Offentliggjort den 6. juni 2017
Mr. Secretary-General, Ministers, Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today’s world is full of challenges, but as we know with challenges come opportunities.
Today, there are believed to be more than 120 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. These are people affected by conflicts, like the ones in Syria or Yemen. They are people suffering from chronic hunger and malnutrition as we are witnessing in South Sudan. They are people struggling to put their lives back together in the aftermath of natural disasters.
There are more than 65 million people that have fled from their homes and can expect to live as a refugee for an average today of 17 years.
Numbers like these have never been seen before. Over the past decade, humanitarian need has grown at a disturbing rate. It is expected that this growth will continue, driven in part by conflicts as well as by factors such as climate change, inequality, population growth and displacement, unplanned urbanization and unequal and inadequate access to food, water, health and energy.
We need to find the opportunities in the challenges, take a longer view, and use more of the resources available to us. Our answer to these challenges cannot simply be more of the same. We are at the beginning of a new era of development - and a window of opportunity exists to rethink traditional approaches to persistent global challenges.
Good morning everyone and welcome to the opening of OECD Forum 2017. The theme for this year’s OECD Forum in essence is expressed by these 2 questions: What divides us? And what brings us together?
The last years’ international developments have clearly shown that divides and inequalities have become more apparent in a number of areas. But, let us not forget that there is so much more that brings us together. The OECD Ministerial Council Meeting which will start tomorrow under Danish Chairmanship, will address a lot of these divisions and Ministers will discuss and debate possible solutions and strategies.
With the title “Making Globalisation Work – Better Lives for All” – it is clear that the ambition of this year’s Ministerial Council Meeting is a big one and one definitely worth striving for.
The last three decades of globalisation has brought about an increase in trade and foreign direct investment flows. Economic growth is now spreading to parts of the world that have not previously benefitted from globalisation. Millions of people around the world have been lifted out of poverty and today live with the prospect of a better future for themselves and their families.
Globalisation is far from just being about money and economic opportunities.
During this period of globalisation, we have also witnessed how new technology has developed – often with an exponential speed – and how it has impacted our daily lives - sometimes profoundly. Some have even called this technological development “disruptive” because of the all-encompassing effects the technological changes have had and will have in many sectors for instance; in telecommunications, healthcare, media and transportation.
Technological development and especially digitalisation have dramatically reduced the cost of communicating. The wide distribution of mobile phones in Africa is a good example. Only 2 percent of African households have a landline, in contrast, to the nearly two-thirds of American households. It seems the developing world will skip past the era of landlines and desktop computers and go straight to mobile.
As mobile phone networks spread to rural areas, new opportunities will arise that affect the lives of people who need help the most. For example, by them gaining access to financial systems, healthcare and education.
- Traditional banking is often out of reach for many people in rural areas of developing countries, but mobile is now giving them access to financial systems. Financial inclusion, starting with a humble savings account, enables people to start businesses, invest in education and save for the future.
- The increased use of mobile phones has proved to be an outstanding opportunity for improving primary health care in developing countries – it has diminished the distance between the patient and the doctor and by mobile messaging the patient receives necessary information and follow-up.
Technology has the potential to lift people out of poverty and it gives rise to new overall optimism and a sense of hope for a lot of people who haven’t benefitted from globalisation. Today, with greater access to information and services, comes a sense of greater choice and opportunities, a sense of belonging to a larger global community and of a brighter future.
The challenges and opportunities of globalisation means that today we are more aware of what does, and potentially can; divide us and join us. I would like to highlight a few of these challenges that affect people all over the world.
Today, we have 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets that provide the blueprint for the world’s development Agenda that will guide us through to 2030.
This is a broad, universal Agenda, and one could say, this Agenda is the most ambitious global vision in history. But it is not only a vision, it is also a huge responsibility for all countries.
By adopting the SDGs the world has made a promise to make the strongest possible effort to end poverty, protect the environment, fight inequality, promote peaceful and inclusive societies, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels – and that is to name just a few of the goals.
Implementation of the Agenda has been discussed in many international fora including the OECD. As I understand the OECD has approved its own SDG Action Plan and among other things assists Member States in their implementation of the SDGs. The OECD also follows the financial aspects of SDG implementation and governments’ efforts to mobilise sufficient resources for this purpose.
The challenge of measuring progress in our implementation efforts is extremely complex and important, as the success of the Agenda is dependent on our ability to make it happen – to turn the promise of the Agenda into a reality in lives of women, men, boys and girls from all corners of the globe.
Sustainable Development for people, planet and prosperity provides new opportunities for growth, but to truly capitalize on those opportunities it will require new and innovative partnerships across continents, regions and countries and between the public and private sectors. It will require new business models and news ways of thinking – it will require designing new solutions.
The Global Goals will be a driving force for opening new markets and creating a better enabling environment for business. And as such, present a wide spectrum of opportunities for visionary companies.
For developing countries to become independent of development aid, it will require increased international trade and investment. It will require the private sector to drive job development and sustainable growth.
An example, I’d like to share is from a recent trip I made to Bangladesh, where I witnessed some of the changes that have and are taking place in the textile industry.
