Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

What is the OECD?

The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) is an international organization comprised of 34 developed countries, with a particular focus on harmonizing policy among its member countries.

While the OECD’s member countries are the most advanced economies in the world, its influence goes beyond developed countries. The OECD has also worked with major economic players such as Brazil, India, and China, and these non-members actively participate in the OECD process with member countries

The OECD helps member countries and partners develop better policy by sharing best practices from member countries and performing policy research as input for policymaking. This emphasis on policy development is a reason that the OECD is often called a policy think tank: it functions as a forum where developed countries share their experiences and discuss policy direction. 

CDEP — OECD’s ICT Policy Committee

The OECD’s policy works are mostly done at committees, each of which is assigned to a particular policy area, ranging from education, to financial investment, to communications technology.  The Committee on Digital Economy Policy (CDEP) is the committee that deals with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) policy, and it has three working parties: Working Party on Communications and Information Services Policy (CISP), Working Party on Security and Privacy in the Digital Economy (SPDE), and Working Party on Measurement and Analysis in the Digital Economy (MADE).

One of CDEP’s flagship works is the biennial publication of the OECD Digital Economy Outlook, which documents up-to-date policy trends and industry practices, as well as what CISP contributes. SPDE focuses on privacy and data security, and this is the entity that penned and has updated one of the most influential principles of information privacy, the OECD Privacy Guidelines. MADE reviews data collection methodologies. 

At the CDEP and its working parties, delegates from member countries and partners, businesses, the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC), and members of the technical community discuss and develop policy and recommendations on many ICT related issues, including privacy, data security, spectrum management, and broadband. To assist policy development at committees, the OECD hires research and administrative staff, called the Secretariat, and they conduct policy research, organize workshops, and draft policy papers.

Since stakeholders may have access to certain OECD documents, positions, and papers only from stakeholder advisory bodies associated with the OECD, civil society and public interest groups need to contact and join CSISAC. CSISAC also facilitates the participation of its civil society members in OECD committees, working parties, and expert groups.[1]

Stakeholder Participation within OECD

OECD has a built-in multistakeholder-like consultation and participation process, known as participation parity. In addition to gathering stakeholders from broad sectors of society and seeking their expert opinions, the OECD has formally recognized groups of business leaders (BIAC – Business and Industry Advisory Committee) and labor unions (TUAC – Trade Union Advisory Committee) as stakeholder advisory bodies.

Within CDEP, the OECD recognized two additional stakeholder bodies, one from civil society (CSISAC – Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council) and the other representing the technical community (ITAC – Internet Technical Advisory Committee). Since the OECD guaranteed participation parity to these advisory bodies, they have actively participated in policy discussions at CDEP and its working parties, issued position papers, and provided input to policy papers and declarations. 

What is the Role of Civil Society?

Among these advisory bodies, CSISAC is made of civil society that has been working over 20 decades[2] to improve the participatory process within the OECD. CSISAC’s mission to represent civil society’s voice on ICT policy was set up by the OECD’s Seoul Declaration in 2008. While public interest groups can join their respective government delegations to influence the positions of their governments, CSISAC is still the main venue to channel civil society’s voice at the OECD's ICT policy committee, as it facilitates the exchange of information between the OECD and civil society, leading to better-informed and more widely supported policy frameworks. For instance, during the 2008 Ministerial, CSISAC published an important declaration setting a positive agenda for ICTs, human rights, and development.  CSISAC has continuously worked to advance the interests of broder civil society, and CSISAC successfully persuaded the OECD to include additional speakers from civil society in various Ministerial discussions.

To join CSISAC, individuals or organizations should endorse the Civil Society Seoul Declaration, demonstrate a commitment to the public interest, and not represent any business, technical organization, government entity, or other institution that sets public policy.  You can find how to join CSISAC here.

Where We Stand in 2016

Public Knowledge has long been a member and contributor of CSISAC and has followed discussions within the CDEP and its predecessor, ICCP (Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy). Recognizing that the 2016 Ministerial is “another pivotal point in the evolution of the digital economy, one in which the economy is in fact becoming fully digital,” Public Knowledge contributed to the preparation process for the 2016 Ministerial both through the U.S. government delegation and CSISAC. In addition to ensuring broad civil society participation and government accountability, Public Knowledge has focused on the future of fixed-mobile convergence, the tech transition, the Internet of Things, and copyright reform.

Learn more here about the 2016 Ministerial.


[1] A particularly visible and impactful example was CSISAC’s work and role within OECD’s project on health data

[2] The role of CSISAC is the outcome of intense work of civil society groups from 1991 forward. Important events in this process were the 1988 Ottawa meeting and the 2008 Seoul Process and Declaration. For details on previous meetings and work of CSISAC, click here.