The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a multilateral organization with 38 member countries working together to promote economic growth, prosperity, and sustainable development. Headquartered in Paris, France, the OECD was established in 1961 as the successor to the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC), originally created to implement the Marshall Plan in the wake of World War II.
The OECD provides a unique forum and knowledge hub for data and analysis, exchange of experiences, best-practice sharing, and advice on public policies and international standard-setting. The OECD covers a diversity of key policy areas that affect the economic and social well-being of Americans, both at home and abroad, from improving economic performance and creating jobs to fostering strong education and fighting international tax evasion. Together with its associated institutions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), the OECD helps both members and non-member countries reap the benefits and confront the challenges of a global economy.
OECD Organizational Structure
The OECD Council is the organization’s overarching decision-making body. It is composed of ambassadors from Member countries and the European Commission and is chaired by the Secretary-General. It meets regularly to discuss key work of the Organization, share concerns and take decisions by consensus. Once a year, the OECD Council meets for the Ministerial Council Meeting, which brings together heads of government, economy, trade and foreign ministers from Member countries to monitor and set priorities for our work, discuss the global economic and trade context, and delve further into issues such as the budget or the accession process.
The OECD works through more than 300 committees, expert and working groups which cover almost all areas of policy making. Our committees propose solutions, assess data and policy successes, and review policy actions among Member countries. They cover the same issue areas as government ministries, such as education, finance, trade, environment, development, and liaise with country-level experts. Committee participants come from Member and partner countries, and represent state bodies, academia, business and civil society. Around 40 000 people take part in these meetings every year. Some discussions can evolve into negotiations in which all OECD countries define and follow common global rules.
The OECD Secretariat carries out the work of the OECD. It is led by the Secretary-General and composed of directorates and divisions that work with policy makers and shapers in each country, providing insights and expertise to help guide policy making based on evidence in close coordination with committees. Directorates report to the Secretary-General. The 3 300 employees of the Secretariat include economists, lawyers, scientists, political analysts, sociologists, digital experts, statisticians and communication professionals. In addition to its Headquarters in Paris, France, the OECD also has centers in Berlin, Mexico, Tokyo and Washington D.C., which are part of the OECD’s public affairs and communications team.
OECD Directorates & Key Committees
The following is a list of OECD directorates and most, but not all, of its principal committees. There are over 300 committees at work in all.
1. Development and Cooperation Directorate
The OECD Development Center is a research-oriented body that promotes better understanding of developing countries’ economic and social problems and shares the knowledge, information and experience gained by OECD members with the development process.
The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) executes the development functions of the OECD. It is an important forum within the OECD in which donor countries coordinate policies and seek answers to common problems on a variety of development issues. American participation in the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) is led by USAID and the committee is co-chaired by the United States delegate to the DAC.
2. Economics Department
The Economics Department examines economic and financial developments in OECD countries and in selected non-member economies. The department also produces the twice-yearly OECD Economic Outlook and supports the work of the Economic and Development Review Committee (EDRC) and the Economic Policy Committee.
American participation in the EDRC is led by the Department of State, the Council of Economic Advisors, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. The Council of Economic Advisors also holds chairmanship of the Economic Policy Committee.
3. Directorate for Education
The Education directorate helps member countries achieve high-quality learning for all that contributes to personal development, sustainable economic growth and social cohesion. It focuses on how to evaluate and improve outcomes of education – to promote quality teaching and to build social cohesion through education.
The directorate produces the annual Education at a Glance; the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) that provides a direct assessment every three years of the levels of achievement of 15-year-olds; and the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), which includes the Survey of Adult Skills.
4. Directorate for Employment, Labor and Social Affairs
The Directorate for Employment, Labor and Social Affairs oversees work on the inter-related policy areas that can promote employment and prevent social exclusion. Its activities are focused on four main themes: employment and training, health, international migration and social issues.
American participation in the Employment, Labor and Social Affairs Committee (ELSA) is led by the Department of Labor.
5. Center for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development
The OECD’s Center for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development fosters an entrepreneurial society, capable of innovating, creating jobs and seizing the opportunities provided by globalization while helping to promote sustainable growth, integrated development and social cohesion.
American participation in the Cooperative Action on Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) committee is led by the Department of Labor.
6. Environment Directorate
The Environment directorate helps member countries to design and implement efficient, effective policies to address environmental problems and to manage natural resources in a sustainable way. The directorate produces regular peer reviews of member countries environmental performance.
7. Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs
The Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs promotes policies and best practices designed to keep markets open, competitive and sustainable while combating market abuses and economic crime through international cooperation. The directorate supports the work of five bodies: Insurance and Private Pensions Committee, Committee on Financial Markets, Competition Committee, Steering Group on Corporate Governance, and the Investment Committee.
A separate intergovernmental body, The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) develops and promotes policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing. U.S. representation in FATF is led by the Department of Treasury.
8. Global Relations
The aim of the OECD’s Global Relations is to create a community of economies which are committed to best policy practices and to finding joint solutions for common challenges, guided by the Organization’s evidence-based policy advice and standards. Global Relations also advances the OECD’s relationships with five Key Partners: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and South Africa.
9. Public Affairs and Communications Directorate
The OECD attaches great importance to cooperation and communication with business, labor, parliamentarians, civil society, media and the general public. The Public Affairs Division is the Organization’s focal point for this cooperation in the OECD’s efforts to build trust in public institutions and promote understanding of economic and social change.
The Public Affairs directorate organizes annual consultations in collaboration with the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC), Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC), Council of Europe and Economic Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and with civil society at large through the annual OECD Forum.
10. Public Governance and Territorial Development Directorate
The Public Governance and Territorial Development Directorate helps countries to adapt their government systems and policies to the changing needs of society. This involves improving government efficiency while protecting and promoting society’s longer-term governance values. In addition, the Working Party on Regulatory Reform looks at issues of regulation across a range of member and non-member countries and industries.
The U.S. participation in the Public Governance Committee is led by the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Commerce represents the United States in the Territorial Development Committee.
11. Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation
The Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation develops evidence-based policy advice on the contribution of science, technology and industry to societal well-being and economic growth. It leads OECD work on the translation of science, technology and knowledge into innovation.
United States participation in the science and technology committees is led by the National Science Foundation.
12. Statistics Directorate
Statistics underpin the whole fabric of the OECD’s work and the Organization has become one of the world’s largest and most reliable sources of statistical, economic and social data. This data is standardized to make them internationally comparable and are published in both print and electronic form.
U.S. representation on the Statistics Committee is led by the Office of Management and Budget.
13. Center for Tax Policy and Administration
The Center for Tax Policy and Administration examines all aspects of taxation, including international and domestic tax issues, direct and indirect taxes and tax policy and administration.
U.S. representation on the Committee on Fiscal Affairs is led by the Treasury Department.
14. Trade and Agriculture Directorate
The Trade and Agriculture Directorate’s work supports a strong, rules-based multilateral trading system that will maintain momentum for progressive trade liberalization and rules-strengthening while contributing to rising standards of living and sustainable development in OECD and non-OECD countries.
U.S. participation in the OECD’s Trade Committee is led by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).
The Directorate for Trade and Agriculture provides analysis and advice to help governments design and implement policies that achieve their goals in effective, efficient and least trade-distorting ways. The work covers four broad areas: agricultural policy reform, agricultural trade liberalization, food security, and fisheries.
The U.S. participation in the Committee for Agriculture is led by the Department of Agriculture, while the Department of State leads the U.S. delegation on Food Security issues. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), part of the Department of Commerce, leads the U.S. delegation to the Committee for Fisheries.
Other OECD Bodies
1. Center for Educational Research and Innovation
The Center for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) is a pioneer in educational research. Its primary aims are to encourage better links between research, policy innovation and practice, and enrich knowledge about education trends internationally. CERI works closely with the Education Directorate.
U.S. participation in CERI is provided by the Department of Education.
2. International Energy Agency (IEA)
The IEA acts as an energy advisor for member states in their effort to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for their citizens. Its role is to coordinate joint measures in times of oil supply emergencies, and its policy-making focuses on energy security, economic development and environmental protection.
U.S. participation in the IEA is led by the Department of Energy.
3. Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA)
The mission of the NEA is to assist its members in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for the safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
United States participation is led by the Department of Energy.
4. Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC)
The Sahel and West Africa Club is the only international platform entirely dedicated to regional issues. Its mission is to help build more effective policies to improve peoples’ living conditions in West Africa.
U.S. participation in SWAC is provided by USAID.
Business Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC)
BIAC is an independent organization officially recognized by the OECD as being representative of the business community in Member countries. Its role is to provide the OECD and its members with constructive comments and advice based on the practical experience of its members.
The U.S. is represented at BIAC by the U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB). BIAC is currently chaired by a member of the United States business community.
Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC)
TUAC is an international trade union organization that has consultative status with the OECD and its various committees. It acts as an interface for labor unions with the OECD.
United States representation at TUAC is led by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) which currently holds the TUAC presidency.