The ultimate resource

OPEC Bulletin Commentary May 2016

It has been a common response throughout the history of human societies to look elsewhere for solutions to complex challenges. When man first set out across the Tigris-Euphrates river valley, he went not only in search of better living conditions but also knowledge and wisdom.

It is not much different today. Developing countries of the ‘global south’ — in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East — often find themselves looking to other countries for the newest approaches to economic development and the latest technological innovations.

Sometimes lost in this rush for the ‘newest’ and the ‘latest’ is the recognition that local communities often have a better understanding of local challenges, and that the people on the ground may have some of the greatest insights. In short, it is easy to forget that local knowledge — the accumulated wisdom of the ages — often provides the best responses to some of our most intractable problems. It is thus worth remembering that human beings are themselves the bearers of wisdom, and that ingenuity and innovation can often be found within our own societies and among our own people.

All this could not have been more apparent than at this year’s Iran Oil Show. For four days, international oil companies, national oil companies, and service companies from across the upstream and the downstream gathered in Tehran to renew old friendships, meet with officials, and discuss investment and commercial opportunities. Around 2,000 companies from 38 countries were present at the event, sharing their insights and their know-how with one another. But what was remarkable was that more than half of the companies at the Oil Show were from Iran.

There, on display, were examples of home-grown solutions and inventiveness, of knowledge spill-over and local innovation. And this spoke volumes about the ability of IR Iran to creatively find and develop their own approaches to the challenges of the oil and gas industry. It seems that despite the difficulties of recent years, an entrepreneurial spirit has inspired academics, businessmen, researchers and scientists in Iran to find ways to create their own solutions and to achieve their own technological innovations, building on the already existing research prowess of the country’s academic institutions. In doing so, they have been able to forge entirely new ways of doing things. And from products to processes, robots to regulators, power packs to water pumps, local resources have been found to be useful in helping the country’s industry become leaner, more dynamic and more competitive.

Of course, this flourishing of industry-related innovations is not just limited to Iran. Other OPEC Member Countries, too, have been able to find their own path to a more creative, more dynamic and more competitive energy sector. In this, the role of each country’s national oil company, under the inspiring leadership of their respective ministries, should not be overlooked. And together, in various ways, they have each been able to start putting together programmes of action and investment, research and development, that promises to make each country a leader in its own right.

What the Oil Show in Iran also demonstrated, as one of our feature articles in this edition suggests, is the country’s resilience. That is to say, even without necessarily having access to all the inputs, materials and resources that companies might want or desire, they have still found a way to move forward — and not only move forward but to become more dynamic. In fact, one could even argue that it is an example of how, even under the most adverse external conditions, a society can still find ways to succeed and thrive. One is even tempted to recall the old saying, what does not kill you, makes you stronger.

The OPEC Secretariat has long supported the efforts of its Member Countries to rely increasingly on local human resources and find local ways of doing things. It has, of course, consistently sought to support initiatives that foster communication between producers and consumers and has long strived to enhance the process of dialogue and cooperation that takes place under various bilateral fora — and, of course, under the aegis of the International Energy Forum (IEF).

But perhaps more importantly, the OPEC Secretariat has initiated various mechanisms and meetings designed to enhance the ability of people in each Member Country itself to work competitively, creatively, and productively. In this, events like the annual OPEC Research and Development Forum and the Annual Statistical meeting, both held with Member Country officials, are particularly worth noting.

At such events, the talents and skills of the Organization’s Member Countries are powerfully on display. They serve as a reminder of the innate ability that we all essentially have to respond to the challenges we all face. It is thus particularly worth remembering that OPEC Member States have access to one of the most important resources in the world: human capital. And when challenges abound, as they did for Iran, and when the external environment seems too daunting, as it has seemed at times for some of our other Member Countries, then we should remind ourselves that it is the people in these developing nations themselves who may in the end provide the best solutions — and indicate the best way to move forward.

OPEC Bulletin May 2016

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