Opening Ceremony for the United Nations Public Service Day and Awards Ceremony

Distinguished Awardees,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us to celebrate the eighth annual 2010 United Nations Public Service Day and to recognize the winners of the United Nations Public Service Awards and the United Nations e-Government Survey Special Awards.

Since 2003 the Public Service Awards programme has rewarded excellence and promoted professionalism in public sectors around the world. It is the most prestigious recognition of public service. As you know, public organizations and agencies at national or sub-national levels, as well as public-private partnerships can enter the competition.

I am very grateful to the Government of Spain and the Government of Catalonia for making this event possible in Barcelona, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I hope that both the Spanish and Catalan Governments and my Department will continue collaborating in years to come.

I would like to pay special tribute to the high-level dignitaries that honour us today with their presence, including Ms. Consuelo Rumí, Secretary of State of Public Administration for Spain, Mr. José Montilla, President of the Government of Catalonia, Mr. Ricard Goma’ i Carmona, Deputy Mayor of Social Action and Citizens, Barcelona and Mr. Joan Saura i Laporta, Minister of Home Affairs, Institutional Relations and Participation in the Government of Catalonia.

As you know, in 2008 the city of Barcelona won a UN Public Service Award. The Directorate General for Citizen Participation won for its innovative ways of including the public in policy-making decisions.

We are pleased that representatives of the Directorate have joined us today to recognize the 2010 winners.

I would like to thank the winning delegations for taking time from their hectic schedules to join us in celebrating their good work today. The winners have shown great dedication to upholding the values and virtues of excellent public service. They have provided examples of efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and accountability. In transmitting their lessons-learned they are assisting all governments in devising ways to improve the lives of citizens everywhere.

This year, public organizations from fifteen countries will be awarded with this most prestigious recognition of excellence in public service. The first place winners are from Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Oman, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. The second-place winners are from Albania, Australia, Bahrain, India, Italy, Japan, Oman, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and Tanzania. I congratulate all of them for their dedication and commitment to public service.

The geographic range of these winners is heartening to me. It means that governments worldwide are striving to improve their resources – their human, material, informational, technological and financial resources – for better service delivery and they are eager to share their best practices through this UN programme. It means that the goals of this day and these awards are being met. The United Nations, along with support from everyone here today, is motivating public servants worldwide, enhancing their professionalism, raising the image of public service and increasing citizens’ trust in government.

While all of these goals are important, I would like to emphasize the one related to motivating public servants. Politicians and government employees of all types, from social workers and policy analysts to finance directors, are the stewards of our lives in so many ways. Indeed, most of us here are public servants of one type or another. We may sometimes feel that our jobs are thankless or invisible. Some people tend to forget that our work affects countless aspects of everyday living – such as boarding a city bus, using running water in homes, and enjoying local parks or beaches.

In order for these everyday things to happen and in order for governments to achieve internationally agreed development goals, we need to inspire our fellow colleagues and the next generation of young people to build careers in service of the public.

Many of us went into this field because we wanted to contribute to society, to give to others, and not just “get ahead” in material ways. We need to let young people know that they will be appreciated and valued in public service. These awards help us do that. They can motivate people to think creatively, outside the box. Recognizing and praising excellence in public service, and drawing media attention to it are vital for educating and inspiring current and future public servants.

No where is this more crucial than in the context of the Millennium Development Goals, or the MDGs. As you know, in 2001, UN Member States agreed to work toward eight development goals that include halving the number of those who live in extreme poverty, equalizing access to primary education and improving maternal and child health – among other targets. There is little time left until 2015 – the deadline Member States have set for achieving the MDGs. Some parts of the world have been fairing well while others are still lagging behind.

We need motivated, inspired and fully supported public servants who will work steadfastly in the next five years – and beyond – toward achieving the Goals to the maximum extent possible.

Today, in New York, the United Nations Secretary-General will launch the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Report. It will present the latest details on the Goals’ progress and gaps in implementation. An annual assessment of regional progress towards the Goals, the MDG Report reflects the most comprehensive, up-to-date data compiled by over 25 organizations – both within and outside the UN System – and coordinated by DESA. Please read this report and determine how your local, national and regional projects can help achieve the Goals.

I also draw your attention to the High-Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in September in New York. There, Heads of State and Government and other stakeholders will renew their commitment and realign their activities so as to accelerate MDG progress.

Again, I ask that each of you explore how you can, in your own way, advance the MDG agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The value of the United Nations Public Service Awards rests in the collection and subsequent dissemination of knowledge, experiences and best practices. I hope that you will learn from our award winners this year. I hope that their creativity and innovations will inspire you to replicate their projects in your own institutions.

We all know that personal contacts and relationships are so important to implementing new ideas and introducing change in public service. I encourage you, therefore, to make the most of this occasion by connecting with others. Please talk to your colleagues here as much as possible and stay in touch after this event.

Lastly, please start thinking of deserving public sector institutions to be nominated for the 2011 UN Public Service Day Awards.

May you enjoy this special ceremony and the other events planned for you today.

Thank you.