The Paris Peace Forum: A Timely Opportunity to Stand for Peace
The Paris Peace Forum, which takes place 11–13 November, marks the centenary of the end of a terrible war that cost some 20 million lives. It comes at a critical moment when we must all stand for peace and be reminded of the dangers of unilateralism.
When the First World War ended a hundred years ago in November 1918, more than a generation would pass before the world order regained some stability. Immediately after the war, there was a short boom followed by a stock market crash in 1929, a worldwide Great Recession, a resurgence of nationalism and then the outbreak of another, even more deadly, conflict.
Much has improved since this turbulent period, including the establishment of a new multilateral system to promote peace, international co-operation and the development of nations. Today we live in troubled times: the world is still hurting from the worst economic, financial and social crisis of our lifetimes, with the scars visible in jobless queues, high debt levels, people’s weak pay packets, and wider inequalities. And the wounds have now infected our politics, driving people apart rather than bringing us closer together.
With trust at a low ebb, it would be wrong to underestimate the on-going slide towards nationalism, populism and protectionism, and the fragility that this brings to our societies and political systems. Although many countries still firmly support international co-operation, the multilateral organisations that had become bulwarks against war, from the UN to the Bretton Woods institutions and the OECD itself, are under threat. True, as the crisis jolted us into realising, our institutions need updating and strengthening to better confront the global challenges that we face and deliver results for people everywhere. But attempts to undermine or abandon them would be reckless.
It was from the ashes of that Second World War that the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation was forged, to rebuild ruined cities, countries and institutions in an atmosphere of trust and respect. The OEEC was the predecessor of the OECD, and demonstrated in concrete ways that by working alongside each other, nations large and small, strong and weak, could accomplish great things, including a lasting peace. The OECD was born in 1961, carrying forward this legacy of co-operation by governments in identifying best practices in all public policy domains. Since then, we have made great progress in shaping together standards and rules that can help harness the potential of open markets and societies, in fields as diverse as development, the environment, trade and investment, international taxation and social policies — putting the benefits of globalisation at the service of our citizens and making growth more inclusive and respectful of the environment. And yet, as we finish 2018, our work is far from done: many people are left behind and we cannot fail them.
The Paris Peace Forum is as a timely opportunity to stand for peace and reaffirm the value of international co-operation as a driver for progress. Peace is in the OECD’s DNA: even our founding convention from 1960 was drafted in the very hotel where the Paris Peace Accords to end the Vietnam War would be signed just a decade later. We are living proof that by working alongside each other we can accomplish great things, including a lasting peace. For peace is not merely the absence of war, but a constant and concerted action towards a better future for all.
Have we not learned the lessons of our past, that in a divided world we all lose? Or that, on our small, interconnected planet, hauling up the draw-bridge offers fake protection?
Alone, countries soon realise they must reach out for scarce resources, markets, know-how, ideas, technology and the help of friends. The only way to overcome our limitations is for all countries to work together multilaterally, while respecting each other’s differences and drawing richness from such diversity. Our world urgently needs all hands on deck, including our most powerful countries, if we are to resolve global problems such as corruption, human trafficking, tax evasion, cybercrime and climate change.
The OECD works tirelessly on all these fronts as part of our efforts to promote wellbeing, sustainability and inclusiveness. As the Paris Peace Forum underlines, better governance is key for peace, and indeed we are honoured that the hosts have chosen to illustrate this by highlighting our Organisation’s contributions through concrete projects: notably our work with developing countries to help strengthen their public finances under our programme called Tax Inspectors Without Borders; our work on local governance to bolster the global 2030 Sustainable Development Goals; and our recently established Business for Inclusive Growth Platform.
Through international co-operation the OECD strives to achieve the full development of all of our societies by laying the conditions of human progress, health and happiness that only an active peace can deliver, and only war can destroy. If the crisis taught us anything, it is that if we do not advance together, then we cannot truly succeed.
By marking the centenary of the First World War, we stand for peace. Only through peace can we work together to forge a better world and better lives for all.
Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.
Angel Gurría has firmly established the Organisation as a pillar of the global economic governance architecture including the G7, G20 and APEC, and a reference point in the design and implementation of better policies for better lives. He has broadened OECD’s membership with the accession of Chile, Estonia, Israel, Latvia and Slovenia, and has made the Organisation more inclusive by strengthening its links with key emerging economies. Under his watch, the OECD is leading the effort to reform the international tax system, and to improve governance frameworks in anti-corruption and other fields. He has also heralded a new growth narrative that promotes the well-being of people, including women, gender and youth, and has scaled up the OECD contribution to the global agenda, including the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.