A tale of two cities?

world-cities-dayJulia Stockdale-Otárola, OECD Public Affairs and Communications Directorate

At times we describe cities with the most hopeful and  endearing terms. Think of “The City of Light”, “The City of Lilies”, “Pearl of the Danube”, “The Holy City”, and so on and so forth. There are other times when only the unique stench, pollution and squalor found in city streets seem to warrant attention. Even in the pages of Plato’s The Republic this dichotomy of wealth and despair is found: “Any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another”. And yet the attraction to the hustle and bustle of urban centres has not wavered. The allure of cities seems to be as enticing as ever.

Of course, the speed and intensity of urbanisation has varied both over time and across nations. Throughout history many cities have boasted the title of the “most populous city” – though it must be noted that the requirement for such a title has changed drastically. For example, Jericho was a bustling metropolis in 7 000 AD with only one thousand people. By 2014, Tokyo, Delhi, Shanghai, Mexico City and São Paolo all reached “megacity” status with more than 20 million people.

Though rapid, these population spikes didn’t happen overnight. Many cities started to grow and mature into the metropolises many of us call home in the 18th century. From 1750 to 1950 the urban population increased by about 400 million, primarily in Europe and with London at its core. This 200-year period is known as the first wave of urbanisation.

It would seem that the second wave of urbanisation is already proving to be much greater than the first in both magnitude and speed. Growth was particularly concentrated in Latin America and making it one of the most urbanised regions in the world with an urbanisation rate of about 80%.

Looking forward, the urban population is expected to increase to about 6 billion by 2050 – quite the jump from less than 1 billion in 1950! By 2100, the number of urbanites is projected to swell to an impressive 9 billion people, or 85% of the world’s population. This time, the majority of this growth will be concentrated in Asian and African cities.

It’s not only the number of cities that is growing but also the size of cities. Some 41 megacities will likely be scattered across the globe by 2030 (compared to only two in the 1950s) – with Asia boasting 7 of the top 10. Meanwhile, with some exceptions, urban growth will likely slow down or go into decline (if it hasn’t already) in much of Europe and North America.

This major demographic shift comes with its consequences. Policy makers across the globe are tackling myriad challenges for the 50% of the world’s population already living in cities. Population growth, increased pollution, and ageing or inadequate infrastructure all threaten the environment, the efficiency and productivity of cities, and the health and well-being of their citizens. Poor planning can lead to the exacerbation of place-based inequalities. Poverty in the city is also distinct from that in the countryside. Climate change only increases the risk of natural disasters causing potentially devastating damage to urban centres and threatening public safety.

It can be difficult to cope with change. Even more so when that change moves quickly – but cities are trying to adapt. Some cities are being retrofitted to improve the lives of their citizens in a sustainable way by reinventing themselves as eco-cities or ‘green cities’ while fighting inequalities. The city of Malmö, Sweden, claims to be home to Europe’s first carbon neutral neighbourhood. This was achieved following significant planning changes in infrastructure, waste management and energy supply to a former industrial wasteland. To improve the health of its citizens, Mexico City launched the El Médico en tu casa programme bringing medical professionals directly to the homes of those in need. These are examples of sustainable and inclusive policy decisions made at the municipal level.

Where do you fit in?

Everyone can play key role in either pressuring for the adoption and implementation of urban sustainability policies at the local and national level. For example, more cities are offering alternative transportation services including bike and car sharing schemes. These alternatives help curb individual carbon footprints (and even kick-start a healthy daily habit!). New technologies are also opening innovative ways for people to make micro-interventions. The application FixMyStreet helps people communicate local issues in real time, e.g. broken street lamps and pot holes. Large and small businesses can also play a role. For example, the OECD recently launched a campaign involving staff in offsetting commuting-related carbon emissions by offering to plant one tree for every staff member in the Paris area. Staff could then go a step beyond by choosing to plant a few more trees at a subsidised cost.

Useful links

Get involved: https://www.fixmystreet.com

How does your city fare? Check out the Sustainable Cities Index or the EU’s Green Capital Awards

African Economic Outlook 2016: Sustainable Cities and Structural Transformation AfDB/OECD/UNDP

Governing the City OECD

The Metropolitan Century: Understanding Urbanisation and its Consequences OECD

Holding companies, not just individuals, responsible for corporate crime

oecd-anti-corruptionBrandon L. Garrett (@brandonlgarrett), Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law and author of Convicting the Innocent (2011) and Too Big to Jail (2014).

