernos

Solving issues in our world of complex, inter-connected systems requires transformative change in the fundamentals of economics and a new narrative underlying the need for a systems approach to human well-being and sustainability.

One of the tranches of rethinking starts with the core mission of the OECD – economic growth. Neoclassical economics painted an attractively simple and easy to understand narrative: Grow first, fix later. This all hinged on the belief that GDP growth was an end in itself building erroneous beliefs that simply growing the pie would reduce inequality, or that technological progress would automatically take care of environmental damages resulting from growth. This overarching idea gave priority to economic efficiency. The stride for economic efficiency, and its benefits, were supported by “evidence” from incomplete, “objective” economic models. However, the social and environmental consequences of this narrative, along with the remaining imbalances that brought on the 2008 crisis in the first place, show us that the myopic focus on economic growth through economic efficiency has dire consequences.

We must understand that the implications of a faulty “grow first, redistribute later” throws the ecosystem of complex systems that we live in completely out of balance. We must understand that GDP growth is not an end in itself but rather a means to prosperity. Most importantly though, we must ensure that growth is inclusive for all and makes use of our natural resources sustainably and safely. An additional advantage with such a narrative is that our policy options become more clear, allowing us to exploit synergies and trade-offs between different objectives.

We also need to redefine the role of the state. The orthodox view is that markets generally produce positive outcomes that eventually increase welfare, and so the state should “interfere” as little as possible, and only to correct market failures. However, we need states to provide a sound regulatory framework that invests in people, places and firms that are left behind, and direct markets and growth to promote the well-being of planet and citizens.

The state also has to change its silo-based approach to capture the complexity of the systems policymaking is dealing with. We need to think about how policies interact and influence each other, and be prepared to react to unintended consequences. 

If we are to succeed in a transforming the system we currently inhabit to generate a sustainable society with increasing well-being we cannot limit ourselves to the “safe space” of established ideas, where like-minded people discussed how to adjust their techniques and practices so they would do better next time. That’s not easy, as any criticism is characterised as opposition to free market economics.

Nothing could be more wrong. The role of the market in economics does not lose its central role in the functioning of an economic system, but we need to listen to those that think differently. Those that do not see the market as efficient or optimal, but as a means for exchange and the evolutionary selection process for business plans and ideas. Roberto Unger, another NAEC contributor, put it well when he said that sometimes what we need is “disensus”, to avoid the herd thinking that blinds us to reality.

Opening of the NAEC Group Conference on 17 September 2019 with Gabriela Ramos, Laurence Boone and Martine Durand at the OECD Photo OECD / Maud Bernos

Therefore, the OECD launched the New Approaches to Economic Challenges Initiative, often referred to simply as NAEC, in 2012 to understand the shortcomings of the predominant analytical frameworks we rely on, and to establish the basis for new frameworks, approaches and techniques to produce sound people-centric policy advice.

We need to give policymakers more information, but it’s most likely impossible to design a single GDP-like figure that would reflect the many different aspects that need to be considered in any meaningful way. A new suite of indicators is required, and this what the Framework for Policy Action for Inclusive Growth aims to do, as well as the Well Being Framework, that broadens the dimensions of well being.

NAEC is helping us to do all this.

This conference together experts who believe our current policy approaches are no longer adequate to address the complex, interconnected and dynamic nature of today’s environmental, economic and social problems. Meeting systemic challenges requires a better understanding of the interaction of risk and complexity. Greater collaboration across scientific disciplines is needed to strengthen public policy.

We will explore new analytical tools and techniques and promote “systems thinking” to improve anticipation and resilience. Contributing to the debates will be experts from a range of fields, including economics, political science, engineering, physics, and biology.

Beyond the discussions, we have produced a number of reports on a new economic narrative, and I want to welcome our partner institutions and people of NAEC who have worked with us all year through to better address and understand the complex time we are living in. With their help, we have prepared several reports for this discussion to:

First, explore a new growth narrative with the support of the HLAG of the SG.  I welcome its members with us today,

Second, to advance new analytical frameworks with the task force of Complex Systems Thinking and IIASSA and we have its Chairman Martin Lees,

Secretary General, Angel Gurria’s Intervention at the NAEC conference in the headquarter of the OECD ; 17 septembre 2019 ; Photo : OECD /Maud Bernos

Third to advance resilient strategies and approaches to contain systemic threats, prepared by Igor Linkov,

Fourth, to inform on progress on the NAEC Innovation Lab, including agent based modelling, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and even neuroeconomics (thanks to Alain Kirman) will allow us to capture better the interaction of risk and complexity. This joint work with the Chief Economist and Chief Statistician looks promising.

