Travel Diary: Secretary Clinton Addresses the OECD Session on Development and Gender

Posted by DipNote Bloggers
May 26, 2011
Secretary Clinton at the U.S. Mission to the OECD in Paris

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered remarks at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Session on Development and Gender in Paris on May 26, 2011. Secretary Clinton discussed the vision statement adopted yesterday, which partners the OECD with developing countries on reform and highlights the important role of girls and women in creating sustained economic development.

Secretary Clinton said, "...[T]oday is a day for us to really focus on the meeting of the OECD vision statement adopted yesterday, which reflects an important consensus about development that while aid is essential, aid alone is not enough; that to help people reach their full potential, we must also promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and that we need to continue to remake the relationship between donors and development countries. And that requires working in partnership, not patronage. So developing nations will define their needs and chart their futures while becoming less dependent on aid and ultimately ending their need for aid altogether."

Secretary Clinton then highlighted two important issues. She said, "..First, partnering with developing countries on reforms in three interconnected areas -- taxes, transparency, and corruption -- because focusing on these three will give us the tools needed to enable more countries to fund more of their own development. And second, doing more to support women as drivers of sustainable economic growth."

Secretary Clinton discussed reforms. She said, "...[C]orruption, lack of transparency, and poorly functioning tax systems are major barriers to long-term growth in many developing countries. Corruption stifles entrepreneurship and it siphons funding away from critical services, hurting the people who rely on those services. Poor transparency makes it difficult if not impossible to determine how governments raise and spend their funds, and therefore, how to hold governments accountable. And weak tax systems rob states and citizens of the resources needed. Why? Either because the taxes are not levied at all, or because it's very easy for people to avoid paying them. Nobody likes paying taxes, but the countries around this table represented know that in the absence of funding public services, it's very difficult to achieve the kind of outcomes for prosperity, growth, opportunity that we seek."

She continued, "...We all have an interest in solving these problems together, to empower governments to collect precious revenues they use to build roads and power lines, to open schools and train teachers, to provide healthcare and invest in all the other drivers in economic activity. Corruption, lack of transparency, and poorly functioning tax systems not only deprive government of revenues; they inflict a quieter and in some ways an even more dangerous cost as well, because they corrode citizens' trust in each other and in their government. And when those bonds of trust crumble, it becomes much more difficult for communities and countries to make progress."

Secretary Clinton commended the OECD for the crucial role it plays in supporting reform. She said, "...The Anti-Bribery Convention commits countries to tackle the bribery of foreign officials, and the new Global Forum on Transparency is working to reduce tax evasion. The United States is proud to support the recently launched tax and development program and the OECD-NEPAD Africa Investment Initiative, two excellent programs for sharing best practices that have already benefited the South Sudan, Tanzania, and others."

She continued, "...With the framework for a strategy for development, the OECD marries its two core strengths -- world class policy research and cooperation on development work. In the past, these two capabilities have been largely separate. The policy research benefited mainly member countries. Now with this framework, the OECD as a whole will expand its policy expertise for the benefit of the developing countries as well. The framework also provides a new opportunity for developed countries to learn from developing ones. And as OECD expands your efforts, I hope you will put a particular focus on taxation, transparency, and corruption, because these issues are a perfect match for the expertise you already have.

"We are taking an important step today by endorsing the framework, but I think we can do more. We can galvanize action. I want to urge the OECD to develop the strategy for executing the framework in time to present it at the OECD Council Meeting in January. This will be an opportunity for the OECD to take action and help deliver results for millions of people, and we should make the most of it. And the upcoming High Level Forum in Busan, South Korea will greatly benefit from the OECD's contributions."

Secretary Clinton then discussed the role of girls and women in creating sustained economic development. She said, "... Women and girls are a powerful engine for creating jobs and spurring economic growth. There are more than 200 million entrepreneurs who happen to be women worldwide today. And when a woman prospers, the benefits don't stop with her. We have reams of research which shows that women actually invest what they earn back into their families, and then the benefits multiply throughout her community and across generations.

"But even after all the progress we have made together, there are still many barriers that stand in the way of economic progress for women. Too few women can get a good education, find a job, own property, or open their own businesses in too many countries around the world. To study these barriers and identify solutions, the United States supported the launch of the OECD's Gender Initiative early this year. The initiative will create indicators for measuring women's economic empowerment and create a toolbox of policy options for countries to unleash the potential of millions of women through education, employment, and entrepreneurship. And the OECD is piloting this approach with its Women's Business Network for the Middle East and North Africa, which is co-chaired by the United States and Jordan.

"Today marks the first milestone in the initiative. We are receiving its interim report. And I ask the ministers here to welcome the report, to affirm its statement that women's economic empowerment is critical to stronger, fairer economic growth, and to call on the secretary general to take the measures necessary to complete this project in time for the ministerial meeting next year.

"There is one other step we should take. As I will discuss later today at UNESCO, if we're going to improve outcomes for girls and women and make the best case for more investment, we'll need better data and we need to coordinate our efforts to make sure we get it. So I call on organizations focused on these issues to work together on a plan to make all the data that's collected on women more comparable and useful, and to identify a list of common indicators for future data collection. And I'm pleased to announce that the OECD, the World Bank, and UN Women have already agreed to collaborate on this project in time for the High Level Forum in Busan. I hope others will join them."

You can read the Secretary's complete remarks here.


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