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 10: The OECD and Civil Society

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


The OECD’s attempt to develop a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) in the 1990s provoked a vigorous campaign in opposition from civil society. The OECD responded by seeking a deeper engagement with civil society, chastened by the critique that it operated in secrecy. What is less well known is that the OECD had, since its establishment, made provision for such engagement, but it had not adapted to the emergence of what might be called ‘new social movements’ that existed outside the more traditional set of interest groups that had been invited to consult with the OECD from the outset. Perhaps the internet basis for the MAI campaign caught the Organisation unprepared, because it was not that the OECD had been blind to the potential for widespread, unstructured dissent. During the events in Paris of May 1968, for example, Secretary-General Thorkil Kristensen and Ron Gass, later the first Director of Social Affairs, Manpower and Education, attempted to engage the students at the Sorbonne in dialogue. Perhaps the fact that the attempt was largely a dialogue of the deaf influenced the OECD to largely neglect such voices for 30 years, but it did not neglect civil society altogether. Indeed, it provided more opportunities for participation by NGOs than they were able to avail themselves of, and we show that this was so and why this was so in the present chapter. In this chapter we first provide a critical account of the campaign against the MAI, before discussing the provisions made in...

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