Our gratitude to Slovakia, Sweden (The Swedish Innovation Agency – VINNOVA), Partners for a New Economy (P4NE) and Leslie Harroun with whom we are co-organising this event and the Investment firm Baillie Gifford for their support for these work, and their financial contributions. And thanks also to our co-chairs, Ambassador Erdem and Irena Sodin.

All of this contributes to the development of a new framework that integrates the economy, and economics, with a range of other activities, insights and approaches to help tackle the environmental, social and economic challenges that dominate the global policy agenda.

Over the next two days, we will have the help of some of the world’s best thinkers to help us develop that framework. We will discuss very technical subjects, but this is not an academic debate – time is short – action is needed and that is what NAEC is about –not just new thinking but new acting.

We want to apply your insights to policy. We want you to analyse with members and Committees how new approaches will provide different and better analyses. Give us the ideas, concepts, tools and narratives to help make our systems work better for better lives. I am looking forward to a fruitful discussion.

Thank you.


[1] IPBES (2019). Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science- Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. E. S. Brondizio, J. Settele, S. Díaz, and H. T. Ngo (editors). IPBES Secretariat, Bonn.

[2] IEA (2019), Global Energy and CO2 status report, IEA Publishing, Paris.

Panorama de la Educación 2019: Presentación del informe para España

Es un honor presentarles nuestra edición 2019 del estudio Panorama de la Educación, que este año se centra en la Educación Terciaria. Se trata de un tema cada vez más importante porque, hasta donde podemos predecir, la demanda de personas con conocimientos y habilidades avanzadas seguirá aumentando.  

Además, una Educación Terciaria de calidad mejora la movilidad social y provee oportunidades a la población para ampliar sus horizontes, perfeccionar su capacidad de pensar de forma crítica, y prepararse para la vida en un mundo que evoluciona rápidamente. 

La Educación Terciaria no solo es importante para los individuos, sino también para la comunidad y para la sociedad.  

Por ejemplo, los adultos con Educación Terciaria poseen mejores habilidades y una mayor productividad, mientras que también afirman tener un mejor estado de salud y estar más implicados en su comunidad y en la sociedad. Además, la inversión en la calidad y la participación en Educación Terciaria devuelve beneficios a la sociedad: mayor recaudación de impuestos, menores transferencias sociales y criminalidad, mayor productividad, y, en general, mayor prosperidad económica y mejores niveles de vida.  

Permítanme destacar algunos de los hallazgos clave de este informe y sus implicaciones para España.  

Los datos del estudio Panorama de la Educación confirman la creciente importancia de la Educación Terciaria.  

Las competencias que provee dicho nivel educativo siguen siendo muy demandadas en el mercado de trabajo, a pesar de que el número de personas con un título a nivel terciario creció en los últimos años. El porcentaje de jóvenes entre 25 y 34 años que posee un título de educación terciaria es de 44% en España, mismo porcentaje que el promedio de la OCDE: ¡mayor que nunca! 

DIAPOSITIVA (desempleo por nivel educ.)  

La Educación Terciaria tiene un fuerte impacto positivo en el mercado de trabajo, tanto a nivel de empleo como de salarios. Entre los adultos de 25 a 34 años en España, la tasa de desempleo es de 25% para aquellos con un nivel educativo por debajo de la segunda etapa de Educación Secundaria, de 18% para los que sí la superaron, y de solo 12% para aquellos con Educación Terciaria. 

Además, en España, un nivel de educación más alto protege a las personas frente al desempleo de larga duración: el 40% de los desempleados con Educación Terciaria han estado desempleados durante un año o más, frente al 48% de aquellos que no alcanzaron la segunda etapa de Educación Secundaria. 

En términos de salarios, en España, los adultos con estudios terciarios ganan un 57% más que los graduados de la segunda etapa de Educación Secundaria, porcentaje similar al promedio OCDE y ligeramente superior al promedio UE23, de 52%. 

Además, esta brecha aumenta con la experiencia profesional.  

Pero el mercado no recompensa a las mujeres con estudios terciarios en la misma medida que a los hombres. 

Entre los empleados a tiempo completo con estudios terciarios, las mujeres ganan menos que los hombres en todos los países de la OCDE, si bien la brecha de género en España es menor que la brecha promedio en la OCDE.  

