OECD Forum Wrap Up: Day 2

Sophie Levy, UNSW Co-op Program scholar

As we finished our croissants and walked to day two of the OECD Forum, we reflected on the previous day and how much we had learnt and gained from the meetings, talks and debates.

The first talk of the day was a fascinating presentation by Bruce Stokes, Director at the Pew Research Centre. His presentation covered the opinions of OECD attendees on the current and future state of global economies, comparing these views to surveys from the public. This session provided a valuable insight into the views of different countries when asked the question, ‘Do you think your children, when they grow up, will be worse off financially than their parents?’ An overwhelming response of ‘yes’ was shared amongst the audience attendees, many of whom attributed this to housing affordability, job security, an uncertain digital economy, poor wage growth and the question of a reliable social safety net.

With this great start to the day, we were engaged, excited and (with a little bit of coffee) fully prepared for the day ahead. We then attended the Ministerial Council Meeting Chair Keynote speech where we heard from Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the OECD, and Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark. Both speakers discussed the changing attitudes towards globalisation and free trade, stressing the importance of ‘making globalisation work, better lives for all’. Secretary General Gurria acknowledged that this rise of protectionism has resulted from many middle-income citizens being ‘left behind’, and focused on inclusive growth and putting wellbeing at front and centre of economic objectives.

The 2017 Economic Outlook, presented by OECD Chief Economist, Catherine L Mann provided valuable insights into increasing income inequality and poor real wage growth despite increasing confidence and global trade stimulus from China. The outlook reinforced the need for an integrated policy approach to making globalisation work for all.

A great morning was followed by an even better afternoon where we had meeting Andreas Schall, Global Relations Secretariat at the OECD and Tim Costello. Andreas provided an overview of his role as Global Relations Secretariat and gave us an insight into the way in which the OECD manages relations with non-OECD countries. We learnt about the challenges that face all countries and about the structure of the OECD and the way in which countries are accepted into the OECD body. We had a great opportunity to ask questions about the relationship between the OECD and the G20 and the way in which the OECD engages in discussion with various countries

Our final meeting of the day was with Tim Costello. In an intimate conversation amidst the gardens of the OECD, we discussed Australia’s position in the OECD context and focused on our core Australian values. Our conversation involved globalisation, multiculturalism and the effects of the digital economy on our position as Australians and our values. This new perspective was extremely valuable as it enhanced our understanding of where we stand, as Australians, among the EU, US and Asia, amidst this changing global economy.



The last session of the day involved a discussion about the UN Sustainable Development Goals and whether they could be financed, as desired by the 2030 agenda. This conversation was particularly relevant to my policy paper which looks at the use of public private partnerships in emerging economies. Ulla Tornaes, Denmark’s Minister for Cooperation and Development, stressed the importance of involving the private sector in achieving the SDGs. Other panellists commented on the importance of a strategic guidance of the private sector in achieving many of the SDGs.

Following some networking, we made our way back to the hotel and then onto dinner. After having met the Canadian and New Zealand youth delegates at the forum, we decided to catch up with them under the Eiffel Tour – a truly wonderful way to end the incredible and insightful day. 

OECD Forum Wrap Up: Day 1

By Gulandam Khan, Monash University

We kicked off day one in Paris at the OECD Forum with plenary speeches from the Secretary General Angel Gurria and Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess of Denmark, which set the tone and intent for discussions over the next 48 hours. They both spoke about the opportunities presented by globalisation, including those that threaten our ability to create inclusive societies despite so much technological advancement. One such example raised was the process of globalisation being hijacked by the global elite with the fall in labour share of national income, rise of market distortion, income concentration, a shift in taxation from high individuals to labour, and even tax avoidance all together. All of these trends in our economies and societies has meant that wealth concentration at the top 1% is now accounting for 50% of global assets held by individuals.



It then becomes increasingly clear that we need to rebalance these numbers. That’s where the role of the OECD and the agenda of the OECD Forum for 2017 comes into play. The Secretary General raised questions: how do we provide everyone with the opportunity to improve their well-being? How do we achieve a “cooperative globalisation” model?

These questions formed the golden thread for the sessions throughout the day. There were discovery labs on sustainable development, and how it has been affected (for better or for worse) by globalisation. The panel speakers included Ramiro Fernandez, Director of Climate Change, Fundación Avina, Rasmus Abildgaard Kristensen from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark, Tatiana Landysheva, Vice President, AIESEC International and, of course, Bathylle Missika, Head of Partnerships & Networks, Development Centre, OECD.

