What is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Formed in 1961, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) provides a means for member nations to further their commitment to democracy and a market economy. Specific goals include supporting economic growth that is sustainable, boosting employment, raising standards of living, maintaining financial stability, assisting the economic development of other countries, and contributing to the growth of world trade. The headquarters of the organization is in Paris, France, and the official languages of the organization are French and English.

The flag flown by the Netherlands, one of the original members of the OECD.
The flag flown by the Netherlands, one of the original members of the OECD.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development grew out of the Organization for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), which had been founded in 1947 with the mission of administering aid given by the United States and Canada under the Marshall Plan for reconstructing Europe after World War II. As of 2010, there were 31 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 20 of which have been members since its inception. The initial members, all from Europe and North America, include Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The eleven members that joined between 1962 and 2010 include Mexico, in North America; the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and the Slovak Republic in Europe; Australia and New Zealand in the South Pacific; and Japan and Korea in Asia. Estonia, Israel, and Slovenia were invited to join in May 2010.

Luxembourg was one of the initial members of the OECD.
Luxembourg was one of the initial members of the OECD.

In addition to its membership, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has forged cooperative ties with 70 countries that are not members. A subsection of the organization — the Centre for Co-operation with Non-Members (CCNM) — is responsible for developing and overseeing initiatives with non-members. OECD also maintains official relationships with other international organizations. These include many United Nations bodies, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the International Labour Organization, and International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.

There are a large number of publications put out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. One publication that is considered a key resource is the OECD Factbook. This volume, published annually in May, contains a global overview of economic, social, and environmental indicators that have the most impact. A variety of versions are available, including print, USB key, web book, iPhone® app, other smartphone versions, and they come with access to interactive maps and graphs, as well as the database on which the publication is based.

In 1947, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall created the Marshall Plan.
In 1947, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall created the Marshall Plan.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments


There are groups out there that are not happy with OECD and other organizations that are similar to it. They feel that OECD has too much authority and can undermine sovereignty. This has been the most common argument against most international organizations. But the concern with OECD doesn't end there.

I have also noticed that some groups and the public is worried about free trade and globalization. We all know that liberalized trade and outsourcing causes Americans to loose jobs. They also say that free market policies make the rich richer and the poor poorer. So there are concerns about OECD because it promotes these policies.

I am not worried about sovereignty because I think that for the most part, these international organizations cannot force a country to do anything if it doesn't want to, even if it is a permanent member of that organization.

I do agree with some of the concerns about global free trade policies. I think that neither policy makers nor economists can really know what the consequences of these policies will be in the long term.

I'm honestly not sure whether OECD should be a full proponent of these policies or not. I'm open to hearing about any opinions on this.


I like OECD's efforts against corruption. I know that its members have signed an agreement to outlaw bribery. It's really cool that it initiates these kind of projects. I think it sends a message to its member states and non-member states that honest business and rule of law is just as important as development.

I would not like an organization that promotes economic development but doesn't care about a country's and their corporations' dealings. I like that OECD wants to make international trade and development a more honest and legal process. To me, development is not development if it entails corruption, bribery and money laundering.


I wrote a paper on the OECD for class. It's an interesting organization because it didn't emerge with the goals it pursues today.

It was actually the Organization for European Economic Cooperation, the OEEC. This organization was created to help reconstruct Europe after the Second World War. After it completed this mandate, the organization was renamed as OECD.

It's mandate was expanded to include many other countries though. Their main concern now is to help developing nations.

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