Transparency in a Time of Turbulence: The OECD Forum at 20

Go to the profile of John Hearn
May 12, 2019
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This article is part of the Forum Network series the 20th anniversary of the OECD Forum, contemplating its past and imagining its future. 

The OECD Forum was launched in 2000 at the pivot of two centuries. At a time of hope, optimists looked for enhanced global intelligence, inclusive leadership and teamwork.


Reasons for optimism were apparent, as were challenges in globalisation, employment, ageing, education and health. The OECD has established knowledge platforms in most major fields – with deep data bases, authoritative publications, the OECD Forum – and now the Forum Network. The UN Millennium Goals and the SDGs aided consensus and context, while many other global and regional policies have developed.


Challenges and threats were also pressing. The Twin Towers attacks in 2001 ignited reactions that destroyed much of the Middle East, helped to spawn extremist terrorism and inhibited cultural trust. The greed of the 1990s led to the Global Financial Crisis erupting in 2008, and the OECD was first to facilitate a global government response to it. Ten years on, how can balance and fairness be fostered to manage new threats? In an often fake world of Twitter and glitter, how can the basics of trust and truth, facts and focus prevail?

Higher education, universities, science, technology and innovation, have seen fundamental change, with much more to come. How can an individual or network contribute? How can teamwork with OECD enable inclusion, innovation and impact?

In universities and higher education access and rapid growth bring opportunity and benefits for brains. But challenges abound in quality, diversity, cost and sustainability. Degrees and fees have driven student debt and blighted personal development. International students can be cash cows. Many universities have become too corporate, managerial and expensive. Many in the academy feel disenfranchised by remote administrations and lost values in scholarship.

Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash

Science and medicine are not immune. Advances in knowledge, technologies and personalised medicine hold huge potential. But health care costs have exploded, abuse of technology in developed and developing economies is rife, while bizarre and unregulated stem cell therapies (for example) are metastasising. Follow the money – it is mostly yours!

The Roman Forum was a public square or market place for debate and decision. The OECD Forum and Network are a focal point in global engagement and leadership. What is missing in global cultural understanding, governance and inclusion? Build practical plans, technologies and innovation for each sector. Engage with the principals to translate instruments for improvement. The OECD can be the bridge and catalyst in addressing the multi-layered challenges – and bring a truly global approach through its membership and alliances, including with Africa and China.

Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

A World in Emotion

The OECD is needed more than ever as a rock of fact and evidence-based policy, enabling confidence, inclusion and balance. Data bases, knowledge communication and journalism can be improved. Perhaps an OECD Fact-checker app could help to build trust with truth.

I thank the many colleagues and friends that I have met through OECD in these turbulent 20 years.

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Related Topics

Future of Education & Skills Sustainable Development Goals
Income Inequality
OECD Forum 20th Anniversary OECD Forum 2019

Find out more about OECD Forum 2019: World in EMotion

OECD Forum 2019: World in EMotion

Banner image: Bud Helisson on Unsplash

Go to the profile of John Hearn

John Hearn

Chairman, Australia Africa Universities Network; Former Executive Director, Worldwide Universities Network

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