The OECD Working Group on Bribery (WGB) is correctly interested in examining more closely the question of legal liability of organizations, including corporations. The broad question raised is what makes for an effective system for the liability of legal persons and as the WGB recognizes, there are many choices that follow if corporate criminal liability is adopted. Corporate criminal liability has evolved enormously in the United States, not in the legal standard, but in the details of its implementation, and many lessons can be learned from that experience.

Costs and Benefits of Corporate Criminal Liability

One advantage of entity legal liability for foreign bribery, and a range of crimes, is that often employees and agents are not facilitating the payment of bribers purely or even chiefly for their own benefit, but rather for the benefit of a corporation.  The bribe money may come from the corporation, with the intent of securing business for the corporation, and the employees may at best want to be rewarded in their careers at the corporation.  The corporation may create the environment that encourages employees, officers, and agents to pay bribes to secure business.  The corporation itself must be deterred from promoting bribery.  The corporation may also be in the best position to adopt measures to prevent bribery in the future.  Employees may be fired or prosecuted, but their replacements will continue the same practices if the corporation does not change its own policies and culture.

For those reasons, punishing only individuals may not affect the incentives and the culture that the corporation created.  That said, corporations need not be punished criminally if civil alternative suffice to deter bribery.  Whether civil fines and civil injunctions are adequate to do so, may depend on what penalties are available to civil enforcers and whether they have the investigative resources to effectively uncover and penalize bribery schemes.  In many countries, civil regulators cannot impose punitive fines.  If a company, for example, need only disgorge its gains from bribery when it is caught, there is little incentive not to continue paying bribes to secure profitable business.  However, if civil regulators can impose punitive fines (for example fines up to twice the gains to the company or the losses to victims – the standard under the criminal Alternative Fines Act in the US) then the outcome may not be much different than if the case was denominated as criminal.  The only difference may be the reputational threat of a criminal case, the collateral consequences of a criminal action, and requirements in criminal cases that a company cooperate in any investigations of individuals.  Each of those features of criminal enforcement in the US could in theory be made part of a civil enforcement scheme – even cooperation in any pending criminal investigations of individuals.  Collateral consequences such as debarment or suspension can also (and often are) be associated with civil enforcement.

The main reasons to denominate penalties and sanctions (such as monitoring or compliance) as criminal would be that civil authorities in a given country might not have the enforcement resources, investigative resources, or penalties and sanctions available to sufficiently deter and punish foreign bribery.

Procedure may enhance or limit the ability to adopt corporate criminal liability in a jurisdiction.  For example, if entities have self-incrimination rights, then an entity target will be able to resist providing documents and information about wrongdoing – corporate criminal liability will make it more difficult for enforcers to secure information about what transpired.  Or if corporate criminal liability better incentivizes cooperation in investigation of individual offenders, it may enhance accountability in such cases.

Jurisdictional obstacles to bringing bribery cases against employees of a multi-national corporation may not exist for corporations that have an operating presence in a country.  As a result, jurisdiction may be another practical reason to have corporate criminal liability (however, civil liability could also be premised on the same concept of jurisdiction).

Form of Corporate Criminal Liability

Some countries adopt modified forms of corporate criminal liability in which prosecutors must prove involvement of high level officials, for example, or that the criminal actions were endorsed or ratified by top-level officers.  Such approaches make it far too difficult to impose liability and they lead to complex investigation and litigation of questions regarding knowledge of particular actors within a company.  Individual accountability can and should be investigated separately, but to intermingle such questions with the question of corporate liability hinders effective enforcement.

A strict or respondeat superior standard imposes liability on a company for the actions of agents acting with the scope of their employment and at least in part to benefit the corporation.  That broad standard, adopted in federal court in the United States, makes it clear that a company cannot avoid liability for actions of employees, or of contractors or subsidiaries acting at least in part in the interests of the corporation.  If a jurisdiction is to adopt corporate criminal liability, that liability standard is preferable, in my view.  All conduct by agents, including hired intermediaries, contractors, broadly defined, should support liability.  Nor are such agents “unrelated” if they are hired by the corporation.

There is no reason to excuse bribery when it is a “low-level” employee that commits it.  The problem is not a mere failure to supervise; the low level employee has no reason to engage in bribery except to benefit the corporation.  If there is a low-level employee exception to bribery law then corporations can tacitly encourage the most dispensable low-level employees to violate bribery laws.

