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!