Another similar session was on “bridging divides”, with panellists across multiple sectors. They discussed and debated what it means to bridge divides in an increasingly globalized world and how to actually do this. The most impactful component of this session was having someone from the corporate sector like Airbnb, alongside an NGO like Amnesty International, engaging in a debate about the future of our world and what steps governments and businesses need to take

This business, government, and civil society debate is what makes the OECD so unique and impactful. Similar robust discussions continued over topics like the ‘gig economy’, where people are less and less likely to have secure full-time jobs. The panel had a local Australian, Nicola Hazell, Head of Diversity for BlueChilli, alongside John Evans, the trade advisor for the OECD and the CEO and Chairmen of Randstad and Deloitte! They discussed the opportunities, as well as the threats, of an increasingly decentralized work system and the need to protect those most vulnerable as trends of the workforce predict increased casualization and less job security.



Between sessions, we met with Mari Kiviniemi, the Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD (Yes, that’s right!) in her office to talk about our research papers, her thoughts on our research areas, as well as all things that have been hot on the agenda of the OECD, including: trade liberalization, emerging technology, the future of jobs, and the ever changing roles of governments and corporations to tackle civil society issues. It was an absolute honor to get as much time and robust debate as we did with Ms Kiviniemi, considering it was right in the middle of OECD week’s Ministerial meetings. One ever-present theme from the forum was how much each of the leaders we met with was enthused about meeting with young people to hear our views on the changing future.



After our meeting with Ms Kiviniemi, some of us joined a ‘Meet the Author’ session with renounced ex-Guardian and BBC journalist Matthrew D’Ancona, who just released his new book on ‘Post truth: The new war on truth and how to fight back”. He spoke about how much data and information has shaped and empowered the decisions governments and corporations make, and how in an increasingly data driven and information heavy world, us citizens must navigate our ways to find the truth.

We also met with Jehan Savage from the Trade Department at the OECD, who spoke to us about the ever changing landscape of trade, particularly following global trends after the rise of Donald Trump and Brexit.

After a day of one on one with leaders like Ms Kiviniemi, heard from the likes of the Crown Princess of Denmark, the Chairman of Deloitte, CEOs of Amnesty International and leaders from Airbnb, it is safe to say the OECD experience was already off to an enriching, engaging, and awe inspiring start!

Canberra Wrap Up - May 9-11, 2017

By Sophie Levy, UNSW Coop Scholar

A group of six OECD delegates, two Y20 delegates, two Defence delegates and four Global Voices staff met in Canberra for a pre-departure briefing where we met with diplomats and politicians in order to gain different perspectives on global trade relations and Australia’s strategic place in the world and to prepare us for some discussion topics that we will likely encounter on our international delegations.

We began day one with a visit to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), where DFAT officers Christine Schafer, Benjamin Lavis and Daniel Millis provided an overview of the current architecture of international trade and relations.

Y20 and OECD delegates at the department of foreign affairs and trade

Y20 and OECD delegates at the department of foreign affairs and trade

Christine explored Australia’s current trade relations and values, discussing the changing nature of global trade and we examined potential impacts of recent global changes on Australia’s trade relations and foreign policies. Ben discussed his role in MIKTA, a multilateral trading group including Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia. This unique, non-regional partnership unites five diverse cultures and regions in order to discuss ways in which they can maintain stability and prosperity in areas of finance, economics, security, the environment and sustainable development. It was fascinating to learn about the benefits of bringing together these diverse countries and the similarities that these countries share in their objectives amidst a rapidly changing world.

We then raced over to the US Embassy where James Shea, the Unit Chief for Energy and Environment, gave us a valuable insight into the relationship between the US and Australia and their shared interests. We discussed the way in which the US and Australia interact to reach mutually beneficial goals for both countries and discussed some of the challenges that the US embassy faces in Australia.

For our final meeting of the day we had the privilege of meeting with members of the G20 team at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Dr. Gruen, Australia’s G20 Sherpa, provided us with an interesting and detailed overview of how this year’s G20 will possibly play out and gave us an insight into the issues that the G20 aims to address. We talked through the challenges of globalisation, free trade, technology, cyber security and more. Dr. Gruen even gave some advice to the Y20 delegates in their negotiation strategies and the way in which Australia positions itself in the G20 forum. We were all incredibly grateful for this opportunity, considering Dr. Gruen’s reputation as one of Australia’s most respected economists.

On day two, we woke up excited for the day ahead, anticipating the incredible insight into foreign policy that we were expecting to receive from diplomats and politicians throughout the day.

