Today, global concerns are visiting our communities, our neighbourhoods and our households every day of every week.
The pandemic and its recession, climate change and resurgent protectionism are intruding in ways more pervasive than ever.
The coronavirus is moving stealthily among us, whether at home or in all other parts of the world.
Cutting millions down, debilitating others, locking us in our homes, suspending our children’s education and disrupting the social and community interaction that societies thrive on.
Recession has followed the virus across every border. Jobless queues have swelled. Livelihoods in every community in every nation have been badly affected.
Climate change is impacting everyone. Accelerating wildfires, more frequent dangerous weather events and rising sea levels.
And our farmers and exporting businesses confront a broken trading system and the flow-on implications of global trade tensions.
These problems have something in common. None of them can be solved by one country alone.
And none of their impacts can be prevented from reaching into our communities and households.
It is why like-minded nations must work together as never before.
It is why I am running to lead an international organisation sometimes described as the most important organisation you’ve never heard of – the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
It’s comprised of 37, soon to be 38, democratic open market economies with a simple mission statement – better policies for better lives.
The OECD can be traced to one of the most far-sighted and influential US foreign policy initiatives of the 20th century – the European Recovery Program designed by George Marshall in the aftermath of World War II.
Over the decades since it has evolved into an invaluable policy forum.
It doesn’t dictate, it doesn’t mandate policy settings for its membership. It’s not a top down supranational body – it is member driven. It shares best practice. It builds consensus, develops common approaches and sets standards. And it works.
It has an essential role to play in tackling the three challenges up-ending our communities – the pandemic, climate change and trade disruption.
As nations try to build a strong, cleaner and fair recovery, as well as better employment and living standards, some policy measures will be more effective than others.
So there are plenty of lessons to share and steps to be avoided. That’s a task tailor made for the OECD.
On the critical issue of taking ambitious and effective action on climate change, it is essential that the OECD provide global leadership.
Achieving global net-zero emissions by 2050 requires an urgent and major international effort. In this regard, the decision by the Biden Administration to ensure the US re-joins the Paris Agreement is crucial.
Paris Agreement targets are a foundation to build upon and not a limit on our ambition to do more sooner. As Secretary-General of the OECD I would work with member countries and partner organisations to deploy every policy and analytical capability available through the OECD to help economies around the world achieve global net-zero emissions by 2050.
With a united focus, the OECD can help identify best practice, market based, technology and policy solutions which maximise emissions reduction outcomes in a way that preserves energy affordability and is economically responsible.
And we need evidence-based policy options on the best way to help developing countries achieve ambitious emissions reduction targets in a way that is compatible with their growth aspirations.
On trade, our rules-based system has been weakened by an absence of consensus on reform, the increasing resort to economic coercion as well as disruption to supply chains during the COVID era.
As part of the recovery we must build more durable and trusted supply chains.
And our trading system will continue to be fractious and underperforming if we don’t narrow differences on digital economy regulation and digital tax issues.
We also need to ensure the OECD’s outlook is genuinely global.
While the OECD’s origins can be traced in European reconstruction, we must continue to both broaden and deepen its global outlook with an effort to engage and better understand developments in the Asia-Pacific. After all, it is the region that has accounted for two-thirds of global growth over the last decade, will continue to generate most global growth over the foreseeable future and is home to more than half the world’s population.
Our policy choices will matter to Main Street in every nation. That is why the OECD must continue to shape policies that support individual freedom, market economies, and reward for effort, while protecting labour and environment standards, strong social safety nets and better social mobility. Our priority should be more opportunity, a better quality of life and higher living standards for all.
The OECD has an enviable track record of quiet achievement over the past 60 years. Its work is now more important than ever.
Mathias Cormann is former Australian Minister for Finance and Australia's candidate for Secretary-General of the OECD