The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is celebrating its 50th anniversary, but its roots go back to the rubble of Europe after World War II. Determined to avoid the mistakes of their predecessors in the wake of World War I, European leaders realised that the best way to ensure lasting peace was to encourage co-operation and reconstruction, rather than punish the defeated.
The Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) was established in 1947 to run the US-financed Marshall Plan for reconstruction of a continent ravaged by war. By making individual governments recognise the interdependence of their economies, it paved the way for a new era of cooperation that was to change the face of Europe. Encouraged by its success and the prospect of carrying its work forward on a global stage, Canada and the US joined OEEC members in signing the new OECD Convention on 14 December 1960. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was officially born on 30 September 1961, when the Convention entered into force.
Other countries joined in, starting with Japan in 1964. Today, 34 OECD member countries worldwide regularly turn to one another to identify problems, discuss and analyse them, and promote policies to solve them. The track record is striking. The US has seen its national wealth almost triple in the five decades since the OECD was created, calculated in terms of gross domestic product per head of population. Other OECD countries have seen similar, and in some cases even more spectacular, progress.
So, too, have countries that a few decades ago were still only minor players on the world stage. China, India and Brazil have emerged as new economic giants. Most of the countries that formed part of the former Soviet bloc have either joined the OECD or adopted its standards and principles to achieve our common goals. Russia is negotiating to become a member of the OECD, and we now have close relations with Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa through our “enhanced engagement” programme. Together with them, the OECD brings around its table 40 countries that account for 80% of world trade and investment, giving it a pivotal role in addressing the challenges facing the world economy.