En 2017, las españolas entre 25 y 64 años con Educación Terciaria cobraban el 82% del salario de los hombres con el mismo nivel educativo, frente al 75% en promedio en la OCDE.  

En todo caso, en los países que cuentan con datos por ámbito de estudio, se observa que en algunos ámbitos las mujeres están más “penalizadas” que en otros. Es el caso del ámbito de los negocios, la administración y el derecho en la mayoría de países con datos.  

La incorporación al mundo laboral de un creciente número de mujeres ha suscitado un mayor interés por parte de las autoridades en la expansión de los programas de Educación y Atención a la Primera Infancia (EAPI). Dichos programas constituyen un pilar fundamental sobre el que asentar las bases del desarrollo cognitivo y mitigar los efectos de la falta de equidad a lo largo de la vida. 

En este rubro, España cuenta con mejores resultados que la mayoría de países de la OCDE. En 2017, el 97% de los niños de 3 a 5 años estaban matriculados en programas EAPI, frente al 87% en promedio en la OCDE.  

Los datos también nos muestran la importancia que España concede a las primeras etapas de EAPI, con un 36% de niños menores de 3 años matriculados en programas EAPI, 10 puntos porcentuales por encima del promedio de la OCDE y 21 puntos porcentuales más que en 2005.  

Un financiamiento público sostenido es esencial para asegurar la calidad y el buen desarrollo de los programas EAPI. Una dotación económica adecuada facilita la contratación de personal cualificado con suficiente experiencia para apoyar el desarrollo cognitivo, social y emocional de los niños. En 2016, el gasto total en los programas educativos para los niños de 3 a 5 años ascendió a 0.5% del PIB en España, siendo el promedio en la OCDE del 0.6%. Y el gasto anual por niño (6,900 dólares) fue inferior al de los países de la OCDE (8,100 dólares). 

En España, la ratio entre niños/personal docente en Educación Infantil se encuentra por debajo del promedio de la OCDE y de los países UE23 en el nivel de educación preprimaria (CINE 02): 14 alumnos, frente a los 16 en promedio en los países de la OCDE, y a los 15 en el entorno UE23. En el ámbito de los programas de desarrollo educacional de la primera infancia (CINE 01), la ratio en España es similar a la de los países de la OCDE y la UE23, situándose en 10 alumnos por grupo.  

Un descenso de las ratios entre niños y personal docente en el ámbito de la educación de la primera infancia no solo favorece las relaciones interpersonales, sino que, además, permite al personal docente y de apoyo volcarse más eficazmente en las necesidades individuales de los niños, a la vez que se reduce el tiempo de clase dedicado al tratamiento de situaciones disruptivas. 

Ahora bien, la educación requiere un gasto público acorde a su importancia. 

En 2016, el gasto educativo en los niveles desde Primaria a Terciaria en España fue del 4.3% del PIB, del cual 3.1% se destinó a la educación no terciaria y 1.2% a la Terciaria. En cada nivel educativo, el gasto directo en España fue similar al promedio de la UE23, aunque inferior al promedio OCDE.  

Cabe destacar que, en el período 2010-2016, el gasto total como porcentaje del PIB en todos los niveles educativos en España se redujo en un 4.7%, un descenso menor que el del promedio de la OCDE (7.7%) y de la UE23 (10.3%). 

Sin embargo, el gasto educativo por estudiante a tiempo completo en España es menor que en la mayoría de países de la OCDE.  

En 2016, España gastó un total de 9,500 dólares por estudiante, frente a los 10,500 dólares en promedio en los países de la OCDE. La diferencia se debió principalmente al gasto por estudiante en Educación Terciaria, que en España fue de 12,600 dólares, frente a 15,600 dólares en promedio en la OCDE.  

Sin embargo, en términos de PIB per cápita, España alcanza el promedio OCDE: el gasto por estudiante a tiempo completo desde Educación Primaria a Terciaria fue del 26% del PIB per cápita, y del 23% el destinado a la educación no terciaria. 

Ahora bien, ¿cómo se financia la educación? No solo el sector público invierte en este rubro, sino que también el sector privado contribuye de manera importante.  

En 2016, el 14% del gasto total en instituciones educativas de Educación Primaria y Secundaria en España procedió de financiamiento privado, por encima del 10% en promedio en la OCDE y del 8% en promedio en países de la UE23.  

