Message from Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General:

The OECD has been promoting the measurement of well-being and progress with its path-breaking analysis and data collection since the 1st OECD World Forum was held in Palermo in 2004. At that time, statistics on well-being issues were in their infancy and economic growth was the main compass used to assess trends in living conditions.

Since then, significant progress has been made. The global crisis has accelerated the urgency to revisit our growth model, and explore ways to make it more inclusive and sustainable. The crisis also brought to light the need to look at both our analytical frameworks and our measurement tools, and at our understanding of them. Furthermore, governments and citizens around the world are increasingly recognising that better indicators, going beyond traditional economic statistics, are needed to take into account the diverse aspects of well-being, quality of life, equity and sustainability. It is now widely recognised that, although GDP growth remains an important variable to measure economic dynamics and wealth in a society, it needs to be accompanied by other indicators to explain the full picture about progress of societies and about improving ‘people’s lives’.

In 2004, 2007 and 2009, the OECD organised World Fora in Palermo, Istanbul and Busan respectively, which represented important milestones in the international agenda for measuring well-being and societal progress. In 2009, the European Union’s ‘GDP and Beyond’ communication was released, followed shortly by the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Report which we supported with our analysis and advice. At the time, the OECD was already actively working on the development of a new generation of statistics informing about people’s lives. In this respect, 2010 was a turning point as we launched the OECD Better Life Initiative, at OECD’s 50th Anniversary, which presented for the first time a comprehensive set of internationally-comparable indicators on well-being. We are also collaborating closely with many countries and organisations that have launched ambitious national and regional initiatives in this field.

The notions of well-being and progress are universal and relevant to everyone, everywhere, notwithstanding different cultures, contexts, and levels of economic and social development. As we move from Rio+20 towards to the post-2015 development agenda, policies need to be based on a better compass than the one used in the past. The drive towards better well-being and sustainability measurements will not be successful unless we show that they can lead to better policies. If we want to prevent another crisis, we need better policies based on better indicators as well as a better understanding of the challenges. This is all the more important at a time when we urgently need to re-launch growth and employment in many countries.

I very much hope that our discussions during the 4th OECD World Forum in New Delhi under the theme “Measuring Well-Being for Development and Policy Making”, building on preparatory events in Mexico, Japan, Morocco and Paris, will contribute to building a comprehensive agenda for the achievement of this goal.

I am extremely grateful to the Government of India for hosting us and for providing valuable support in the preparation of this important Forum. An old Indian proverb says “All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today”. Ladies and Gentlemen, that is precisely what we will be doing in New Delhi: planting the seeds of better statistics and better measurements so that we can enjoy better lives in all the tomorrows!

Angel Gurría
OECD Secretary-General

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