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Estonia proposes President Kersti Kaljulaid as next OECD secretary general

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President Kersti Kaljulaid
President Kersti Kaljulaid Source: ERR

Estonia proposed President Kersti Kaljulaid as the Estonian candidate for the position of the secretary general of the OECD on Thursday. Kaljulaid said Estonia's reforms over the last 30 years can help with the next great global transition.

The Estonian Ambassador to the OECD Clyde Kull handed over the documents on Thursday. President Kaljulaid will give an overview of her positions and vision at a virtual event on October 5. 

Kaljulaid said: "In 2020, we are living in period of Great Transition. The transition from industrial to the digital economy, and from fossil fuel to clean energy. As a firm believer in multilateralism, I see the OECD as an enabler for its global community of developed nations taking an active role in bringing together the best knowledge globally to help the governments cope with these changes."

She said Estonia regained its independence in 1991 and with 30 years has gone through comprehensive, rapid and successful reforms, has built the first truly digital society and developed one of the best education systems in the world according to OECD.

"These are the experiences I want to bring to the OECD in order to be prepared for the challenges we will face in the next decades," Kaljulaid said.

Discussing the challenges she would focus on the need to inspire the member states to consider the potential of digital transformation in achieving common goals: sustaining democracy, developing economy and also saving the planet.

"We need to develop some greenfield thinking for harnessing the power of digital, including rethinking the global tax co-operation from the scratch, knowing that both goods and services markets are global and driven by more and more independent workforce and striving to remove administrative restrictions from these developments. We have to analyse how the tax model of industrial era needs to gradually grow into a digital era, tax system, taking into account the need of serving globally our globally working citizens," Kaljulaid said. 

She also emphasized the importance of a state provided digital identity as the backbone of a successful digital transformation, saying the digital ID needs to be as common and enjoy as strong legal protection to counter falsifications as paper passports. 

Permanent Representative of Estonia to the OECD Clyde Kull said: "The OECD continues to be one of the most important international organisations for ensuring sustainable development, particularly now, where the OECD is providing in-depth analyses and the advice how to cope with the economic consequences of COVID-19 crisis."

Estonia is actively participating in the work of more than 180 different formats of committee work where it contributes and shares its experience in the field of e-governance, education, digitalisation and other areas.

Last month, explaining her decision to run for the position Kaljualid said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had suggested she do so.

Answering a question about how her nomination for secretary-general of the OECD would interfere with her running for a second term as President of the Republic of Estonia, Kaljulaid said: "This campaign will last a year, meaning one does not exclude the other."

The next presidential election will be held in Estonia in September 2021. It is thought unlikely that Kaljulaid will be reelected.

Applications for OECD Secretary-General

The OECD secretary-general post becomes vacant next summer when long-running current incumbent Jose Angel GurrIa will not seek reelection.

The selection process was started on August 1 this year, with OECD member countries able to nominate their candidate from September 1, through to the end of October.

The next Secretary-General will be elected by OECD member countries for a five-year term from June 1, 2021. What could happen in respect of the remainder of the president's term in office as head of state of Estonia, as noted due to end in October, has not been reported yet.

The OECD is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 37 member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade. It is seen as a "rich countries' club" since members are generally high-income economies, with a high level of human development.

Jose Angel Gurria, who became Secretary-General in June 2006, is stepping down in part due to Mexico wishing to boost its chances of providing the next World Trade Organization (WTO) head, after current leader Roberto Azevedo stands down at the end of this month.

From among Estonia's neighboring countries, Mari Kiviniemi, former Prime Minister of Finland, was OECD Deputy Secretary General 2014-2018.

In 2019, the basic salary for the Secretary General stood at €226,731 per annum, or approximately €19,000 per month, ERR reports.

Live broadcast 

President Kersti Kaljulaid will introduce her positions and vision on the development of the OECD on October 5 at noon EET in a live broadcast, which can be seen here.  


Since 2016: President of the Republic of Estonia

2004-2016: Member of the European Court of Auditors

2002-2004: CFO and CEO in Energy sector

1999-2002: Economic Advisor to Prime Minister Mr Mart Laar

1994-1999: different positions in Investment Banking and Telecom sectors

Involvement in organisations

Since 2018: Co-chair of UN High-Level Steering Group "Every Woman Every Child"

2016-2019: Leading the successful Estonian campaign to UN Security Council 2020-2021

2012-2016: Chair of the Council of University of Tartu

2001-2004: Member of the Supervisory Board of the Estonian Genome Centre

Kaljulaid is also a member of World Bank's Advisory Panel for the World Development Report 2021 and member of the European Council on Foreign Relations Council

She is fluent in English and French and also speaks German, Finnish, Russian

Editor's note: This article was updated to add information about the secretary general position and to add Kaljulaid's previous comments about running for a second term as the president of Estonia.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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