El financiamiento privado es especialmente importante en Educación Terciaria, donde el gasto privado cubre el 33% del coste educativo de este nivel, similar al promedio de la OCDE (32%) y superior al de la UE23 (24%). 

Un requisito indispensable para el éxito de un sistema educativo son los profesores, y hay que poner el foco en atraer a los mejores a la profesión docente.  

Los salarios reglamentarios iniciales del profesorado en España son considerablemente más elevados que en promedio en la OCDE.  

Al igual que en el entorno OCDE, el salario del profesorado incrementa con la experiencia, aunque no crece a la misma velocidad que en otros países.  

La diferencia en los niveles retributivos entre España y el promedio OCDE se estrecha para el profesorado con 15 años de experiencia. Por ejemplo, los docentes españoles de primera etapa de Educación Secundaria al inicio de su carrera ganaron 11,300 dólares más que el promedio OCDE, aunque esta ventaja se redujo a los 4,800 dólares para el profesorado con 15 años de experiencia. 

Señoras y señores,  

Los datos que se presentan en nuestra serie Panorama de la Educación ayudan a informar sobre el rango de intervenciones y políticas que se necesitan para lograr el objetivo de una educación equitativa y de calidad. 

Es nuestra responsabilidad compartida ayudar a los jóvenes a aprovechar al máximo las oportunidades existentes y tomar decisiones informadas sobre su futuro.  

Para lograr esto, debemos ampliar las oportunidades, aumentar las opciones de programas y calificaciones, y construir puentes más fuertes con el mercado laboral. Esto también significa invertir en la orientación de los estudiantes para que cada uno encuentre su lugar en la sociedad y pueda contribuir con el máximo de su potencial.  

Solo entonces los estudiantes podrán adquirir el conocimiento y las competencias que puedan llevarlos adelante y cambiar sus vidas para mejor. 

Opening Remarks: Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum

A successful mission to Cairo, Egypt on September 9 to open the Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum with Minister Sahar Nasr and discuss the OECD-Egypt Country Programme.

Minister Nasr, Ambassador Thesleff,

Excellencies and Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to be here today to welcome you to the National Consultation on Women’s Economic Empowerment in Egypt. I would like to thank Her Excellency Sahar Nasr, Minister of Investment and International Co-operation of Egypt, for hosting this meeting.

Minister Nasr co-hosted the launch of the MENA-OECD Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum (WEEF) here in Cairo two years ago and is co-Chair of the Forum, alongside Her Excellency Marie-Claire Swärd-Capra, Swedish Ambassador to Algeria.

I would also like to thank His Excellency, Jan Thesleff, Ambassador of Sweden to Egypt, for his strong personal support for this meeting and more broadly for Sweden’s leadership in the OECD’s gender equality work.

It is particularly fitting to discuss women’s empowerment here in Cairo. For centuries, Egypt has been called “Masr, oum el dounia” – the mother of the world. Indeed, its history has been shaped by powerful women.

Many of the women (and men) sitting in this room today are continuing in their footsteps! Over the centuries, Egypt has succeeded in blending many cultures and religions to become a dynamic, diverse society, and it has become one of the MENA region’s biggest economies. However, this pre-eminence also comes with growing expectations from its burgeoning, young population.

Egypt has taken important steps to further women’s rights. I am very glad that H.E. Ambassador Moushira Khattab accepted to be with us today and to moderate this afternoon’s discussion on the power of role models in achieving gender equality. During the 2000s, the remarkable work she led at the institutional level resulted in a range of reforms meant to put an end to early marriages, human trafficking, and female genital mutilations (FGM). Egypt played a leading role among African countries in the fight against FGM, and the law that was adopted to criminalise it in 2008 was taken as an example by many African countries.

Efforts to reduce gender-based discrimination continued. In 2014, Egypt prohibited gender-based violence in its constitution – which is not the case for all OECD countries – and formulated a National Strategy for combating violence against women.

In 2017, President Al Sissi declared the “year of Egyptian women” and released the “Egyptian Women Vision 2030: Women Empowerment Strategy”.  The same year, Minister Nasr helped champion Egypt’s Investment Law No. 72 to protect women investors from discrimination.

The National Council of Women, presided by Dr. Maya Morsi (in the audience), is leading a number of efforts, including a campaign to ensure that women are no longer denied the right to inherit. Most recently, at the G7 meeting in Biarritz, President Al Sissi reminded world leaders of the importance of boosting women’s empowerment.