Nor is there any reason to excuse successors from the criminal actions of the entity they acquired.  A sale or merger should not wipe the criminal slate clean.  Otherwise, companies would play a shell game, engaging in mergers or sales simply to avoid consequences of their crimes.  Companies should be expected to do due diligence regarding criminal exposure before making a purchase, and that potential liability and need to do due diligence will further encourage compliance to detect and prevent bribery.

More nuanced questions concerning whether the corporation should be fully blameworthy can be addressed as a matter of sentencing or through settlement with prosecutors.  Whether to credit corporate cooperation and self-reporting or existing compliance efforts, for example, can be considered as a matter of sentencing, or in negotiation of settlement agreements.  Keeping such case-specific questions separate from the question of the liability standard, however, has real advantages.

Settlements and Remedies

There is much to discuss regarding how settlements can or should occur and options for guiding and structuring corporate settlements.  I have argued that having judicial involvement in the approval and supervision of settlements enhances the legitimacy of the process and permits the public interest to be better considered.  Purely out-of-court settlements should be avoided.

Compliance may be important to reforming a corporation going forward, and as a condition of resolving a bribery case. Prospective compliance is more important, in my view, than the question whether to reward retrospective compliance.  It is problematic to excuse penalties based on pre-existing compliance – which was by definition ineffective in detecting bribes – and because assessing compliance from the outside is challenging.  It is important to carefully assess a company’s compliance, and if it truly did everything it could to prevent bribers, then it should be mitigating factor, but not a shield from liability.

There should also be clear incentives to audit and assess compliance, even if the result uncovers self-critical information.  Indeed, there should be incentives to share best practices across industry.  Enforcers and prosecutors should make the rewards for sharing best practices clear and they should promote sharing of best practices.

More important will be imposition of deterrent fines – and on the detection side of the equation, rewarding self-reporting by companies, since it can be very difficult for enforcers to know whether bribes were paid.  Enforcers should also reward whistleblowers who report bribery.

General Corporate Criminal Liability

Having a general standard for corporate criminal liability has the advantage that bribery crimes may be accompanied by other corporate crimes, like money laundering, fraud, or antitrust violations, to name just a few examples.  Adopting anti-corruption crimes but not having mechanisms to address accompanying criminal conduct can weaken enforcement. That said, as with any crime, it is far better for bribery crimes to be detailed in statutes to provide clear notice as to what conduct is prohibited.

Finally, I note that as more countries adopt corporate criminal liability for bribery and other crimes, it will be important to develop coordination rules, including double jeopardy norms, so that corporations do not face multiple overlapping punishments for the same conduct.

Useful links

These comments on corporate criminal liability are a contribution to a public consultation being conducted by the OECD Working Group on Bribery in the lead-up to a Roundtable being held on International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December. This will provide inputs to the fourth round of Working Group monitoring of the Anti-Bribery Convention, which will include a focus on corporate liability. 

Public consultation on foreign bribery and the liability of legal persons

OECD Anti-Bribery Convention

Space and innovation: the next frontier

Claire Jolly, Head of the OECD Space Forum is the co-author of today’s post

Space-based technologies are now as much a part of everyday life as electricity or running water. Satnavs are among the most obvious examples, but a range of other activities from paying with a smart card to playing Pokémon Go use satellite networks to transmit data or get a positioning signal. Even a, literally, down-to-earth business like farming is adopting space technology, as John Boelts, Vice President of the Yuma County Farm Bureau, in Arizona explains: “By using GPS on the tractors, the entire process from leveling the field to planting the seed to irrigating the crop has been much more efficient than in the past”.

There are also many indirect, sometimes surprising, uses spinoffs from space programmes. The scanning technologies developed to find a safe landing spot on the Moon were adapted and contributed to give us ultrasound, MRI and CAT scanners, while the impedance cardiography-based devices designed for astronauts evolved into some of the cardiac monitors used today in hospitals and in wearable devices.

However, despite the numerous innovations generated by space programmes, the need for systems to be reliable and durable sector means that the space sector has been risk averse in some respects. The basic technology for sending payloads into space using liquid propellant rockets was first proposed by Russian schoolteacher Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1903, and Robert H. Goddard successfully launched a liquid-fuelled rocket in 1926.

