A year ago, we gathered together in Paris for the OECD Forum at a testing time for international co-operation. Following a series of political events that shook our foundations, we set ourselves the challenging task of bridging divides, and exploring solutions to the deepening divisions fragmenting our economies and, more profoundly, our societies.
A year on, and we have had to adapt to the new normal of political turbulence and unpredictability, reflecting public disquiet at what the current model of economic globalisation has been seen to deliver or not, in countries that are at the very heart of fashioning the international system and the OECD itself. While we can draw on an evidence base that stretches back decades to point to the significant benefits that sustained international co-operation has offered, for too many people, multilateralism has come to represent a rather distant, self-serving and technocratic “system”, removed from their everyday aspirations and concerns. The backlash that has ensued, fuelled and facilitated by new modes of digital communication together with not so new political platforms and recipes, is leading to serious concerns about the potential unravelling of the culture, norms, standards and institutions that were born in response to the tragedy of World War II.
With the future of international co-operation very much in question, the time is ripe for OECD Forum 2018 to focus on a core question that is intrinsically linked to Bridging Divides and the future for international co-operation: What Brings Us Together? We will address the central underpinnings of international co-operation: the values aspirations, hopes, concerns, anxieties and spaces that can, or cannot, bring us together. Aspirations for better jobs, health, education and opportunities transcend borders, cultures, and identities, as do values such as equity, respect, solidarity and trust. At a time when much of the discourse is centred on division and disconnection, how much do we share and what is to be gained by working together to make these aspirations a reality? Re-connecting with these fundamentals can help us as we seek to make the dispassionate case for the benefits of international co-operation that have been often so hard to achieve, and can help orientate us in “rebooting” our approach in the era of digitalisation, to reimagine the process and manner of co-operation that must evolve and transform to reflect today’s reality, project into the future and learn from the past.
For the 2018 Forum we have convened some of the leading voices in the global policy-shaping community, who will help us to pose questions and seek answers to the existential question of what brings us together, through the prism of three central and interconnected themes: Inclusive Growth, Digitalisation and International Co-operation.
Inclusive Growth: Building on our exploration last year of the “geography of discontent”, we are placing a special emphasis on listening to and reflecting the concerns of people who feel their voice has not been heard, or perhaps not until the political upheavals that began in 2016 (Left Out & Left Behind). We will be seeking tangible ways to address inequalities, through the built environment, (Panel with lunch on Housing), through access to quality education and lifelong learning (Reskilling: How Difficult Is It?), and navigating employment in a disruptive digital environment (Recruiting in a Digital Age). We will welcome real world actors who experience the very issues we are talking about, and will listen to them as we craft solutions, including migrants and refugees (Integrating Migrants), entrepreneurs from all walks of life (Vers l’entrepreneuriat inclusif), and patients who call for a more human form of healthcare (Health: High Tech, High Touch). In true OECD Forum tradition, we will venture down less trodden paths, looking at the implications of loneliness for people’s health and the fabric of our societies (Loneliness), and what robots and humans can learn from each other in the age of ‘singularity’ (Singularity). In so doing, we will seek to bring to bear the relevant elements of OECD work including a Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth.
Digitalisation: As we experience more and more tangibly and acutely the societal transformation that digitalisation represents, we will explore the extraordinary and uplifting potential and realisations of companies, start-ups, and individuals (Start-Up Ecosystem), while examining the actions needed to promote quality jobs and well-being in a new world of work (The Future of Work: How?). As policy makers and shapers around the world look to develop the new cognitive and regulatory frameworks to accompany the shift from analogue to digital, we will consider the ethical ramifications, (Universal Digital Rights & Digital Inclusion), the implications for the security, society and the economy (Cybersecurity) and the importance of a civic debate on the rise of artificial intelligencebuilding on the substantive discussions that took place during theIdeaFactoryat Forum 2017.
International co-operation: President Macron will address the Forum on 30 May to set out his vision of how re-shaping the foundations of the international co-operation embodied by multilateralism, necessitates a broader conversation and far greater involvement of new global actors. With this in mind we have convened sessions to explore new forms of global leadership (New Global Leadership,) and multi-stakeholder “coalitions of the willing” (Firms, Civil Society & Government with Purpose: The Global Deal). Only by government and civil society working together hand in hand can we address issues inherently global in nature, such as climate (Safeguarding Our Oceans), making a success of openness and interconnection for the benefit of people and exiting our collective comfort zone by examining how those on the ground really feel rather, than how we think they should feel (The Faces of Trade).
The spatial dimensions of the Forum itself have been conceived in order to Bring Us Together in an innovative and, hopefully, productive manner: conversations will take place in a variety of formats and spaces, to facilitate maximum engagement for you, our Forum community. We will use our IdeaFactories as labs to spark new thinking and potential avenues for our work. Our ambitious aim is to imagine new visions for international co-operation and to explore if and how they can be translated into reality (Rebooting International Co-operation: Transforming Today’s Reality to a Vision for the Future), crowdsourcing ideas to create the conditions for a re-energised public debate, where silent majorities become vocal majorities and contribute to healthier democracies with the energy and intensity most often attributed to “protest” movements (High-Intensity Democracy). This is a important response to the discussions on post truth that took place at OECD Forum 2017.
Every year, we take inspiration from new concepts, ideas, knowledge and stories to enrich the Forum agenda and enlighten your and our thinking. We are very lucky to be welcoming a whole host of authors who will share the insights of their work over the two days through a series of “Meet the Author” sessions. We encourage you to attend these sessions, ask them questions and contribute to the debate.
The Forum has grown exponentially in the last decade, which is reflected in the breadth, diversity, quality and quantity of participants, speakers, partners and issues involved. In recent years we have also felt that the effort, energy and plethora of creative ideas and connections developed over the two days in Paris deserved a conduit to capture, channel and harness them over time. This has led us to explore What Brings Us Together as a Forum community in the “spatial” sense. As with all communities convened at OECD they were born in physical, tangible and human form. This remains the bedrock of our community. But we would not be true to the challenges we pose each year if we did not seek to apply lessons to ourselves and innovate. It is with this in mind that we decided to create together the Forum Network, a “live virtual space” for the Forum community to engage in on a constant basis. The Network is made up and energised by you. After an initial impetus from us, I’m glad to report that the initiative has really taken off: to date you are over 1500 to have become members, many making original contributions to thought and action around the themes identified in the Forum. For the first time we have also been able to harness the “collective wisdom” of the Forum Network crowd in defining the theme for Forum 2018 and in putting together the topics and programme. Although the priority is and should be offline engagement for those lucky enough to attend the event in Paris, we count on those at a physical distance to join us and participate virtually. Most importantly, we call on all of you to take full advantage of the potential and the positive energy the Network offers us to come together in a powerful form of international co-operation. Beyond that, I hope the physical Forum and Forum Network provide not only food for thought in the form of knowledge, ideas, concepts and thoughts, but the collective energy, courage and inspiration to harness the power and influence of our collective minds to move from worthy talk to actions that deliver tangible benefits for the lives we have a shared desire and responsibility to help make better.
A très bientôt