Mario López-Roldán has worked extensively in the field of Euro-Latin American relations and economic development initiatives over the course of his career and is currently Head of the OECD’s Speech Writing and Intelligence Outreach Unit in the Office of the Secretary General. Earlier this month, we sat down with López Roldán to discuss globalisation, corporate transparency, and how the OECD is working to engage civil society.
Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute: In 2017, Secretary-General Angel Gurría wrote that the processes of globalisation needed to be shaken up, rather than patched. Can you give some concrete examples of measures that the OECD has taken or plans to take to make globalisation more egalitarian, specifically when it comes to education and employment opportunities?
Mario López Roldán: Over the past decade, the OECD has focused increasingly on social inclusion. The Secretary-General has led a whole-of-the-organisation effort to find out why the economic systems that we have created are leaving so many people behind, concentrating income in a small minority and promoting high levels of inequality. In recent years, we launched a new effort to try to explain why the type of globalisation that has developed on the base of those systems, while creating so much progress, it is also excluding large parts of our populations from the largest benefits of global economic integration. With this concern in mind, the OECD decided to focus its 2017 OECD Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM), under the Chairmanship of Denmark and the Vice-Chairmanship of Australia and the United Kingdom, on the challenge of ‘Making Globalisation Work: Better Lives for All’. That meeting gathered a remarkable number of Ministers from Member and partner countries that endorsed our ongoing work on inclusive and sustainable growth, and gave new strong mandates to the OECD to Make the Digital Transformation Work for Growth and Well-being; develop a Framework for Policy Action on Inclusive Growth; and Ensure the Effective Integration of Vulnerable Migrant Groups, among others.
This work added to an already intense agenda focused on social inclusion, driven by major reports and initiatives on reducing inequalities, fixing globalisation to make it work for all, designing effective taxes on wealth, repairing social mobility, and strengthening the nexus between productivity and inclusiveness. Education is one of the main tools to empower the people to help them make the most of globalisation. This is why the OECD started working with Member countries through National Skills Strategies, analysis on Educational Opportunities for All, and policy recommendations for the education of migrants and refugees to improve integration. Another important OECD major initiative that will help to bring about a more inclusive globalisation is the Going Digital project, which will help countries foster social inclusion through digital technologies. The first outcomes of this work will be presented at the Going Digital Summit on 11-12 March.
To shake up and fix globalisation it is also essential to question and revise the traditional neoliberal economic policies that have contributed to producing this type of globalisation. This has been one of the priorities of the Secretary-General. That is why, in 2012, we created the New Approaches to Economic Challenges programme, the NAEC, which is now permeating an important part of the debate and work across the OECD with fresh, critical, and more complex economic theories and perspectives. We are also working intensively on new policies, standards, and frameworks that can make globalisation more respectful of the environment, impregnating our economic analysis and advice with environmental considerations, commitments, and priorities.
DOC: Can you talk a bit about what the OECD is doing to hold companies accountable and ensure transparency when it comes to working with subsidiaries or contracted local companies in developing countries (in terms of wages, healthcare, etc.) Are there any good examples of how this has worked well?
MLR: The OECD is one of the main sources of international standards and policy recommendations to make transnational corporations more transparent, responsible, and accountable. Our work on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), in collaboration with the G20, is making it more and more difficult for transnational corporations to play with financial and fiscal engineering to hide or ‘camouflage’ their profits to avoid paying taxes. BEPS provides countries with specific tools – ‘action points’ – to combat these challenges. They include: aligning transfer pricing outcomes with value creation, mandatory disclosure rules, and making dispute resolution mechanisms more effective, among others.
Moreover, our work on Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes is empowering governments with the necessary legal, administrative and IT tools to effectively verify the compliance of their taxpayers, especially the big corporations; we now have more than 100 jurisdictions on board and this is further strengthening the international community’s fight against tax evasion by private businesses. On the base of this work, by June 2018, jurisdictions around the globe have identified €93 billion in additional revenue (tax, interest, and penalties) from such initiatives.
The OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions – also known as the Anti-Bribery Convention – is another key tool in our fight against corruption. It establishes legally binding standards to criminalise bribery of public officials by transnational corporations in international business transactions, providing for a host of related measures that make this effective. It is the first and only international anti-corruption instrument focused on the ‘supply side’ of the bribery transaction. According to our latest enforcement data of the Anti-Bribery Convention to-date, 560 individuals and 184 entities have received criminal sanctions for foreign bribery and at least 125 of the sanctioned individuals have been sentenced to prison. At this time, over 500 investigations are ongoing in 30 Parties to the Convention.