These two pioneers were Russian and American and their two countries still dominate the world’s spending on space. According to Space and Innovation, a new OECD publication, US and Russian government budgets dedicated to space were over 0.2% of GDP, well ahead of the next biggest spenders France, at 0.1% and Japan at 0.06%. Governments are still the major funders of space programmes, particularly for public good-related activities such as environmental monitoring, weather forecasting, and major scientific missions. National agencies, research centres, universities and publically-funded laboratories still perform fundamental research, applied research, and experimental development in the space sector, but in some countries their mission is evolving to include co-ordinating and enabling broad knowledge diffusion as well as developing start-ups.


Industry in OECD economies also play an important role, while new entrants, several from the Internet economy, are bringing innovative ways of developing space business. The most famous of these is Elon Musk’s SpaceX project, but there are many smaller scale examples of new entrants, including students using crowdfunding for satellite projects. The University of Alberta’s Ex-Alta-1 satellite for instance is part of the QB50 consortium mission that will study space weather along with 49 other cube satellites. CubeSats are tiny satellites weighing no more than 1.33 kg in a 10cm cube.   Cubesats show up in a new set of indicators developed by the OECD to measure innovation based on patent applications and bibliometric analysis of science and technology publications. Other sources of innovation include nanosatellites, electric satellite propulsion, reusable technologies for launchers, and satellite navigation applications.


The increasing importance in scientific publications of satellite navigation systems and the many location-based and timing services derived from them can also be traced to recent patenting activities by businesses, demonstrating that much innovation occurs today in downstream space activities. National security and science objectives do however remain the main drivers of innovation, with human space exploration important too.

The indicators quoted by Space and Innovation suggest that the space sector may be on the verge of a fifth cycle of development, following  previous cycles that started with the space race and Sputnik in 1958 and go through to the present cycle, number 4, starting in 2003 and lasting until around 2018. Cycle 4 sees ubiquitous use of space applications in various fields thanks to digitalisation and a new generation of space systems (small satellites) prompted by integration of breakthroughs in micro-electronics, computers and material sciences; and globalisation of space activities (large and very small national space programmes coexist, development of global value chains).

The next cycle, projected to last about 15 years, will be characterised by growing uses of satellite infrastructure outputs (signals, data) to meet societal challenges such as helping bridge the digital divide by supplying Internet access to remote areas without the need to build expensive infrastructures, or contributing to mitigate climate change with global satellite monitoring. In parallel, innovative mass-market products could be on the horizon, plus a more extensive mapping of our solar system and beyond thanks to new telescopes and robotic missions. Cycle 5 is also expected to see new generations of smart satellites and orbital space stations, while a number of commercial space activities could be coming of age, including new human-rated space launchers and in-orbit servicing.

If the promises of Cycle 5 are to be fulfilled, policymakers will have to play a role. They can do this in three broad areas. First, look at the specifics of the space sector and see if national policy instruments that support space innovation are effective, paying particular attention to knowledge diffusion networks. Second participate in and encourage downstream activities, for example through policies that enable start-ups and innovative firms to find or retain niches where they can make the most of their capabilities. Third, space agencies should systematically examine and track the spin-offs and technology transfers to other sectors that are derived from space investments.

The closing session of a symposium on “Space and innovation” being organised today by the OECD Space Forum will discuss whether space is becoming a daily commodity. It is, but as Stephen Hawking says, it is far more than that: “Raise your sights. Be courageous and kind. Remember to look up at the stars and not at your feet.”

Useful links

The Space Economy at a Glance with summaries available in 24 languages.

Could a man become Chancellor of Germany?

women-governmentMonika Queisser, Senior Counsellor, OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs. Today’s post is also being published by the World Economic Forum

Angela Merkel was elected Chancellor of Germany for the first time in 2005. A few years ago, my daughter, then in primary school, asked me whether it was actually possible for a man to become the Chancellor of Germany. She was so used to seeing a woman in this position that it took a stretch of imagination to picture a man in her place. This shows how powerful role models can be in shaping perceptions and stereotypes.

Next year, we may have three female leaders among the G7 heads of state, along with a male prime minister, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, who has repeatedly declared himself a feminist. But for all the movement we are seeing at the top of governments, much remains to be done to reach a better gender balance in public life. Too few women are still being promoted to senior government posts and other decision-making roles in the public sector.

In OECD countries, women held 30% of ministerial positions and occupied only 28% of seats in lower/single parliaments in 2016. Star performers are Sweden, where 44% of parliamentarians are female, and Mexico with 42%. At the bottom of the league are Hungary and Japan, where barely 10% of members of parliament are female.


Image: Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) PARLINE (database), and IDEA Quota Project (database).