Additionally, women in the MENA region are proving increasingly qualified to take advantage of opportunities. While in many Western countries, low female participation in STEM fields is a significant concern, the opposite is true in many MENA countries.

According to UNESCO, 34-57 percent of STEM graduates in Arab countries are women and one in three start-ups in the Arab World is founded or led by women.

Although these are just a few examples, they show the growing momentum in Egypt in support of greater women’s economic empowerment. But the fact remains that despite these efforts, gender equality remains a long way off in Egypt, as it does to varying degrees in countries across the world. 

In Egypt, as elsewhere, the challenges women face from economic, political and legislative barriers are compounded by deeply-held gender stereotypes. 

Sixty-three percent of Egyptians (almost two thirds) think that children will suffer when the mother is employed outside the home.[i] More than 70% of men and women believe that wives should tolerate violence to keep the family together.[ii]

Let me share with you a shocking statistic: eighty-seven percent of Egyptian women and girls aged 15-49 have experienced female genital mutilation, the highest in the world.[iii]  

These practices not only endanger people’s well-being and the social fabric, but they also threaten the economy: it is estimated that violence against women and families cost an estimated 2.17 billion Egyptian pounds (over € 115 million) in 2015.[iv] I hope very much to see Egypt represented at a global conference the OECD is holding in Paris on tackling violence against women on 5-6 February 2020.

We at the OECD are fundamentally convinced that gender equality is a pre-condition for building happier, healthier and more prosperous societies.  For this reason, we have made women’s economic, political and social empowerment a core pillar of our work.

Our 2017 publication “The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle” shows that gender inequality still pervades all aspects of social, political and economic life, in countries at all levels of development. The OECD SIGI 2019 Global Report shows that at the current pace, it will take more than 200 years, or nine generations, to achieve gender equality and fully unlock women’s empowerment opportunities!

Side-lining women from the economy comes at a great cost. Our data shows that the impact of discrimination in laws, attitudes and practices costs the MENA region a staggering USD 237 billion.[v] So how can we move past these barriers to unlock the potential of women in Egypt? 

This was the question that we first asked in our 2017 publication Women’s Economic Empowerment in Selected MENA Countries: The Impact of Legal Frameworks in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia (hold up report).  As I have mentioned earlier, significant changes are underway to advance gender equality – including legal reforms and other grassroots initiatives – in Egypt and other MENA countries. 

To capture this progress, and gain greater insight into the drivers of change, the OECD is partnering with the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR) on working on a follow-up publication to our 2017 report.

The purpose of today’s consultation is thus to listen and learn from our Egyptian partners about how they have succeeded in advancing legislative reforms in favour of women’s economic empowerment and pinpointing which challenges remain to be addressed.

This meeting provides an opportunity to brainstorm potential solutions together; solutions that could work for Egypt and perhaps also inspire change elsewhere.

But let us not making the mistake of thinking that the law is enough and is the only solution. I really hope that today’s meeting will also mark the start of a renewed commitment in setting the priorities for a successful reform process. Administrative tools and policy support are crucial for the legislative measures to be implemented and enforced. There can’t be effectiveness without implementation and enforcement. Let’s keep this in mind.

During today’s event, we will also have an important session on how role-modelling programmes can help combat engrained gendered stereotypes. I am proud that the OECD launched an initiative in Mexico – NiñasSTEMPueden – that has been very successful in using role models to encourage girls to enter the STEM field, and it has been chosen to be showcased in November’s Paris Peace Forum. 

I look forward to hearing from the inspiring women and men role models here about the innovative ways they have pushed the envelope for greater gender equality in Egypt. 

I look forward to the rest of the day’s discussions. Thank you


[i] OECD (2019), Gender Institutions and Development Database, https://oe.cd/ds/GIDDB2019

[ii] UN Women, Understanding Masculinities, 2017

[iii] Thomas Reuters Foundation, Egypt: The Law and FGM, June 2018, https://www.28toomany.org/static/media/uploads/Law%20Reports/egypt_law_report_v1_(june_2018).pdf

[iv] Based on the cost of the most recent severe incident of violence. UNFPA, CAPMAS and NCW, The Egypt economic cost of gender based violence survey, 2015.

[v]OECD (2019), SIGI 2019 Global Report: Transforming Challenges into Opportunities, Social Institutions and Gender Index, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/bc56d212-en.