First stop: InnovationXchange (Ixc). Established by DFAT to support innovation across the Australian Aid Program, IxC collaborates with partners such as Google and Atlassian with the aim of encouraging fresh thinking to provide innovative solutions that are ‘cheaper, faster and more effective’.

We had the privilege of sitting down with Matthew Steine, Cassie Cohen (a Global Voices alumni) and a few other members of IxC. The group focused on the importance of collaboration, in particular with their partner organisations, in developing innovative and thoughtful solutions to global issues. It was particularly interesting to hear from Matthew, the current Innovation Director, who previously worked in the telecommunications industry and then went on to develop social enterprises in telecommunications. We all gained an insight into current foreign aid challenges, specifically within the Pacific region, and took away a lesson in new and exciting methods that governmental departments can achieve desired outcomes.

Our next stop was a visit to the Australia Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), where we shared in a roundtable discussion with a panel of eight experts with varied knowledge, from international relations to physics, to middle eastern studies and specialties in the Chinese market.

Australian strategic policy institute roundtable

Australian strategic policy institute roundtable

As a commerce student with little knowledge of defence strategy, this fascinating panel provided me with a new understanding of the complexity of defence and security and it has certainly sparked my interest in the effects of the current economic situation on our defence strategy. We discussed the impact of recent economic changes and the constantly evolving global environment, with a focus on the US, China and Russia. This conversation led us into many perspectives on Australia’s possible future global challenges. I found it particularly interesting to learn more about counter-terrorism strategies being used in Australia on a community level and gain an insight into IT security from a government perspective.

After a short walk through Canberra, we found ourselves at the beautiful Australian Parliament House. Surprised by the perfect layout of the premises and the extremely well kept exterior, I was excited for our tour with Harry Jenkins, AO, to begin.

Harry Jenkins, the Global Voices Chairperson and former Speaker of the house of Representatives, gave us an ‘insider’ tour of Parliament House, providing us access to areas of the building that were off limits to the general public. It was an honour to be guided by such a well-respected and well-liked politician who has an incredible knowledge of Australian politics, policies and the history of Australian Parliament House.

We were fortunate enough to have a brief meeting with Tanya Plibersek, deputy leader of the Opposition. We discussed the importance of women’s economic empowerment, specifically within the Pacific region. She focused on the role of women in promoting global economic growth and we discussed the importance of foreign aid in supporting women in developing countries.

discussing women's economic empowerment with tanya pliberseck and Harry Jenkins AO at Parliament House

discussing women's economic empowerment with tanya pliberseck and Harry Jenkins AO at Parliament House

A visit to Parliament House would be remiss without a pit stop at Question Time. Having never observed the Senate Question Time in real life, I was surprised to experience the ‘Question Time culture’ and found it extremely interesting to observe the ways in which the senators interacted and responded during this event. Attending Question Time two days after the 2017 budget release provided us with a unique experience as we heard different views of policies such as the bank levy, education and taxes.

Our meeting began with two of Senator Penny Wong’s advisers, Allan Behm and Nina Dynon, who commenced the discussion by asking – ‘Do you believe that the current world can cope with disruption?’ What a big question! We discussed global disruption and debated the true meaning of the phrase and went onto discuss the importance of Australian values – distinct from Australian interests –  in establishing ourselves and ultimately in establishing our policies.

This conversation was then joined by the hon. Senator, Penny Wong, who discussed our foreign trade policies and added to our previous discussion on disruption and values. Senator Wong spoke movingly about her personal connection to Australia and how honesty and equity are crucial Australian values and assets in how we conduct ourselves as a nation, both bilaterally and multilaterally, in a changing world.

Meeting the hon. senator Penny wong

Meeting the hon. senator Penny wong

Just as we were finishing up our day at parliament house, and we thought the day couldn’t get any better, Harry Jenkins spotted Julie Bishop, our Minister for Foreign Affairs. She paused her conversation and lunch with her colleagues to provide us with a few words of wisdom as we embark on our journey to the G20 or the OECD. It was an honour to meet her.