Note. Bars in light blue represent countries with lower or single house parliaments with legislated candidate quotas as of 21 January, 2013. Data refer to female share of parliamentarians recorded as of 1 June, 2016 and 25 October, 2002. Percentages represent the number of women parliamentarians as a share of total filled seats. 2002 data for the Slovak Republic are unavailable.

More and more women are entering the legal profession, but the judiciary is still very male. In the European Union, women occupied on average 37% of seats on supreme courts in 2014, ranging from less than 10% in UK and Portugal to more than 50 % in Luxemburg, Hungary and Slovak Republic. The picture is similar for leadership positions in civil service despite rising numbers of female staff in central governments. Bolder and more decisive action is needed.

The case for quotas

After long and heated debates at national and international levels, quotas for gender-balanced representation in public decision-making are becoming more and more popular. Not surprisingly, they work to bring the numbers up. Mexico, for example, passed a constitutional reform which introduced a parity requirement in the legislative elections. As a result, women’s representation in the national legislature has almost doubled since 2005. Affirmative action measures are less common in the executive but France and Canada have established parity cabinets, demonstrating their high-level political commitment to advancing gender equality in public life.

Apart from the moral imperative of offering equal opportunities for promotion to men and women alike, there are also broader measurable positive effects. OECD studies highlight that gender diversity in public decision making fosters more inclusive policy making and confidence in public institutions. Other studies examining effects at the country level have found that female politicians are more likely to invest in programmes that deal with social and gender equality issues; in Latin America, the presence of female legislators has helped prioritize children and family affairs, as well as on sexual abuse and family violence issues.

Cross-country data for the OECD also show that the more women ministers there are the stronger the confidence in national government is. And finally, how can governments credibly press business to do better on gender equality if they the public sector is not leading by example?

Sadly, however, my daughter’s view of female leaders is not shared by everybody. Data from the World Values Survey shows that many people still believe that on the whole men make better political leaders than women do: even in Sweden, which does so well on many counts of gender equality, 11% have this perception, rising to almost 20% in Germany and the United States and a whopping 68% in Turkey. Without giving women the chance to become political leaders we will not be able to prove the sceptics wrong.

Useful links

OECD Gender Data Portal

OECD Women in Government Webpage

Improving Women’s Access to Leadership: What Works?, Background Report to the Conference on Improving Women’s Access to LeadershipOECD (2016),

2015 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Gender Equality in Public Life

Indonesia, open government and the SDGs

open-gov-indonesiaLuiz de Mello, OECD Directorate for Public Governance and Territorial Development (GOV)

The approval of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015 provides a useful occasion to explore how countries’ multi-lateral reform and development initiatives, such as those in the areas of open government, can support and advance the ambitious aims of the SDGs. Linking the SDGs to broad public administration reforms will be particularly important given their complexity; consisting of 17 goals and 169 targets, they cover a wide range of topics that will help shape countries’ priorities for public governance reform in the coming years.

Indeed, this is particularly relevant for Indonesia. As the country is both a founding member of the Open Government Partnership and simultaneously played a leading role in the United Nations Post-2015 development design, Indonesia is well placed to be a strong advocate for open government reforms, and to link such reforms to other multi-lateral reform efforts.

The SDGs deepen and expand upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and set out an ambitious agenda that aspires to be universal, integrated, and transformational. The aims of the SDGs therefore reinforce the need for cross-cutting and effective governance. Goal 16, in particular, reflects this consideration by promoting inclusive societies for sustainable development and seeking to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels – many of the same goals that open government principles seek to achieve.

Open government policies can support both the substance of SDGs implementation (by directly contributing to the achievement of the goals) as well as to the process by which countries pursue the SDGs (namely, during their design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation).

How countries are already working towards Goal 16: what OECD data tells us

Open government policies and principles are most notably relevant to a number of the substantive targets found in Goal 16, such as those that concern the development of effective, accountable and transparent institutions (16.6), the promotion of responsive, inclusive, participatory decision making (16.7) and the expansion of access to information (16.10). Transparency, inclusion and responsiveness are indeed main characteristics of open government reforms, and OECD research and policy reviews have highlighted their role in promoting good governance.

