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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.
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Chapter 7: The 1990s: New Challenges

Peter Carroll and Aynsley Kellow


The 1990s saw the OECD facing new challenges, but also suffering something of an identity crisis. It marked the beginning of a reform process that, somewhat like the pension crisis that hit at the beginning of the decade, showed that its internal governance fell short of the best-practice ‘new public management’ it helped disseminate among its membership. This process of reform saw something of a struggle for the ‘soul’ of the Organisation between the Secretary-General, who wanted more autonomy for the Secretariat (an international organisation), and the ambassadors representing member states, who wanted it to remain a ‘member-owned’ entity (an intergovernmental organisation). The 1990s also started with questions about enlargement that continued for 20 years, producing tensions over whether the OECD should, like the OEEC, have a European focus or whether it would become truly global in the reach of its membership. The membership of the Organisation had been static for two decades, since the accession of Japan, Finland and then Australia and New Zealand, but the 1990s saw an expansion of membership to include Eastern European countries that had recently made the transition from Communism (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and later Slovakia) and two from the Asia-Pacific region (Mexico and Korea). In this chapter we consider the threats and opportunities to the OECD by these events in Eastern Europe. We then turn to consider the beginning of resource problems, the introduction of new communications technology and the problems of setting priorities and choosing new directions in an environment...

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