Message to the International Conference on Good Governance for National Development

By Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Let me begin by extending a warm welcome to all of you for attending this important Conference.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security of the Republic of Korea, particularly to Minister Maeng Hyung Kyu, for supporting this international gathering, and for his Ministry’s steadfast support to the United Nations Project Office on Governance.

That office, known as UNPOG, is at the forefront of our development work in the Asia and Pacific region. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) is pleased to manage the office, in close collaboration with the Korean Government. I trust that under Minister Maeng’s leadership our cooperation will continue to grow stronger in coming years.

I regret that due to prior work engagements, I cannot be with you in Seoul – a modern, efficient and dynamic city, a place most befitting to convene this International Conference.

This Conference is focusing on the theme of good governance and public administration for national development. As the United Nations convenes the Millennium Development Goals Summit this September, the Conference provides a timely opportunity to examine how initiatives in improving governance can help achieve the Goals.

Evidence shows that transparent and efficient governance is vital if national development strategies are to be effective. If the bedrock of a government is not sound, the lives of the poor and vulnerable will not improve, and progress in achieving the MDGs will slow down and falter. Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals must be built on adequate commitments, sound policies, increased resources and improved governance and public administration.

This Conference features a number of development priorities and governance. Let me share with you the perspective of DESA on ICT for governance, on which DESA staff will lead discussions.

We live in a very exciting time because information and communication technologies (ICT) have radically improved the way that governments can deliver services to citizens and improve the livelihoods of millions of people.

Today the range of software, internet-based and mobile technologies that exist for public administration is staggering. Many weren’t available to us just five or ten years ago. And the proliferation of ICT products on the market grows daily.

These technologies are not just automating small tasks that used to be labour-intensive and time-consuming. They are dramatically changing the way that governments provide all services – from traffic advisories to health care and public security. They are changing the very foundations and paradigms of public service delivery.

The benefits of these changes are manifold. ICT tools expand the number of people that can be reached, educated and served. They increase opportunities for citizens to participate in their governments. They can give voice to people who were once voiceless because of their geographic isolation, poverty or low educational level.

In Peru, for example, citizens in three cities now use the Internet to learn how their local governments are structured, access information about municipal officials, see how public funds are spent, and obtain information on how to apply for business permits and other official documents. This information was previously unavailable to the public or difficult to obtain; now it can be retrieved in seconds through a customized Web search.

There are thousands of such examples in Asia that have inspired improved governance and public administration across the world. It is vital that governments learn from each other on what has worked well and what has not.

This conference is an excellent opportunity to exchange perspectives on how information and communications technologies can foster good governance and national development. I hope that you learn as much as possible from the speakers and other attendees here and that you can replicate some best practices in your home countries.

In 2012, the United Nations will convene a global summit on sustainable development in Brazil, also known as Rio+20. I have been designated the Conference Secretary-General. Let me take this opportunity to invite you to address, in your deliberations, the issue of how good governance and public administration can contribute to sustainable development. I look forward to your inputs.

I wish you productive and rewarding deliberations during the next two days.

Thank you.