For example, the OECD Survey on Open Government found that 88% of all survey respondents, including Indonesia, claimed that one of the key objectives they hope to achieve by implementing open government initiatives is to improve the transparency of the public sector, thereby directly supporting Target 16.10. Additionally, 73% of respondents claimed that a key goal of their open government initiatives is to improve the accountability of the public sector, responding directly to the objectives laid out in Target 16.6 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Objectives of countries’ open government strategies


Source: OECD (forthcoming), Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris

The survey also shows that many countries are already pursuing activities to increase inclusivity, another key component of Goal 16. For example, 67% of respondents have implemented citizen consultation initiatives, and 71% are involving citizens in policymaking. In addition, 58% of the countries involve citizens in service design, and half provide for citizen participation in service delivery (see Figure 2). Together, these initiatives provide governments with feedback and new ideas and allow stakeholders to offer inputs, thereby enhancing both the quality and capacity of policies to achieve the intended outcome.

Figure 2: Open Government initiatives with a focus on public engagement


Source: OECD (forthcoming), Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris

Examples from Indonesia

For its part, Indonesia has already made important progress in pursuing the kind of initiatives necessary to realise the governance targets laid out in Goal 16 and to support the process for inclusive design, implementation and monitoring of all SDGs. For example, through its creation of a National SDG Secretariat in 2016 and the establishment of the National Open Government Secretariat in 2015 (which built on previous government initiatives to support open government reforms), Indonesia has already put in place important institutional support structures.

The government has supported transparency and participation through legal protections for whistleblowers and the establishment of Pejabat Pengelola Informasi & Dokumentasi (Documentation and Information Management Offices, or PPID), which serve as essential public resources to handle requests for information. Indonesia has already established 694 offices throughout the country, with more on the way. Indonesia has also made rapid advancements in its ability to engage civil society in public affairs via its participatory forums for national and local development planning (Musrenbang) and a national online complaint management tool (LAPOR). As of September 2015, LAPOR had over 300,000 users, receiving 800 reports per day, thereby illustrating the widespread reach and interest in connecting the public and its government to solve practical challenges.

Additionally, the Widodo administration has supported programs that share the spirit and principles of open government that simultaneously help to achieve the SDGs beyond Goal 16. For example, the Pencerah Nusantara and Nusantara Sehat programs – originally established to support the MDGs – seek to improve the quality of life for people living in remote areas with limited access to health facilities. By training community members to provide such services and expanding the pool of healthcare providers, the program contributes to Goal 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. The program has already improved the health of around 133,000 people. In this case, by applying the open government principle of citizen engagement to encourage a broader range of the population, especially young and rural Indonesians, to become involved, Indonesia is creating a more inclusive society.

The way forward

Other countries can learn from Indonesia’s experience, and Indonesia itself can expand upon its successes. As a way forward, countries seeking to support their various multilateral initiatives by linking open government and the SDGs could focus on:

  • Continuing to develop the links between open government reforms and the design and implementation of the SDGs. In Indonesia, this could include supporting additional institutional collaboration between the National SDG Secretariat and National Open Government Secretariat. During consultation events for the development of the National Action Plans, furthermore, the sustainable development goals can be explained in the context of open government and each commitment in the National Action Plan can be linked with the relevant SDG goal or target (as Macedonia has done in its Third National Action Plan). This will help ensure coherence between the two initiatives and will facilitate joint monitoring of the progress and results.
  • Promoting the use of open data for reporting on SDG achievements (see, for example, Mexico’s open data portal designed to track the SDGs). This would not only support the role of CSOs as watchdogs, but it would foster the reuse of public-sector information in a way that is relevant for the implementation of the SDGs.
  • Increasing the involvement of citizens in the policy cycle of the SDGs to ensure that the initiatives are inclusive and that they fully reflect public needs.

The above-mentioned recommendations are included in the OECD Open Government Review of Indonesia, launched by the OECD Secretary-General on October 24, 2016, in Jakarta. The Review highlights the achievements of Indonesia in the field of open government and SDGs, as well as the country’s remaining challenges. Ultimately, by promoting transparency, accountability and participation, the Review has helped to identify how countries can use open government principles to inform their implementation of the SDGs in such a way that meets the broad range of targets.

Useful links

OECD & Open Government

OECD Open Government Reviews

Sustainable Development Goals and Public Governance

OECD & Open Government Data

Trust in Government

OECD Directorate for Public Governance and Territorial Development

Empowering women is key to improving food security and resilience in West Africa

women-processing-fishRichard Clarke, Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) Secretariat

Food insecurity remains unacceptably high in West Africa. According to the Food Crisis Prevention Network, nearly 9.5 million people in the region required food assistance as well as measures to protect their livelihoods and combat malnutrition between June and August 2016, despite significant improvements since the 1990s. FAO data also shows that changing trends have seen women representing approximately 50% of the agricultural labour force on the African continent, while IFAD estimates that women contribute 89% of agricultural employment in Sahelian countries. Thus, women’s contributions to food systems across West Africa have both widespread implications and prospects for food security and resilience in the region, a subject upon which Donatella Gnisci has written a paper for the OECD/SWAC West African Papers Series.

