Keynote Remarks at Opening of the Peer Review for the U.S. National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines

Brian McFeeters
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC
September 27, 2017

As Prepared

Good afternoon everyone. On behalf of the State Department, welcome to Washington DC. It’s particularly exciting to welcome you to the George Marshall wing of the State Department building. You see, after serving in both World Wars and attaining the rank of five-star general, George Marshall served as our Secretary of State from 1947 to 1949.

His name may ring a bell because it was his savvy diplomacy that led to the Marshall Plan in post-war Europe. The Marshall Plan helped to not only create NATO, but also eventually led to the launch of another organization we’re all familiar with; an organization committed to the mission of “better policies for better lives”—the OECD. Marshall even went on to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

I understand you’ve already had a busy couple of days at the Mediation Academy, which I’m glad to hear was dynamic and productive. To be honest, who wouldn’t benefit from mediation training, both in our professional and personal lives? And we’re glad NCPs came from around the world to participate in the training. Thank you for taking the time to share your stories and engage with us.

As we turn to the Peer Review portion of the week, I can say that our team is particularly excited about these next few days. We’re proud of our NCP policies and processes, and we also welcome your feedback. And that’s why we’re so glad to have you all here, this team of experts. We are committed to the NCP system, and to strengthening our own NCP process.

I have some history with the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, as I was stationed at our U.S. Mission to the OECD in Paris from 2000-2004, right when the NCP mechanism was first adopted. That was unfortunately before the OECD opened its beautiful conference center, so I didn’t get to enjoy that space.

In today’s interconnected world the Guidelines are more important than ever. The Guidelines help global companies drive development and mitigate risks in ways that benefit both the company and communities. As global business has evolved, the global NCP system has adapted over the past 17 years as well, as has the United States’ NCP.

In the past two years, we’ve had three different cases go to mediation—the first time mediation like this has happened in our 17 year history. In two of these cases the parties agreed on a signed outcome document. We’ve devoted more resources to the NCP and staffed up our team. We’ve undertaken an extensive outreach campaign to external stakeholders, as well as to our own diplomats around the world. We’ve revamped and modernized our internal government working group, as well as our external stakeholder advisory board. We’ve worked within our own government to drive a responsible business conduct agenda, as well as at the OECD, joining the Bureau of the Working Party to collaborate with NCP counterparts and drive the RBC agenda globally.

We’ve done a lot that we’re proud of. But that’s not to say there isn’t also room for improvement. When our leaders committed to the NCP process at the G7 and this year at the G20, it was because we knew the crucial role this mechanism plays in supporting stakeholders from business, civil society, and more. And so we’re here today to honor the commitments we made at the G7 and G20, and, frankly, because we know how useful this will be for our own work.

I’d like to thank Denmark, Switzerland, and Colombia for being part of this Peer Review team. I know your deep expertise and unique experiences with your own NCP process will further enrich ours. I’d also like to thank the OECD Secretariat. I understand that your Peer Review schedule in 2017 has been quite grueling, and we’re grateful for you taking the time to organize the U.S. Peer Review. We couldn’t do it without your guidance and extensive knowledge. And of course, I’d like to thank our NCP, Melike Yetken, and her team, who I know have been planning this review for a long time. From crafting major policy accomplishments to the small administrative details, they’ve been on top of everything—and you wouldn’t believe how many forms it takes just to get a telephone in this room.

So again, on behalf of the State Department and our economic team, let me say thank you for your time; thank you for your contributions. I wish you success in the coming days, and I look forward to reviewing the final report. I’d like to close with something George Marshall said when accepting his Nobel Prize in 1953, something which I think sets the tone for the shared values we as OECD members hold.

Marshall said: “In America we have a creed which comes to us from the deep roots of the past. It springs from the convictions of the men and women of many lands who founded the nation and made it great…We are young in world history, but these ideals of ours we can offer to the world with the certainty that they have the power to inspire...” Marshall went on to say “I am not implying that we would attempt to persuade other people to adopt our particular form of government. I refer here specifically to those fundamental values on which our government, like many other democracies, is based. These, I believe, are timeless and have a validity for all mankind. These, I believe, will kindle the imagination and arouse the spirit.”

I hope Marshall’s words can inspire us this week. With that, let me turn it back to our U.S. NCP, Melike Yetken.