Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States

13th Session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration

Ambassador Martin Sajdik, President of ECOSOC,
Distinguished Experts,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 13th session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration. This year’s theme, “transforming public administration for sustainable development,” is particularly timely.

The question of sustainable development is the subject of intense interest in the United Nations. In June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, UN Member States renewed their commitment to an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future for our planet and for present and future generations. They provided the basis for a single UN development agenda beyond 2015 with sustainable development at its core, supported by a set of internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

An Open Working Group of Member States has met ten times since last year to discuss the eventual content of the SDGs. The consultation phase has concluded and the Group is now preparing a proposal that will help inform intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda. The Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing (ICESDF) has met three times on the need to mobilize significant resources and the mechanisms for their effective use. Both of these discussions will contribute to a summit at the level of Heads of State and Government in September 2015, taking into consideration the full range of relevant inputs.

Your work on transforming public administration for sustainable development therefore comes at an important moment.   

This Committee has the opportunity to contribute substantively to the thinking on the role of governance and public administration in sustainable development.

Government leaders have affirmed that to achieve sustainable development, good governance, peace and security, respect for human rights, and rule of law are essential. In particular, they point out that we need institutions at all levels that are effective, transparent, accountable and democratic. But what does this mean in practice?

What guidance can experts offer to policy-makers so that they are better equipped to address the complex challenges of sustainable development?

The Rio+20 outcome document, agreed by all Member States, contains some crucial signposts. I would like to highlight a few here:

  1. First, participation. Broad, active and meaningful participation in processes that contribute to decision making, planning and implementation of policies and programmes for sustainable development at all levels. This implies the need for a strengthened civil society and enabling environment for participation of all stakeholders.
  2. Improved participation depends upon access to information. Improved access to ICT, especially broadband networks, is one important component.  Access to information and judicial and administrative proceedings also supports informed participation.
  3. Public-private partnership is increasingly recognized as essential to sustainable development. Governments have a leading role to play in promoting partnerships in the public interest, responsible business practices and corporate social responsibility.
  4. Good governance is, of course, also underpinned by well-functioning institutions. Transparency and accountability mechanisms should be built into the fabric of public institutions – including in judiciaries and legislatures – as well as the capacity to achieve and demonstrate results.
  5. Finally, good governance calls for combatting corruption. Corruption can divert resources away from activities that are vital for poverty eradication, the fight against hunger and sustainable development.

This Committee has identified three pressing issues for consideration at this session: strengthening national and local capacities for sustainable development management; promoting leadership, innovation and risk management for sustainable development; and invigorating the professionalism and morale of the public service. How does it all fit together? The tie that binds the issues on your agenda to the criteria of good governance for sustainable development affirmed by Member States require your expert consideration.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For governments at all levels of development and in all regions, whatever their particular circumstances, public administration concerns are fundamentally practical in nature. The more action-oriented, concise and consensus-based the advice provided by this Committee, the easier it will be for ECOSOC to follow-up.

The UN programme on public administration for the period 2014-2015 was finalized by the GA last December. Nonetheless, there is room for refinement. I look forward to hearing your views on how the current work programme could best support your work. What kinds of transformation are most needed for government to promote movement towards a more sustainable path? We look forward to your answer to this question.

I wish you a productive and engaging session.