Tenth Session of The Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA)
Welcome Address by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for UN Conference on Sustainable Development
Delivered by Mr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development
Conference Room 3, NLB, New York, 4 April 2011
Distinguished Members of the Committee,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be with you at the opening of the tenth session of the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration.
This year, we will address the question: how do we achieve real results in public governance and thereby improve the quality of human life progress for all?
Specifically, we will consider this question through the lens of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.
Special attention will be given to social protection for vulnerable populations and to public governance in post-conflict and post-disaster countries.
The Committee will also consider how the UN system can better assist countries with public sector performance management.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world continues to face numerous development challenges of which I will only mention a few:
- Some 31 per cent of the employed population in developing regions subsists on $1.25 or less a day.
- Sixteen per cent of people in developing countries are undernourished.
- Over 42 million people have been uprooted by conflict or persecution.
- Funding gaps threaten progress against a range of infectious diseases including measles, pneumonia, malaria and HIV/AIDS.
- The conversion of forests to other uses has resulted in a net global loss of 5.2 million hectares per year over the last decade, despite many ambitious tree-planting programmes.
- While there has been progress in rural areas, half the population of developing regions still lacks access to basic sanitation.
This meeting takes place at a challenging time for many governments affected by the long reach of the global financial and economic crisis, especially in constraining fiscal space and the scope for government initiative and intervention.
This situation creates a dilemma for public policy-makers and administrators challenged by short-term recovery needs versus long-term investment requirements.
Many governments would like to invest for the long-term, but instead, they are now being forced to decide… which offices to close… which services and benefits to cut… which workers to dismiss …and which taxes to increase.
Will governments manage to find a balance, to accelerate and sustain economic recovery, and produce the results people want at an affordable price? It is never easy.
Two other challenges they face relate to items on your agenda today - how to design governance systems for results in post-conflict and post-disaster countries, and how to ensure social protection for vulnerable populations.
Social and economic fragility in the aftermath of a conflict or disaster enhances the need for efficiency, transparency and accountability. Likewise, without these critical elements, vulnerable populations are at risk of exclusion.
The expectation of dual accountability – to both citizens and the donor community - can exacerbate an already complex task.
During the ninth session last year, we heard that the global economic crisis, and the financial reform processes that followed, put public governance and administration at the forefront of development.
Furthermore, last December, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the international financial system and development. This resolution called for good governance, along with national ownership of policies and strategies.
There are compelling reasons for a focus on governance, which is necessary to reach all – not just some - of our development objectives.
Better developmental governance is needed:
- to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals;
- for sustainable development to take root;
- to mitigate the many disasters facing the world, some of them man-made;
- and to strengthen social protection, especially for the poor and vulnerable.
Effective performance management improves results. It also strengthens institutions and leads to better public services, especially when citizens are engaged in monitoring and evaluating programme outcomes.
Sound, transparent financial management is part of the equation, and a vital ingredient in the global fight against corruption, from which no government is immune. Corruption impedes economic development, undermines stability, further disenfranchises the poor and erodes public trust. Improved public governance can surely help.
Last year, the Committee made a number of suggestions for how to make governance more responsive to development.
This year, you will be called upon again, using your expertise as CEPA members, to suggest concrete ways of strengthening national public sector administration to improve human well-being.
Here are some questions which you may wish to consider as you deliberate:
- How do we ensure broad citizens’ engagement, and monitor the inclusion of disadvantaged groups in development?
- How far does the public realm extend, and what do we mean when we say ‘results’?
- How does one assess the impact of regulation and administration on government performance?
- How can public officials help legislators make informed decisions and write laws that promote sustainable development?
- What role is there for information and communications technology, including e-government development?
Your concrete recommendations on these matters can have a significant influence on public sector performance and the achievement of development for all.
Most immediately, you might suggest ways of shaping the United Nations programme on public administration, as well as activities of the wider United Nations system to help us maximize our own relevance and effect.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is you, the people in this room, who know best, the importance of our public institutions in meeting the world’s development challenges.
I thank you all for the serious minds and committed hearts with which I know you will approach these discussions, and wish you a successful, productive session.