In 1970, the OECD was the first international organization to establish a directorate exclusively for environmental issues. One of the first OECD contributions to environmental policy was the drafting of the “polluter-pay” principle in 1972-1974, which means that polluters must pay not only for the damage they cause but also preventive measures and controls. Even today, the OECD’s environmental work is an important element in intergovernmental cooperation. The task of the Environment Committee is, among other things, to ensure that the member states pursue a good environmental policy and comply with international agreements through reviews and cooperation.
The Norwegian Environment Agency is also investigating how to control and control pollution with economic instruments. It also leads a comprehensive co-operation program in the field of chemicals, which includes agreements between OECD countries on testing and exchange of information on new chemical products.
Also in environmental policy, a lot of work is devoted to investigating the connections with other subject areas, such as trade, development aid, agricultural and social policy and economic policy. According to ABBREVIATIONFINDER, OECD stands for Office of Economic Cooperation and Development.
Labor market, social policy and education
Combating rising unemployment in the Member States is a high priority for the OECD. As the organization has expertise in many areas, the organization can provide member states with analyzes that cover all aspects of labor market issues.
In discussions on employment and unemployment, for example, it has been possible to bring together experts in labor market policy, social policy, macroeconomics, technology, education, taxes and companies. The issues are dealt with by the Education, Labor Market and Social Affairs Committee (ELSA Committee) and its working groups. In Employment Outlook, which is published once a year, the study results are published. There is also an overview of labor market developments over the past year.
Important issues in the area in the early 2000’s were how to combat long-term unemployment, how to improve unemployment insurance and what the market looks like for older workers. Analyzes of migration flows were also relevant, ie studies of how people immigrate to and from the OECD countries.
In the field of education, a longer project on lifelong learning and further education was carried out in the early 2000’s. The background was new conditions in the labor market, globalization and the advent of new technology. The school’s organization was also investigated, as was the role of information technology in teaching. Extensive surveys were also conducted of the literacy among adults in the member countries and certain other countries, as well as of the results of school teaching in science subjects. The OECD’s social policy studies concern the effectiveness of the health care systems of different member countries and their costs. Another important issue was the care of very old people.
Other subject areas
In industry, science and technology, the OECD works to promote economic growth and employment through the interplay between business, science and technology. The development of future technologies, such as information technology and biotechnology, is also studied.
The issue of genetically modified food safety has long been a priority. The OECD also ranks member countries ‘achievements in scientific-industrial research and publishes countries’ expenditure on research in industry.
Financial market and tax issues are given a lot of space. The OECD primarily strives for a more efficient financial market and legal rules for freer capital movements and tax policy. The OECD also works hard to counteract harmful tax competition from so-called tax havens by working for more open banking and tax systems as well as for greater information exchange. By “blacklisting” countries and territories with too weak tax rules and states that contribute money to terrorist activities, the OECD, together with the intergovernmental body Financial Action Task Force (FATF), has succeeded in getting many non-member countries and territories to change their tax laws.
The OECD has prepared a regulatory framework for the liberalization of capital movements. Each member state must live up to these rules, something that is reviewed regularly. Similar reviews are also carried out when the OECD is to assess a country that has applied for membership.
New guidelines from the OECD for multinational companies came in 2001. The guidelines consist of codes of conduct for these companies in areas such as the environment, labor and corruption. The rules are voluntary for companies but have been approved by the member states.
The OECD’s traditional activities also include monitoring of agricultural and fisheries policy, of public administration and regional policy. Transport issues affected by the OECD are, for example, transport safety, environmental considerations, shipping and freight transport.
The main work in the field of energy is done by the International Energy Agency (IEA), which is an independent organization affiliated with the OECD. The IEA was established in 1974 after the first oil crisis. It analyzes energy security, energy technology and streamlining energy consumption.
Examples of other organizations that are more or less independent but work within the framework of the OECD are Nuclear Energy Agency, NEA (1958) which deals with nuclear power, Development Center (Utvecklingscentret), Club du Sahel (1973), which consists of the OECD countries with a particular interest in developments in West Africa, and the European Conference of Ministers of Transport.
Today, the OECD’s work program usually concerns several subject areas and is handled as so-called horizontal projects, ie several units and departments collaborate in one and the same program. This has become something of a specialty and is considered one of the OECD’s major advantages over other organizations. Issues that have been investigated horizontally are employment policy, the concept of sustainable development, the aging populations of the Member States or guidelines to facilitate investment. The OECD countries, together with Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Bulgaria, have also negotiated a binding agreement that makes it a criminal offense to bribe foreign public officials, the so-called 1997 Bribery Convention.
The OECD has also prepared guidelines and recommendations for electronic commerce in areas such as consumer protection, intrusion and security, commercial transactions, tax and duty rates.