Keynote delivered at the OECD Global Parliamentary Network meeting on 10 October 2019 in Paris, France, convening over 100 MPs and parliamentary officials from 34 countries. Keynote opened the session on “Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development: Making progress towards achieving the SDGs.”
Parliamentarians, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The SDGs are the most ambitious, challenging and complex policy agenda that the global community has ever undertaken. We have made some pregress, but felivering on the central promise of the 2030 Agenda “to leave no one behind” means that at least 730 million people, or 10% of the global population, still need to be lifted out of extreme poverty by 2030.
Today, not only do we face a daunting task, but we are running out of time to finish the job. With little over 10 years to go, progress is uneven across both targets and countries.
Globally, we are not on track. The number of hungry people in the world is back up to where it was nearly a decade ago, and in fact world hunger has risen for the third year in a row.[i] Millions of children are missing out on education, especially girls. It is estimated that 16% of students of lower secondary school age do not attend school, and for girls it’s 20% – 1 in 5![ii]
On the environment, the outcomes are alarming. After a three-year plateau from 2014 to 2016, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are rising again, reaching unprecedented levels in 2018. In just fifty years, we have destroyed one tenth of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity and one third of freshwater biodiversity. We are on course to lose another 10% of terrestrial species by 2050.[iii]
The most recent edition of the OECD’s report ‘Measuring the Distance to SDG Targets’, shows that OECD member countries need to ramp up their efforts. More than half of our members have made little or no progress towards targets relating to Eradicating Poverty, Ensuring Food, Education, Reducing Inequalities and on strengthening Institutions. And when it comes to Goal 8 on ‘Promoting Sustained, Inclusive and Sustainable Economic Growth, Full and Productive Employment and Decent Work for All’, a third of OECD countries is actually moving away from the SDG targets.[iv]
Inequalities in many OECD countries are actually rising. The richest 10% in the OECD used to earn seven times more on average than the poorest 10% thirty years ago – this number is now 9 and a half times. The figures for wealth are even more striking, with the top 10% accounting for about one half of the total wealth in OECD countries.
As the OECD’s work on inclusive growth shows, this is not only about income and wealth, but also about opportunities and outcomes. People at the bottom accumulate disadvantages all throughout their lifetime, leading to shorter, less healthy, less fulfilling lives which they are not empowered to improve.
The OECD’s Broken
Social Elevator report shows that it would take a child born into a
low-income family around 5 generations – or up to 150 years – to reach the
average level of income. This is not social mobility, the machine is totally
broken, and it happened on our watch.
With the emergence of new technologies and automation, the lowest paid and the least educated will be hit the hardest, both in terms of the displacement and the outdated social protections. So this situation is only going to get worse, and the inclusive growth agenda becomes even more urgent.
We are already seeing the anger from people, which is manifesting itself in terms of dangerous political outcomes, and you do not need me to tell you because you as parliamentarians are on the frontline.
We need to change our approaches, and put people at the centre. To
support countries the OECD has developed a wide range of tools, including the
Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth, which provides a dashboard of indicators and tailored
recommendations to invest in people, regions and businesses that are lagging
We are also putting inclusion at the core of our work to tackle climate change, as there are so many synergies, from public health to quality jobs that will be essential for ensuring a just and inclusive transition to the low-carbon economy, as we set out in the report we launched at the United Nations General Assembly just two weeks ago.
When thinking about inequalities, including with relation to new technologies, as well as the well-being lens, we also have to keep the gender lens sharply in focus, in line with the OECD’s Gender Strategy. This is a subject very close to my own heart and, despite some progress, the situation is really concerning.
Women and girls are particularly exposed to poverty and being victims of inequality: 330 million women and girls live on less than 2 dollars a day globally, which is 4.4 million more than men. We still have hundreds of millions of girls not in school and also facing violence and discrimination.
Tackling these barriers and injustices, while also supporting women to fulfil their full potential is really one of the most important tools to advance all the SDGs. And there are win-win policies which are core for the OECD’s Gender Strategy, like investing in childcare and education, particularly between the ages of 0-3, and promoting dual parental leave, which can also help tackle harmful gender stereotypes.
The key message I want to leave you with is that we have to take this cross-cutting and interconnected approach to every single one of the SDGs. As policymakers, this is where your power to support the SDG agenda really lies, and the OECD stands ready to work with all of your countries.
The OECD’s SDG Action Plan supports our Members, partners, and the international community on making progress on the 2030 Agenda, both by measuring the distance to the SDGs and by bringing the policy tools to catch up. One of the pillars of the action plan is to upgrade the OECD’s support for integrated planning and policymaking at the country level and provide a space to share experiences on governing for the SDGs.
In this way, we have supported Slovenia and the Slovak Republic in the development of their whole-of-government national strategies for SDG implementation. In addition, we are currently working with Malta on their SDG-aligned National Development Plan.
It is clear that the institutions underpinning public administrations need to be more responsive to today’s challenges, and as parliamentarians, this is in part your responsibility.
The OECD is ready to help. Our recent report ‘Governance as an Accelerator of the SDGs’ shows a number of shortcomings in current governance practices. We see, for example, that the SDGs are not yet integrated in core governance mechanisms, such as budget and public procurement systems. Indeed, while the SDGs are often integrated in national strategies, less than half of OECD countries specifically include SDG reporting in their budgets.
We know from gender budgeting and from green budgeting how powerful this approach can be.
It is also clear that we need to strengthen the coordination between different levels of government. Close to two-thirds of the targets underlying the 17 SDGs – at least 100 out of 169 – will not be reached without engaging local and regional governments. Cities and regions have a crucial role to play, and the OECD’s Programme on promoting a Territorial Approach to the SDGs can help align national, regional and local initiatives.
Only two weeks ago we made an important step forward by launching in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York the Global Hub on the Governance for the SDGs. This will provide a useful resource on planning, budget, procurement, monitoring and evaluation processes, to better align priorities and to enhance transparency and accountability for the SDGs. In short, improving governance for the SDGs will, we hope, rapidly accelerate progress.
And this must, of course, come hand in hand with efforts to improve financing for the SDGs. The annual funding gap still stands at a staggering 2.5 trillion US dollars. ODA will account for just a small proportion of this, which is why the OECD is leading the way with tax transparency measures like the BEPS initiative, and targeted programmes like Tax Inspectors Without Borders.
The private sector also has its part to play in this effort, not just by paying tax (though that’s a good start), but also through new business models and tools like Blended Finance and Impact Investment.
The good news is that many companies have realised that their responsibility lies beyond their shareholder profits alone, and that they have a role to play in improving society.
Working with the French Presidency of the G7, the OECD has created the Business for Inclusive Growth Platform that brings together 34 companies with more than 3 million employees worldwide and global revenues topping $1 trillion.
They have pledged to take concrete actions to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly goals 1 (no poverty), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work and economic growth), and 10 (reduced inequalities). The OECD is helping the companies launch and develop projects, and we will be monitoring their results closely and publicly every three years.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have enjoyed sharing with you some examples of how the OECD can support your countries to deliver on the SDGs and on the inclusive egrowth agenda.
However, this Network is also about
you, and sharing your diverse experiences, so I very much look forward to hearing
your perspectives and learning from you. Thank you.