Oct 31st 2008

Year of Living with Lemmings

by Pasi Rutanen

Mr Rutanen has had a long and distinguished international career both as a journalist and as a diplomat. He has served also as Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister of Finland. He is the former Ambassador of Finland to China, to the OECD in Paris as well as to Southeast Asia. He was the first correspondent of the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation to Washington, D.C. Mr Rutanen has written numerous articles and six books dealing with international political and economic questions, including the Pacific Basin and China. His specialty is globalisation, and he is a well-known expert on issues concerning China, East Asia and the Trans-Pacific area. He is an expert in advising companies that are going through internationalisation. Mr Rutanen is currently based in Paris and travels extensively between China and the United States.

Now that the rock bottom of the global financial crisis has been visited, it is time to stop running with the lemmings and start thinking.

One of the best places to do this is the OECD.

The OECD has always served as catalyst for restructuring, for learning from each others´ mistakes and for finding innovative ways to respond to the new global economy. Above all, the OECD has used its networking power for intellectual cooperation between its member countries and the power

houses of East Asia, including China.

Just after the Second World War the European house was put in order by the OECD's predecessor OEEC, which implemented the Marshall Plan.

In my own papers I always felt a certain satisfaction in quoting former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher's statement in the 1994 OECD Ministerial. Christopher believed that the OECD "with its unique capabilities, can be a model and an instrument of wider integration in the post-Cold War world --- just as its predecessor was during the early Cold War years in Western Europe."

Mr. Christopher went even further stating that "the OECD can also assume a new importance in the architecture of the global economy, as a bridge between Atlantic and Pacific industrial economies."

The OECD is still the best idea around. it has an enormous networking capacity. It can put together a variety of talents from business, research and governments the way no other organisation can. It can do inter-active expert analyses as no other think tank can.

Today, the political decision-makers wonder how they can explain to people, in everyday terms, the seemingly inexplicable and incontrollable forces that threaten their jobs and their futures.

National governments have to be able to explain to their voters that domestic and international dimensions of policy are today inextricably linked.

The OECD has helped national leaders to understand accurately the present problems, to cope with the complexity and linkages of new threats and finally challenge them to actions. It has also helped the national leaders to conduct coherent discussions on strategic choices and thus promote coordinated long-term decision-making in the capitals --- and to think further than next Tuesday.

There was a time after the Second World War when the Western world had great leaders with vision, courage and imagination. They were able to create unique global institutions such as the OECD.

Today, the most dramatic feature of globalisation is, of course the global financial system and the speed of its reaction --- often over-reaction by players who are not always well-informed. In many cases they are inexperienced "financial cyberpunks" whose behaviour could be lemming-like. They could take us all to the brink. Today, they almost did.


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