Travelling to Canberra as a Global Voices Delegate was a remarkable, inspiring and insightful experience! It was an absolute privilege to speak with so many respected, intelligent and high-level individuals who could share their varied perspectives on so many issues. If this is an indicator of the Global Voices experience, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us at the OECD Forum in Paris!

global voices staff and delegates with australia's minister for foreign affairs, the hon. julie bishop 

global voices staff and delegates with australia's minister for foreign affairs, the hon. julie bishop 

Habitat III Delegate Cassandra Cohen featured in Quarterly Access Journal

Cassandra attended the 2016 Habitat III Conference in Quito, representing RMIT University. You can read her policy paper here or by copying the following URL into your browser: http://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/collaborate-or-compete-opportunities-to-adapt-australias-smart-cities-plan-to-develop-a-stronger-pathway-to-achieving-sdg11-by-2030/ 

UNCSW61 Final Wrap Up

By Natasha O'Farrell, University of Sydney

On Friday March 17, the first week of CSW61 drew to a close. The official negotiations were underway in one of the conference rooms at UN Headquarters, with supporting members of delegations camped outside ready to give advice and show support as needed.  Our day started with a Townhall event run by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. The Townhall provided Civil Society organisations with an opportunity to engage and share concerns with the Secretary General and his senior staff. The event was the first of its kind and a historic moment for Civil Society at CSW. Given that Secretary General Guterres is new to his post and, admittedly, a large proportion of civil society in attendance were rather disappointed that the new Secretary General was not a woman, the Secretary made a great effort to demonstrate his passion and intention for the UN to facilitate the global achievement of gender justice for women and girls. Civil society asked whether the Secretary General had plans to achieve equality and parity for women within UN staff, and if a Civil Society Liaison would be appointed (as was the case during Kofi Annan’s leadership). The Secretary General confirmed his commitment to initiatives. Other questions included how negotiations will ensure the independent treatment of girls in the agreed conclusions. Specifically, warning against an ‘add girls and stir approach’ and instead encouraging governments to re-consider all factors from the lived experience of a young girl.

After the Townhall, I attended a session entitled, ‘Promoting Women’s Economic Participation through Addressing Unpaid Care and Domestic Work’. This event was run by the Islamic Development bank and involved speakers from UN Women, Oxfam and Islamic Relief Worldwide. This discussion focused on specific programs that the above organisations are running to address the unequal distribution of unpaid care work. The event focused on specific examples from the developing world where infrastructure is poor and unpaid care work takes up a considerable amount of time. If it takes two days to fetch water or three hours to cook a meal—and there are three meals a day to prepare, then very little time is left to pursue paid employment. Unsurprisingly, women are the people who are in this situation and hence are not financially independent or economically empowered.

I also attended a session run by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions and the Asia Pacific Forum that sought to discuss the role of human rights institutions in promoting and protecting women’s economic participation in the changing world of work. Hosted by Australia, New Zealand and Germany, the presentations focused on the contributions National Human Rights Institutions make in championing the cause for equality. Presentations were made by representatives of these institutions in Chile, Costa Rica, Morocco, and the United Kingdom. The Australian representative the Hon. Dr. Sharman Stone MP, the Ambassador for Women and Girls, delivered introductory remarks and noted the incredible work of Australia’s independent human rights institutions. Immediately after this session the Global Voices delegates were fortunate enough to meet with Dr Stone and discuss our policy papers and more specifically, the lack of women in political spheres. She was both impassioned and inspiring, giving us a window into Australian gender politics both abroad and at home.

Delegates with Dr. Sharman Stone 

Delegates with Dr. Sharman Stone 

The afternoon left me some time to do some reflecting on the week as a whole. In my mind, three major conversations emerged from the conference this week. Note that this really is just my observations framed by the sessions I attended and the conversations that I had. These conversations were around the importance of prevention of violence against women and girls. Prevention meaning transforming culture, attitudes and education practices to create a new status quo that ensures that we do no harm to women and girls, and that we champion them. Another conversation was around indigenous rights and the multiple and intersecting experiences of discrimination that indigenous women endure. This conversation revealed to me that we simply do not do enough, we do not know enough and that perhaps we are not asking the right people and empowering indigenous people to make their own change. Indigenous women told me again and again this week that they want change, and they know how to do it, they just need a seat at the table.

The final conversation that I have observed or listened to was the importance of valuing unpaid labour. The work of women in performing care roles and domestic labour frees other people (predominantly men) up to spend time earning money. I learnt in a session that despite the fact that women enter and leave employment at different stages over their lifetime, on average, the amount of care and domestic duties they perform remains the same.

Perhaps what struck me the most this week was Australia’s position at the conference as an open contributor—as a nation that upholds best practice and speaks truth and practicality directly into complicated policy issues. The conference itself was both overwhelming and exhilarating. With so much potential for change and innovation, I was often frustrated at the deliberate pace at which business proceeded. However, I developed a better understanding of change, and good change as being incremental and generational.  What an awesome and humbling experience to be in the company of such talented and passionate people.