It has been a tremendous privilege serving the President and the United States as Ambassador to the OECD. As I head home to rejoin my family, here are a few thoughts on what we’ve tried to accomplish over the last three years.
When the Obama Administration took office, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development had become the “rich men’s club.”
Today -thanks to wonderful colleagues in the U.S. Government, the other member countries and Secretary General Gurria – it is, in the words of former Chilean President Michele Bachelet, the “reformers’ club.”
We got there by reengaging in multilateral diplomacy as instructed by President Obama and focusing on openness, engagement, and relevance.
Openness was our first priority. We negotiated the most robust set of principles to protect the open Internet. In December 2011 the Recommendation on Internet Policy Making Principles emerged from a High-Level Meeting we convened on the Internet Economy. The Organization has been a leader on Internet issues stretching back several decades, when it helped build the policy consensus that led to the open Internet. It is also home to the international broadband rankings and the global Privacy and E-Commerce Guidelines. With the global consensus on an open Internet fraying, we convened Internet pioneers, civil society, business and government leaders. The principles that emerged provide a blueprint for safeguarding the Internet as a platform for innovation.
We took the quest for openness to the OECD itself and one of my best days was the day Hans Reisling called Secretary Clinton “Robin Hood” because we gained agreement that the organization would provide free, open access to its cross-country data. We convinced the OECD to release their information on how much countries were or weren’t doing to implement the Anti-Bribery Convention.
To engage the OECD with the world we reached out beyond the rich, developed countries. We gained admission to the OECD for Chile and Israel. Then, with Secretary Clinton in the chair for the OECD 50th Anniversary Ministerial, members adopted a new Vision Statement committing the organization to become a Global Policy Network. We moved decisively, bringing Russia into the Anti-Bribery Convention and the Nuclear Energy Agency, renewing the Multinational Enterprise Guidelines, and then launching the Development Strategy to help developing countries strengthen their tax administrations, procurement systems and governance institutions. Negotiated by USAID and delivering on Secretary Clinton’s QDDR, the Strategy puts development back in the forefront of OECD engagement.
We had to ensure the OECD work was relevant to the lives of citizens living though the crisis. We initiated the OECD Gender Initiative to produce data and analysis to help countries understand how to address women’s poverty, access to capital, the pay gap, challenges to entrepreneurship, science education and work and family tensions – in order to draw on a critical, and often untapped, resource for improving economic performance and addressing inequality. I served as co-chair of a demonstration project: the OECD-MENA Women’s Business Forum, which made recommendations to improve support for women entrepreneurs in the region. We launched the New Approaches to Economic Challenges initiative to bring a robust analysis of inequality and innovation into economic growth analysis. And Education Secretary Arne Duncan released the OECD’s data – showing U.S. 15-year olds slipping compared to kids in other countries – as a “wake-up call.”
I am confident that Secretary General Gurria and the member countries will continue the modernization effort while navigating the inevitable challenges. The organization faces natural questions about how it will enhance its engagement with the BRICs while maintaining its commitment to high standards. And how will it engage in cross-disciplinary work – clearly the future – and continue to ensure buy in, its strength over other organizations?
I was extraordinarily lucky to work with a talented, dedicated team of Foreign Service officers and locally-hired staff. The United States is fortunate to have them representing its interests. My OECD colleagues have become dear friends and I will follow with admiration the work they do. I am so impressed with the world-class work of the OECD experts under the leadership of the Secretary General and his remarkable team.
It was an honor to serve President Obama. I hope our efforts help demonstrate the value to the United States of reengaging in multilateral diplomacy. – KK