OECD Ministers Consider Digital Transition for Sustainable Development
Photo by IISD/ENB | Sean Wu
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The OECD Ministerial Council Meeting on ‘Harnessing Digital Transition for Sustainable Development: Opportunities and Challenges’ discussed artificial intelligence, taxation in the digital age, digital innovation for better lives and sustainable development, the future of work, and current challenges facing global trade, among other topics.

The meeting highlighted the importance of accessing information and communications technology, digital innovation and fostering skills to help countries achieve the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

23 May 2019: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Ministerial Council Meeting spotlighted the importance of accessing information and communications technology, digital innovation and fostering skills to help countries achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs. The meeting resulted in a Chair’s Statement and a Ministerial Council Statement.

The meeting convened under the Presidency of the Slovak Republic and the Vice-Presidency of Canada and the Republic of Korea on 22-23 May 2019, in Paris, France, on the theme ‘Harnessing Digital Transition for Sustainable Development: Opportunities and Challenges.’ Participants discussed, among other topics: artificial intelligence; taxation in the digital age; security, privacy and data; digital innovation for better lives and sustainable development; the future of work; sustainable development and a resource efficient economy; and trade in the digital era and current challenges facing global trade.

The Chair’s Statement notes the importance of quality infrastructure with open and fair access, and of closing the gap in skills in particular for women and girls, older individuals, and other vulnerable groups. On sustainable development and a resource efficient economy, the Statement notes the potential of digital technologies in lowering emissions and building climate-resilient economies, but adds that new technologies also can generate environmental challenges concerning energy, resource use and e-waste. It further states that “the prevailing number of Members” acknowledge the fundamental importance of the Paris Agreement as a tool to effectively address climate change, and other environmental challenges.

The Chair’s Statement indicates that all Members have adopted the OECD Recommendation on Artificial Intelligence (AI), which seeks to promote the adoption and use of this technology, including by managing potential risks. It welcomes the creation of an OECD AI Policy Observatory. On security, privacy and data, the Statement says governments and industry can do more to promote responsible, effective, trustworthy and reliable data governance, and “will endeavor” to work together to better address these issues and build confidence and trust in the global digital system. It notes the call on the OECD to improve policy-relevant measurement of data, including by measuring and defining different types of data. Per the Statement, all Members pledge to work together to counter the use of the internet for terrorist and violent extremist purposes without compromising freedom of expression, human rights or innovation for better lives.

On trade in the digital era and current challenges facing global trade, the Statement notes that “the prevailing number of Members” underscore the importance of the multilateral trading system and its contribution to international trade and investment for growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and development. They also acknowledge that current trade tensions are having an impact on the global economy, and agree on the need to level the playing field for international trade and investment.

Members, as noted in the Statement, include the ministers and representatives of: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, US and the EU.

The Ministerial Council Statement calls on the OECD to continue to provide integrated and evidence-based policy analysis, technical solutions and expertise on the digital transition, in particular in developing effective methods of measurement. It notes the adoption of the OECD Recommendation on AI, the OECD Recommendation on Guidelines on Anti-Corruption and Integrity in State-owned Enterprises, and the OECD Declaration on Public Sector Innovation, among other documents. [Meeting Webpage] [Ministerial Council Statement] [Chair’s Statement]

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