The Bangladeshi Ready Made Garment sector’s growth has been a key driver of development in the country and employs around 4 million workers, of which an estimated 60% are women. The downside of the growth in this sector was that neither factory owners nor the government paid sufficient attention to working conditions, safety and labour rights.
In 2013, the Rana Plaza tragedy occurred – a tragedy that brought the world’s attention to worker safety issues and the human costs of cheap, fast fashion and the responsibility of the international community.
Whilst in Bangladesh, I visited one of the factories producing for international clients and export. It is important to note here that such factories are often a stark contrast to factories producing for the local market.
I had a tour of the production facilities, child care and health care facilities and a chance to speak with some of the employees. It appeared that structural, electrical, fire and the working environment safety measures were taken.
There existed employee welfare programs. They prioritized sustainability and CSR-compliance. Even though tangible improvements in many factories have been made, the progress relating to workers rights and practices remains a challenge. These are issues such as; working hours, holidays, low wages, and the right to organize themselves in unions.
Although, there is still much progress to be made and new challenges will arise, growth in the RMG-sector (Ready Made Garment sector) has been a key driver of development in the country it and continues to bring with it new opportunities and new hope for the people of Bangladesh.
From a development point of view, my visit confirmed that it is in the best interests of Bangladesh and the international community that the industry in Bangladesh develops in a sustainable direction to the benefit of employees, producers and consumers. And that will require governments, workers unions, factory owners, international buyers and other organizations to continue to identify and address the shortcomings of and new opportunities within the sector.
Women and girls as critical drivers of development have been strongly recognized throughout the Sustainable Development Goals and as crucial to progress across all 17 goals.
I strongly believe gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will create some of the greatest opportunities of our time.
Sustainable growth cannot be achieved if half of the country’s population is denied equal access to quality education, health services and information, economic and political participation and this is, of course, also true regarding equal opportunities for employment, leadership and decision-making at all levels.
Let us stay with the example of Bangladesh. Here the garment sector has provided employment opportunities to women from the rural areas that previously had no opportunity to be part of the formal workforce. This has given women the chance to be financially independent and have a voice in the family and local community because they now contribute financially.
Studies have shown that women working in the sector have better opportunities to support their families, wider choice for family planning and that they invest in their children’s health and education and postpone marriage of their children.
In short, women have become an essential part of the growth and development of the country.
Greater gender equality is linked to a higher level of education and better health, higher per capita income, stronger international competitiveness and more inclusive and rapid economic growth. The business case for promoting gender equality is just as convincing. A growing body of evidence points to the many ways that women contribute value to each link of the business value chain; as suppliers, leaders, employees, customers, entrepreneurs and community members.
So, when companies improve conditions for girls and women, it also makes good business sense.
According to UN Women:
- An analysis of Fortune 500 companies found that those with the greatest representation of women in management positions delivered a total return to shareholders that was 34% higher than for companies with the lowest representation.
- If women had the same access as men to productive assets, agricultural output in 34 developing countries would rise by an estimated average of up to 4 %. This could reduce the number of undernourished people in those countries by as much as 17 %, translating to up to 150 million fewer hungry people.
Many companies are at the forefront of promoting women’s economic empowerment and ensuring the inclusion of women in the workplace – and this is also how they operate when they do business in developing countries.
We need to move from businesses having a separate CSR strategy to a more integrated approach - where an increased societal responsibility can also result in growth and increased profit for that business. There is a growing acceptance that it is OK to “do well, by doing good”. These subjects are closely linked to questions of the private sector’s role in society in a globalised world, issues that you will also be discussing during this Forum.
Gender equality is a basic human right. It is not only the right thing to do, it is also smart economics. It is one of the most important driving forces behind economic growth and the fight against poverty.
There is no easy solution, inequality is characterized by many different and complex factors, such as; social norms, discriminating laws and insufficient legal protection, unpaid work and unequal access to the digital universe, economic assets and property.
In order to affect the real change we desire, I believe we have to have a greater focus on the role of social norms and unconscious bias, and the barriers they present.
So, it is great to see that the Forum has included a session on Unconscious Gender bias, which I’m looking forward to participating in.
Lastly, I would like to briefly touch on another major global challenge amongst the many the world is facing - climate change. Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. People all over the world are experiencing the significant impacts of climate change; more frequent and more intense storms, flooding, droughts, heat waves, and even extreme snowfalls are all part of the changes. We see food security and water scarcity problems and our oceans are full of plastic. People are losing their homes, their land, their livelihoods.
Climate Change is a multiplier for the global challenges we face – the success of the 2030 Agenda is also dependent on how we combat climate change.
It affects us all, no matter who you are or where you live and that is why international cooperation is absolutely essential.
The so called OECD Week is underway and globalisation is the agenda. Many insightful and influential people will meet to discuss common solutions to the challenges and opportunities that divide us and that bring us together - in a world more interconnected than ever before.
We must see this interconnectivity as a resource that forms part of the solution. Through events like the OECD Forum as well as the Ministerial Council Meeting we have a solid platform for sharing knowledge and experiences and for exchanging best practices from our respective countries.
May the clarity of vision, the wisdom of experience, the strength of resolve and the power that comes from being part of a group help you find the path forward.
Many new policy options will be presented and existing ones challenged. “Better Policies for Better Lives” – that is your motto, let it guide you.