The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are another effective tool to improve the transparency, responsibility and accountability of corporations. These Guidelines include recommendations addressed by governments to multinational enterprises operating in or from adhering countries. They provide non-binding principles and standards for responsible business conduct (RBC) in a global context consistent with applicable laws and internationally recognised standards. This is the only multilateral and comprehensive code of responsible business conduct. The OECD’s work on RBC, based on the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises has been recently recognised in a variety of high-level political contexts, like the G20 and the OECD Ministerial Council Meetings. The National Contact Points (NCPs) in each adherent country promote the Guidelines and contribute to the resolution of issues relating to the implementation of the Guidelines in specific instances. In 2017, 40% of the concluded specific instances resulted in some changes to company policy or operations to better meet recommendations of the Guidelines (compared to 37% in 2016).
DOC: How does the OECD view the role of citizen involvement in ‘disrupting’ current trends of globalisation? What avenues do citizens and civil society have for taking part in decision-making?
MLR: International organisations cannot continue to be detached from the daily reality of the people. The communication, collaboration, and partnership with civil society has become a top priority for the OECD. That is why we interact and engage with civil society in multiple ways: constant meetings between the Secretary-General, the Chief of Staff, and Sherpas with representatives of civil society, advisory committees that represent business and trade unions (BIAC and TUAC), regular consultations, as well as conferences and workshops where civil society organisations are welcome to contribute. There are numerous opportunities for civil society to influence ongoing and upcoming OECD work. For example, in January and February 2019, we are holding public consultations and calls for contributions on OECD projects on Public Sector Innovation, Open Government, and Anti-Corruption and Integrity Guidelines for State-Owned Enterprises, among others.
We also engage intensely with civil society organisations during our annual OECD Forum and Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM). This is unique. Every year, over the course of three days we hold our OECD Week. During the first two days of OECD Week, we organise the OECD Forum and invite the heads and representatives of relevant NGOs, companies, think-tanks, associations, universities, entrepreneurial incubators, writers, artists, media, to participate in presentations, panels, debates, press conferences, meet-the-author sessions, Idea-labs, etc., and to interact with Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Parliamentarians and Experts of the governments of our Member and partner countries, who are at our premises participating in the first day of our annual MCM. This is a fascinating cross-pollination exercise through which civil society has the opportunity to communicate and debate with policymakers. In 2018, the OECD Forum attracted 4000 participants from 73 countries, enhanced media coverage, with over 200 articles and 9000 tweets written about the event. In 2019, the OECD Forum will take place on 20 and 21 May on the topic of “A world in e-motion” and I invite you all to participate.
One last important initiative which has helped the OECD to connect its work to civil society is the initiative called ‘The Coffees with the Secretary General’. This is a very healthy exercise for our Organisation’s thinking. Every year, we invite leading, cutting-edge thinkers and personalities who will challenge us, inspire us and bring new ideas to the OECD. Our guests are from very different walks of life, we have invited economists, historians, a photographer, scientists and sports personalities, among many others.
All these and other activities are becoming even more important today, as our countries face a broad and deep crisis of trust in governments, corporations, banks, parliaments, political parties, but probably also in international organisations. We need to re-democratise international organisations. We need to bring them closer to the people, to their dreams and fears, their real needs and limitations. We need to do a better job explaining what we do and why we do it. This is what we are trying to do at the OECD through all these engagements with civil society, but also by offering our studies and reports for free consultation on the web, by strengthening our communications strategy to better explain our key initiatives and programmes, by partnering with universities to engage our experts in their courses and their students in our Internship programmes. These are just a few examples. With these types of actions we have improved our relations with civil society, but we need to do more. We always need to do more, we always need to improve. That’s the philosophy of our Secretary-General, and it’s my philosophy also. Open organisations prevail and succeed, closed organisations tend to weaken and fade. The OECD is opening more and more, that’s one of the key reasons why we succeed.
Mario Lopez-Roldan is Head of the Speech Writing and Intelligence Outreach Unit (SWINT) in the Office of the Secretary General. He is the OECD Head Speech Writer since 2007. He is also Technical Secretary of the OECD-Greece Joint Steering Committee, helping to coordinate the support to Greece with their structural reforms. He assists the Secretary-General in the Cabinet’s relations with Mexico.
Before working at the OECD, he directed the Euro-Latin-American economic cooperation think-tank EUROALLIANCE; was Deputy Permanent Representative of Mexico to the OECD; and Economic Counsellor of the Mexican Embassy in Paris. He has also worked in the Embassies of Mexico in Spain and the UK and held positions in the Mexican Presidency and the Mexican Ministry of External Affairs on the economic association between Mexico and Europe.
He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from UDLA Mexico City and a Master’s Degree on European Integration from the University of Cambridge. He also did PhD studies in International Economics and Development at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.