Fifty years have passed since the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ratified its Convention and hence officially replaced its predecessor, the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC). The celebration of half a decade of institutional activities is the first reason for organising this special section of Global Policy. We use this historic anniversary to reflect critically on this organisation, from its origins, evolving from the OEEC, whose mandate was to manage the Marshall Plan in the reconstruction of postwar Europe, to examine its future, particularly its attempts to transcend its past as a transatlantic ‘club’ in order to become a more global institution, with the aim of better contributing to the governance of a world economy that is shifting firmly towards the east and the south. The ongoing financial and economic crisis only reaffirms the need for urgent renewal of the international economic institutions (Wolf, 2011). But there are two other, major reasons that warrant further analysis of this organisation.