Manuel Escudero, Ambassador and Spain’s Permanent Representative to the OECD

Manuel Escudero, Ambassador and Spain’s Permanent Representative to the OECD, was appointed to the post of Chair of the Governing Board of the OECD’s Development Centre in December.

The issue is no longer development as it has been understood to date; now we have to see how we can all work to modernize Latin America


Interview with Manuel Escudero, Ambassador and Spain’s Permanent Representative to the OECD during the presentation of SIGI 2019


  1. The OECD works to tackle the economic and social challenges of globalization. Which would you say are the greatest challenges and opportunities facing the organization at the moment?

The OECD’s Development Centre is the only place in the world where advanced economies, developing countries and emerging markets (58 countries in all) meet to talk about development policy, economic growth, etc. The OECD is gradually opening up to the realities of a plethora of countries that, while not enjoying the living standards of OECD countries, are getting closer to them. That is why the current dialogue is tremendously fruitful: from both the point of view of new development concepts, such as the SIGI (Social Institutions and Gender Index), for example, and from others, such as public-private partnerships.

Countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa, that is, all emerging market countries, and many African, Latin American and Asian ones, are in the OECD’s Development Centre. A level of diversity that fosters and enriches the dialogue, the conversations, the field’s literature and the policies being decided.

What is more, the very concept of development is changing: there are many countries which are moving from low income to middle income, as well as high-income countries that no longer “qualify” for development aid, but that still need some kind of support that is not aid, but rather private partnerships, and investments to make the market work. These are the policies that are being discussed in the Centre.

  1. The Centre also promotes gender equality policies. Do you think the timeframe of 200 years to close the gender gap set by the World Economic Forum is going to be needed?

This isn’t rocket science; we need political will, which is a determining factor to make rapid progress. Whether this is in legislation, eliminating discriminatory barriers against women, or in politics, smoothing the path so that there is no discrimination, in the domestic, physical, economic or financial spheres or in the terrain of civil liberties. In short, legislation, policies and, lastly, a change of attitudes, of social norms. That will only be achieved as these legislative and political changes are pushed through, and if culture plays a very important and determining role, as an all-embracing policy that begins to put women on an equal level with men.

  1. What part does the private sector play in reducing these gaps?

The private sector plays a critically important part because the gaps are not going to narrow by legal fiat. The issue of the wage gap and the work/life balance can be achieved, not just through the political will of government and parliament, but also with the commitment of companies towards this end. That is why we are natural allies and as far as equality in the workplace is concerned -tackling everything from the wage gap to parity in senior management positions- we all have to be seated around the same table.

  1. Another priority on international agendas is concern for the environment and sustainability. What programs and strategies do you think could have most impact on creating awareness about the importance of the environment?

On this issue, we have to look not only at the work of the Centre, but also what the OECD itself is doing. We are in a period of energy and environmental transition in which, unfortunately, the problem is no longer whether we can prevent a two-degree temperature rise, but one of how humanity is going to adapt to those two degrees or more. That is why we have to defend multilateralism, the Paris Agreement and other similar pacts tooth and nail.

  1. Among other publications, the Centre produces economic papers on Latin America. To what extent do you think that microfinance contributes to fostering economic and social inclusion among the most disadvantaged classes?

It is obvious that it is a determining factor that has to be escalated. Scaling it up also depends on the public policies themselves. I also believe that in Latin America this is connected to another highly complex issue: the battle against the informal economy. To modernize the continent, we have to facilitate the trasition of 40% (more or less) of the region’s shadow economy to the formal economy. I’m not talking about development, I’m talking about modernization. I think we have to start talking about this. The issue is no longer development as it has been understood to date; now we have to see how we can all work to modernize Latin America.

  1. Lastly, in your capacity as a writer too, would you recommend a book to our readers?

I would recommend they read an OECD report, which will provide much food for thought. It isn’t a book with a plot, but it made an impression on me. The paper is called “The Squeezed Middle Class” and describes what has been happening in the last 30 years to the middle classes in all developed countries.