The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) began in 1948 as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC). The OEEC was established by 16 Western European nations to coordinate policy, make recommendations, and manage aid received through the Marshall Plan. Named after U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, the Marshall Plan began in 1947 when the administration of President Harry Truman came to the realization that the dire situation in Europe following World War II—disease, cold, and hunger—required an immediate and massive U.S. response. On July 12, 1947, representatives of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom met in Paris to produce a four-year recovery program and to forn the Committee of European Economic Co-operation (CEEC). On April 16, 1948, these 16 countries fornally established the OEEC and named as its head noted French economist Robert Marjolin.
The founding principles of the OEEC were based on the idea that the economic systems of member countries are interrelated and that the prosperity of each individual country is based on the prosperity of all. The OEEC subsequently flourished as "recovery spurred further recovery" and it soon became a champion of free industrial democracies and free market economies while also serving as a bulwark against communist expansion.
The OEEC continued to operate long after the Marshall Plan had ended and in a way was the victim of its own success. By the end of the 1950s, Western Europe had recovered but other parts of the world were in crisis. This was especially true in many parts of what soon became known as the Third World. Not incidentally many of these emerging countries were former colonies of European nations. In 1959, amidst some opposition, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of Germany, and President Charles de Gualle of France sought to have the OEEC become active on a global rather than a regional scale. The United States and Canada joined the OEEC as full members in 1960 and on September 30, 1961, the OEEC ceased to exist and the OECD was born. Since then nine more countries have joined the OECD: Japan (1964), Finland (1969), Australia (1971), New Zealand (1973), Mexico (1994), the Czech Republic (1995), Hungary (1996), Poland (1996), and Korea (1996). The main goal of the OECD is to "exchange information and harmonize policy with a view to maximizing economic growth with member countries and assisting non-member countries to develop more rapidly."
Originally the OECD was concerned with trade and the economic and financial policies of its members. It has over the decades expanded its sphere of responsibilities to include agriculture, energy, the environment, science and technology, social matters, communications, and even global corruption. To implement policy in these areas the OECD has created advisory committees and agencies such as the International Energy Agency; the Nuclear Energy Agency; the Environmental Policy Committee; the Directorate for Science, Technology, and Industry; the Employment, Labour, and Social Affairs Committee; the Trade Committee; the Committee for Agriculture; the Committee for Fisheries; and the Committee on Capital Movements and Invisible Transactions.
The OECD is also quite concerned with international corruption and financial crimes. In 1989, for instance, the OECD established the Financial Task Force on Money Laundering, which sets forth a comprehensive plan for taking action against money laundering. The task force meets several times every year and brings together legal, financial, and law enforcement policy makers from 26 countries. The task force also monitors the progress of its members to implement anti-money-laundering policies; assesses and reports on trends in money-laundering schemes and activities; and promotes its policies among nonmember countries.
In another attempt to fight international crime the OECD's Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials went into effect in early 1999. The convention and resultant treaty, which has been signed by 29 countries, publicizes and promotes national legislation making the bribing of public officials a crime. The OECD treaty especially promotes the criminalization of the "supply side" of the act, that is legislation aimed at prosecuting those who offer bribes. U.S. companies that bribe foreign public officials can already be prosecuted under provisions of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Although the OECD mostly interacts with countries it is also concerned with consumer protection. Its Directorate of Science and Technology has, for instance, a Committee on Consumer Policy which is attempting to establish guidelines for protecting consumers who purchase goods and services online. This committee has developed a declaration on "Consumer Protection in the Context of Electronic Commerce."
The OECD is also recognized worldwide for its extensive publications program highlighted by the biannual OECD Economic Outlook. This publication forecasts global economic trends with information on each member country. The OECD also publishes information dealing with specific economic activities. Such publications include Agricultural Outlook, Indicators of Industrial Activity, and Oil and Gas Statistics. These publications are highly regarded and often quoted and discussed in relevant media outlets.
The council is the governing organ of the OECD. It meets at least once a year and each member country is represented. The council is responsible for OECD policy and for achieving the organization's aims. The chairman of the council is the government minister from the country elected to the chairmanship for that year. The council designates on an annual basis a 14-member executive committee which administers and readies the work of the council. The council and other OECD bodies are assisted in their duties by an independent international secretariat headed by the secretary general. The majority of the funding for the OECD (approximately 60 percent) comes from regular contributions by member states, with the rest generated from special sources and project participants.
[ Michael Knes ]
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Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. "Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development." Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1998. Available from www.oecd.org .
Sullivan, Scott. From War to Wealth: Fifty Years of Innovation. Paris: OECD Publications, 1997.
Vogel, Frank. "The Supply Side of Global Bribery." Finance and Development 35, no. 2 (June 1998): 3.