Opening message to the special 50th Anniversary issue of the OPEC Bulletin

by OPEC Secretary General, HE Abdalla Salem El-Badri

The Fourteenth of September 2010 is a very special day for OPEC. This sees the Organization celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Few would have believed half a century ago that the Organization would have risen to the heights it has today in the global energy arena. This is because OPEC's birth in Baghdad was a low-key event involving just its five Founder Members in a very different world to that of today.

The oil industry was dominated by the major oil companies and this was reflected in its structure and its behaviour. The industry's prime purpose in the previous 15 years had been to fuel the post-Second World War reconstruction of the developed countries in the then-colonial world with all its inherent injustices - and then to maintain the momentum of this unjust situation without due regard to the interests of the poor developing countries from which most of the essential crude oil was coming.

In the context of that time, it was therefore a heroic act by the Founder Members to come together in the Iraqi capital 50 years ago and decide that enough was enough. They could no longer allow the lifeblood of their economies to be drained.

At first, in the 1960s, little was heard about OPEC, as its Membership grew and it engaged in endless rounds of discussions with the dominant international oil companies, in order to acquire a greater say in how their indigenous oil resources were exploited and hence their national destinies mapped out.

At the time that this was happening, fundamental changes were occurring across the world, and, in the context of OPEC's evolution, many developing countries were acquiring independence.

And so the time was ripe for OPEC and its Member Countries to take some profound steps in asserting their sovereign rights to the exploitation of their indigenous natural resources, in the interests of their domestic economic and social development and for the benefit of their peoples. In the early 1970s, this saw a wave of oil industry nationalizations, as well as these countries gaining a major say in the pricing of their crude oil on world markets.

Since then, OPEC and its Member Countries have gone from strength to strength.

While OPEC has focused much of its attention on the welfare, development and growth of the oil industry itself - together with its commitment to secure, steady supply with reasonable prices to consumers and fair returns to investors - it has also broadened out the scope of its activities to the energy sector at large and, indeed, much further afield than that. Here, I refer to its championing of issues affecting mankind as a whole, most notably sustainable development, the eradication of energy poverty and care for the environment.

In 50 years, OPEC has become a notable player on the world stage. This has not just been because of the contributions of its Member Countries to international oil supply. But it has also been due to OPEC's progress and achievements being envisaged as a beacon of hope to other developing countries. In short, OPEC has shown that it is possible for well-intentioned, but heavily exploited developing countries to stand up for themselves, develop their economies, defend their sovereign interests and make a significant contribution to the global community in a constructive and meaningful way.

Of course, the world today is a much more integrated, interconnected and interdependent globalized arena than it was 50 years ago.

But OPEC's establishment, growth, assertiveness and expanding outreach have served a purpose in demonstrating to other developing countries just what can be achieved through perseverance and steadfastness, when the cause is a just one.

Therefore, as OPEC celebrates its 50th anniversary, it does so with a feeling of achievement and satisfaction, together with the firm intention of remaining true to its principles well into the future, to the benefit of its own Member Countries' national development, international oil supply, world economic growth, poverty eradication and the global community at large.

Finally, no occasion like this would be complete without a full appreciation of the efforts of all those who have worked so hard over the past 50 years to make OPEC the success it has become. These include generations of Heads of State and Government, Ministers, Governors and other high-level experts from outside the Secretariat and, from within the Secretariat, Secretary Generals, Management and Staff of every relevant discipline, enriched by their broad multicultural spread. Inherent qualities have included courage, vision, enterprise, ambition, commitment, perseverance and sacrifice, to cope with the many ups and downs experienced by the Organization and its Member Countries, as these much-valued individuals have sought, day in, day out, to pursue OPEC's noble objectives.

I am sure that I am speaking on behalf of all my distinguished predecessors as Secretary General when I express a profound and heartfelt "thank you" to all those who have contributed to OPEC's success during this time and have utilized all these qualities to the full in the interests of the growth and development of the Organization.

This gratitude extends to the Republic of Austria and the City of Vienna, which have been warm and generous hosts to the Secretariat since we moved to this grand, historic city in 1965. Our new purpose-built premises provide the ideal base from which to meet the many challenges we shall face as we enter our second 50 years in a confident and determined manner.

Let us all now keep our sights fixed firmly on the future.

OPEC Bulletin September 2010

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