When I found out that Global Voices was taking me to Paris and I would have the chance to be among some of the most intelligent and innovative policy experts in the world, well I couldn’t refuse, could I? After embracing the cliché Parisian fashion of gorging on bread and wearing berets—oh, and of course trying escargot—I found myself at a chateau for the annual Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forum. It’s a tough life, I know.
The forum was a chance to discuss the most pressing social and economic challenges confronting society and to collectively come up with internationally-coordinated solutions.
This year’s theme was “Productive Economies, Inclusive Societies” and it brought together ministers, diplomats, business representatives and academics from around the world to share policies and ideas. This topic is particularly pertinent in today’s geopolitical and economic environment, where we have witnessed a global slump in GDP, widespread humanitarian displacement and exacerbating inequalities. I was privileged to have the opportunity to ask questions of the world’s leading policy experts about these issues, as well as propose my own thoughts and research ideas in the public forum and Global Voices private meetings.
The forum hit off with a fervent speech by Angel Gurria, OECD Secretary-General (the ‘big deal’ guy), which informed us that we had become the global victims of two megatrends: 1) technological advancement not pervading entire economies to improve productivity; and 2) higher levels of productivity not being shared across the entire economy. Hence, we have seen the emergence of unproductive economies and inequitable societies. Obviously, how to mitigate this would be the agenda for the next two days.
Powered by free coffee and French croissants, everyone buckled down to discuss and address these pertinent issues. Some notable speakers we met included Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, who proposed ‘design thinking’ for businesses by employing a Kids’ Council to solve problems. Also, Farrah Mohamed, creator of the Girls 20, who discussed how we can close the gender gap in employment.
As part of the delegation, members had to choose a research issue to present a policy report on. My research focused on how the ‘refugee burden’ can be reconceptualised as an opportunity for economic and labour force growth in Australia when examined through an economic lens. It was an absolute privilege to discuss some of my ideas with leading economists, UNESCO ministers and OECD executives, and be considered as a genuine voice on this policy issue.
I think that’s the most important thing I’ve taken from this forum: never be afraid to lend your voice. At first I was intimidated to demand answers and discuss ideas with such notable persons – but I eventually grew confident in my own voice and what it had to say. Every idea is important that we should never let inhibitions silence us. As cheesy as it is Global Voices gave me a voice and I am now unafraid to use it when trying to fix the global challenges of today.