A Study of Organisational Adaptation

Peter Carroll and Aynsley Kellow

The book reveals, for the first time, the origins, growth and complex role of the OECD as it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, showing how it has adapted – for the most part successfully – to the changing needs of its members, both large and small.

Chapter 5: The Quest for a More Active Role in the 1970s

Peter Carroll and Aynsley Kellow

Subjects: economics and finance, international economics, law - academic, international economic law, trade law, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations


In a letter to Sir Alec Douglas-Home about British policy toward the OECD, the British ambassador to the OECD noted that The Convention which established the OECD in 1960 defined its role in broad terms. The organisation was not given a carefully circumscribed mandate or specific tasks. It is a flexible instrument which can respond to changing economic circumstances as member Governments require. As a result, it is undergoing a process of continual evolution. (British National Archives, 1969) This proved to be very much the case in the 1970s as the OECD faced a sequence of major and challenging issues that led to a range of new developments, including: one, an increasing focus on the need for structural adjustment and monetary reform as ‘stagflation’ developed; two, the expansion of existing work and a range of new work in relation to the environment; and three, a major emphasis on energy that culminated in the creation of a new body, the International Energy Agency (IEA). In this chapter the broader economic and political context within which the OECD operated in the 1970s is outlined, followed by a description of the expansion of its work related to the environment and two brief case studies that illustrate the extent to which the OECD was now a significant force in the international system, focusing on its relations with other IOs and its role in relation to the 1973–74 oil crisis. THE CONTEXT The activities of any IO are determined in substantial part by past...

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