Article - International Cooperation

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Introduction

OECD

© OECD

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a multilateral organisation which observes and analyses economic policy trends and developments in its member countries and around the world. The OECD aims to encourage policies which increase economic and social well-being on the basis of a democratic market economy. The OECD addresses current macroeconomic and structural policy issues on a cross-border basis. To this end, it produces independent analyses and forecasts, as well as country surveys and thematic reports on key economic policy issues. It focuses on the long-term challenges of economic policy. This makes it a central forum for the debate on structural challenges. As an international standard-setter, the OECD is also very important for Germany as it strives to create a level playing field. The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (PDF, 1,021 KB) are an important example.

The leading OECD publications include working papers on economic policy, the World Economic Outlook, and policy recommendations on the basis of country surveys that analyse specific economic policy challenges in individual countries.

The OECD builds on its 27 expert committees and their sub-committees and working groups, in which the representatives of the member countries discuss specific issues, share views and elaborate recommendations for action on individual policy fields, including industry, trade, employment, education and financial markets.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has the lead on contributing on behalf of the Federal Government to the work of the OECD expert committees on economic policy, trade, export credits, investment, the digital economy, competition, statistics, regional development, industry, innovation and entrepreneurship, SMEs, shipbuilding, the steel industry, tourism and bribery (the Anti-Bribery Convention).

Market liberalisation, lower transaction costs and increasingly powerful communications networks have made it much easier for companies to invest in other countries. Many companies invest locally to secure orders and to be close to the markets they are developing. The German economy also benefits from this thanks to its traditional strength in exports and to the investments by German firms in other countries. At the same time, these investments are also to “contribute to economic, environmental and social progress with a view to achieving sustainable development”, especially in developing countries.

To this end, and in response to greater public interest in the matter over the past few decades, the OECD has systematically extended its work on Corporate Social Responsibility or responsible business conduct. In 1976, the OECD Member States adopted the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Since then, the Guidelines have been revised several times and their scope widened. They are aimed at any company that conducts business in a participating country and set out important recommendations on labour and environmental standards and on how to avoid any violations of human rights. A system of National Contact Points (NCPs) has been created to raise awareness of the Guidelines and to act as a forum for complaints about violations of the Guidelines. The German NCP is based in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). More information about the NCPs and the Guidelines can be found here.

National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights

On 20 December 2016, the Federal Cabinet also adopted the National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP), which implements the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights at national level.
By 2020 at least 50% of all companies based in Germany with over 500 employees are to have integrated the elements of human rights due diligence described in the NAP into their business processes. They are to develop procedures designed to identify adverse effects of their international activities on human rights and to take measures to prevent them. The development of the NAP will be tracked by means of a monitoring exercise.

For more information on NAP, please click here (in German).

Corruption not only has a major impact on society and public institutions, it also distorts competition. When companies gain advantages by paying bribes, this prevents fair competition, both at national and international level.

OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions

The international community has for decades been working on uniform standards to fight corruption. The OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions of 17 December 1997 is one of the major instruments to reach this goal. The parties to the Convention are obliged to establish bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions as a criminal offence under their national law. All member countries of the OECD and an additional eight states, including South Africa, Argentina and Brazil, have so far acceded to the Convention.

Thanks to the Convention, bribery of foreign public officials is increasingly being prosecuted in the parties to the Convention. Germany acceded to the Convention in 1998. It is one of the leading countries when it comes to combating and prosecuting foreign bribery.

Implementation of the Convention in Germany

For current information about Germany’s efforts to combat the bribery of foreign public officials, cf. the reports by the OECD Working Group on Bribery. The Working Group monitors the implementation of the OECD Convention in the member countries. For this purpose, the OECD Working Group on Bribery regularly draws up comprehensive reports on the status of implementation in the context of evaluation rounds.

In June 2018, Germany was reviewed for the fourth time. The report by the Working Group provides a comprehensive overview of Germany’s efforts to combat foreign bribery. In conclusion, the OECD acknowledges that Germany is one of the most active countries in terms of prosecuting bribery of foreign public officials. However, it also makes various recommendations on how to further improve the implementation of the Convention. The report on the fourth evaluation round can be found here.

Useful information for companies operating abroad

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection provide information about how to prevent corruption, targeting in particular companies that are operating abroad.

The Ministries give an overview of international and national legislation, focussing on advice on how to prevent corruption especially in international business transactions. In addition to proposals of their own, they also refer to further, more comprehensive advice.

Further information

  • Article - International Cooperation

    Article: National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (NCP)

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Further information