The OECD

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) brings together 34 democracies of Europe, North and Latin America and the Pacific. The primary purpose of the OECD is to provide a forum to discuss and identify compatible, mutually supporting, constructive approaches to economic and social issues to ensure sustainable economic growth, and to provide employment and rising standards of living for its own populations, and those of the international community as a whole.

The organisation addresses a wide range of international and domestic policy issues. Broad themes from social cohesion to governance to sustainable development to international taxation to transport security to biotechnology to measuring development aid are analyzed by the OECD and debated by delegates representing the members.

The OECD grew out of the organisation set up by the United States, Canada and European countries to coordinate the Marshall Plan. In 1961, 19 countries, including Canada signed the Convention to create the OECD to assist governments in achieving economic growth and development. Over the last 40 years the OECD's membership and scope has grown considerably.

Almost all regions of the globe are now represented among the organisation's 34 members however OECD work is not merely for the benefit of members alone. Recognising the interconnectedness of the global economy, the OECD reaches out to over 100 developing and emerging countries to share experience and expertise.

At the 2007 OECD Ministerial meeting, OECD members took a bold decision to enlarge the Organisation's membership and increase relations with the major emerging emerging economies. Chile, Slovenia, Israel and Estonia have joined the Organization in 2010. Russia is undergoing technical reviews as part of the accession process.The OECD is also increasing its global reach by building partnerships with China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa.

Over the last decade the OECD has also collaborated increasingly with civil society. Business, non-governmental organisations, labour groups, academia and media work closely with the OECD and benefit from its expertise.

The OECD is the world’s largest and most reliable source of comparable statistical, economic and social data. It provides objective comparative analysis of members’ policies and performance, develops best practices, and undertakes peer reviews on a wide variety of key economic, social, and environmental policy issues. It develops guidelines and agreements to better harmonize policies across the OECD, and also undertakes analysis and outreach in selected non-member countries. To achieve this, the organization pursues:

  1. public policy research (international benchmarking), either breaking new research ground (in areas such as health, education, agriculture and trade, trade and services in developing countries, security and development) or advancing knowledge (economic outlooks, ageing, migration, aid effectiveness, job creation, structural adjustment);
  2. soft law, by putting forward common international practices in areas such as taxation, corporate governance and the measurement of innovation and classification of science, tariffs, and trade flow data, and
  3. peer reviews, which represents one of the OECD’s core strengths by offering to its 34 members a framework to examine and compare experiences and discuss “best practices” in a host of areas from economic policy to environmental protection to strategies to create jobs.

The decision-making body of the organization is the Council, composed of an ambassador from each member country and one from the European Commission. The Council provides guidance to the organization and its work. On the substantive side, member countries meet and exchange information in Committees, where national representatives advance ideas and review progress in defined areas of policy. There are about 200 committees, working groups and experts groups in all, bringing together some 40 000 officials each year to review and contribute to the work undertaken by the OECD Secretariat.

As the world economy continues to expand and grows more complex, the OECD provides ways to examine the interconnectedness of various policy areas, moving beyond a strictly sectoral approach. The OECD’s work on horizontal issues such as skills, gender, development and green growth reflects this approach.

For more information on the OECD’s activities in 2012, read the Secretary-General's report .