With equality and empowerment issues featuring strongly on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly through Sustainable Development Goal 5, never has there been a more pertinent time to stimulate policy debate on this subject.

Developing a greater understanding of the subject must always be the first step in the process of policy analysis and design. This latest West African Paper informs the debate by describing the ways in which women participate in the four broad activities of the region’s food system before making its own policy recommendations.

Women are involved in all areas of food production, whether staple foods, cash crops or livestock. Men and women often work side-by-side, but cropping patterns and task allocation are often gender specific with subsequent impacts on crop selection, harvesting and consumption decisions, as observed in Côte D’Ivoire. However, access to land, inputs, credit and training (amongst other productive resources) reveals ingrained gender inequalities that put women at a disadvantage in managing their land. These disparities are exacerbated when education levels differ between genders, as shown in productivity gap differentials in Niger, which has been shown by the AfDB to have a huge impact on national economies.

Women are involved in processing activities across all three broad categories of food: cereals and vegetables, fish and meat. Tasks vary from cleaning and grinding, to salting and fermenting, to cooking and marketing. These post-harvest activities attract both female labour and entrepreneurship in West Africa, motivated by both a lack of alternative employment opportunities and potentially profitable markets. Notably, the fish processing industry in the Casamance region of Senegal is 90% controlled by women with hired labour predominantly male. This has led to the formation of women’s networks in many parts of the region, who, amongst other roles, are seeking to address the insufficient access to capital, technologies and training that remain barriers to greater female participation in the sector, relative to those faced by men.

Women continue to be the pivot of local food distribution systems and often have monopolies on street-food vending as in Ghana and Niger, with preparing and selling food second only to agricultural production as a source of income for women working in the region’s food system. Distribution is in fact often done in conjunction with these activities. The rise of supermarkets in the region can create substantial business opportunities for women in the sector, but only if they can meet the quality and consistency standards of suppliers. This is a challenge for female farmers and entrepreneurs in particular who are often at a disadvantage in their access to distribution networks and management experience in comparison to their male counterparts.

Consumption and nutrition
In West African societies, women and girls have predominant roles in preparing food for their dependents as part of their non-remunerated roles in the community. Women need not only the purchasing power to improve their community’s diets, but also the education to prepare nutritious foods. This is suggested to be the case in Senegal relative to Mali, which has much lower levels of stunting in children despite having a similar level of GDP. Furthermore, tailored health services must be provided to support women who are regularly laden with heavy workloads but put the nutrition needs of their dependents before their own. The risks of this are heightened when women’s bodies are weakened by early or serial pregnancies and from the strains of child-raising, common across the region.

In West Africa, positive steps have been taken by regional organisations such as ECOWAS, UEMOA and CILSS to strengthen the capacities of national ministries working on gender equality. However, greater empowerment of women at all levels of society associated with activities throughout the region’s food system is required if malnutrition rates are to be reduced and resilience of communities strengthened. This necessitates a broadening in scope of current activities to the implementation of multi-sector policies that influence gender relations at household, societal and political levels. In turn, a virtuous circle of empowerment and greater participation of women throughout the regional food system can be generated. Strengthening women’s networks to provide the services required to aid their empowerment appears to be a positive short-run step.

However, tackling gender inequalities at every level and across every sector is required if real empowerment is to be realised. This struggle must not only be a women’s struggle, but a societal one too, embodied in community activities and public policy.

Useful links

The main sector of economic activity in West Africa consists of feeding its population

Moving beyond agriculture: It’s food that matters!

Sahel and West Africa Club Forum: Resilience and Food Security in West Africa

Habitat III and the challenge of urbanisation in five charts

oecd-h3-coverBill Below, OECD Directorate for Public Governance and Territorial Development (GOV)

At the end of the first millennium, the only city that came close to reaching one million inhabitants was Baghdad—an incredible feat considering the total world population was estimated to be about 230 million. Fast-forward one thousand years to 1950. With the world population at 2.5 billion, the planet witnessed the rise of its first megacities—urban conglomerations of more than ten million inhabitants. The first of these colossi were Tokyo and the New York/Newark urban region. Today, there are 29 megacities, the majority in the developing world. By 2030, this number is expected to rise to 41. But, urbanisation isn’t just producing megacities. More than 50% of the world’s population now lives in cities of all sizes, with the figure projected to reach 85% by 2100. Within 150 years, the urban population will have increased from less than 1 billion in 1950 to 9 billion by 2100.


