Over the decades, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has emerged as a leading international organization on the grounds of its provision of data on economic, social and political issues. These data provide the foundations for subsequent provision of analyses and policy recommendations, by the OECD itself and by other international organizations and governments that rely on these data. Although the OECD is well respected for its data, an advantage that has helped the organization to acquire substantial intellectual credibility, it faces a number of challenges which are serious enough to beg questions about the usefulness – if not the legitimacy – of the data produced. The purpose of this article is to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the data used by the OECD and, on that basis, draw out conclusions on what consequences this has for the formulation of policy, particularly global policy.
Satisfactory management of some of the world’s most serious problems depends on the provision of high-quality data, information and knowledge. The OECD is well placed to provide these services to the international community, and is becoming increasingly important to the G20 forum, lacking, as it does, a secretariat.
More progress is needed to improve data quality for better global policy. Financial information must be rendered much more transparent, externalities must be better accounted for by moving beyond aggregations of national data, and greater efforts to extend data coverage to non-OECD members must continue.