Ready or not

Few cities are well-equipped to handle the tens of millions of inhabitants of today’s largest urban centres. As urban populations rise, physical and administrative infrastructures struggle to keep up. Cities expand, swallowing up once-distinct neighbours, often leaving a hodgepodge of local administrations with varying degrees of cooperation and sometimes diverse political priorities. Coping alone, as a kind of minimal solution, isn’t an adequate response for reasons we will see below. Steps need to be taken to ensure that our cities are liveable, sustainable and inclusive going forward. For this, an adequate roadmap must exist along with the political and economic means to implement it.

A New Urban Agenda

What would such a roadmap resemble? The Habitat III Conference, presently underway in Quito, Ecuador, under the auspices of the United Nations, has an answer. It’s called the New Urban Agenda, a document that sets global standards of achievement in sustainable urban development for the next 20 years. As many urban populations continue to grow at a breathtaking rate, the next years are going to be critical in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 11–making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The OECD co-chaired the policy group devoted to producing the National Urban Policies document, one of the key building blocks of the New Urban Agenda.

How cities see themselves vs. how they really are

Urban areas are socio-economic and environmental entities that go beyond historically defined administrative borders. In spite of this, often, administrative boundaries between municipalities are based on centuries-old borders that do not correspond to contemporary patters of human settlement and economic activity. In the images of Paris and Rome below (high-density areas are red), population densities and administrative borders seem mis-matched. The OECD, in collaboration with the EU, has developed a harmonised definition of urban areas as functional economic units or Functional Urban Areas (FUAs), consisting of densely populated municipalities (urban cores) as well as any adjacent municipalities with high degrees of economic integration with urban cores, measured by travel-to-work flows. This helps to better understand the dynamics of the urban area and provides urban data at the right spatial scale for monitoring performance and providing comparable data between cities around the world.


Metropolitan areas are a boon for wages and per capita GDP

Throughout the OECD, productivity and wages increase with city size. Human capital levels in a city are a strong determinant of its productivity and cities attract and retain more educated workers. Productivity is also higher because firms in urban areas tend to be more specialised and innovative, and the high number of firms allow better matches between employers and employees. OECD estimates suggest that productivity increases by 2-5% for a doubling of population size. This implies that, on average, productivity increases by more than 20% when comparing urban agglomerations of 50,000 inhabitants within a metropolitan area such as Paris. Given high productivity levels and their sheer size, large cities have been making sizeable contributions to national growth, reaching a maximum of above 70% in certain countries. Related to productivity, higher household incomes, as seen in the graph below, represent an important agglomeration benefit.


But cities are often inequality machines

Agglomeration benefits include higher wages, more jobs, public transportation, amenities and markets. But the downside to agglomerations includes elevated housing prices, congestion, pollution, crime and inequality. For many, these negative effects constitute the inescapable reality of urban life. Using the Gini coefficient that measures inequality on a scale of zero to one, 63% of the cities examined had higher levels of inequality than the national average. And inequality is growing. One measure of inequality is spatial segregation, the degree to which rich and poor concentrate separately in metropolitan areas. In many cities, spatial segregation is on the rise. Growth in spatial segregation can indicate poverty traps including diminished access to health and educational services and entrenched differences in well-being.


Cooperation works

Managing urbanisation requires successful cooperation across all levels of government to design, implement, monitor and evaluate policies for sustainable urbanisation. No city can go it alone. National Urban Policies, as defined by the NUP policy group at Habitat III, must strengthen alignment of national and local policies affecting urban development. But, even at intercity or regional levels of cooperation we can see tangible benefits when local governments  can pull back and look at the big picture, as in the cases of regional governance of public transportation and metropolitan governance of urbanisation. It suggests that cities that can get out ahead of the problem through cooperation have a decent chance of making urbanisation compatible with sustainability.


Useful links

OECD, Habitat III and a New Urban Agenda

National Urban Policies

The Metropolitan Century

Making Cities Work for All

Governing the City

OECD & Regional Development