DESA News Vol. 11, No. 4 April 2007

Trends and analysis

Experts on public administration promote participatory governance

Committee of Experts on Public Administration to examine the role of citizen engagement in achieving the UN Development Agenda

Participatory governance and citizen engagement in public policy are reflections of our times. With information technology increasing the demand for information, democratization of government, and higher literacy levels, citizens want to have a say in how they are governed. It is therefore timely that the priority theme for the sixth session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration is participatory governance. The session is set to open on 10 April with a welcome address by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Jose Antonio Ocampo, and will continue until 13 April.

“Participatory governance is important to improve the delivery of public services,” says Elia Yi Armstrong, Secretary of the Committee. “Getting citizens more engaged in public resource allocation and accountability for performance and results is essential to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.” An important underlying idea, as indicated by Mr.Adil Khan, Chief of the Socio-Economic Governance and Management Branch in DPADM, is that “the poor themselves are involved in planning and monitoring the services to make sure that they match their needs.”

In light of the increasing importance of this issue to Member States, the Committee will explore the approaches put into practice and the obstacles faced by countries that have fostered the participation of citizen in governance and public administration. Its aim is to analyze the role of participatory governance in achieving the UN Development Agenda in order to recommend policy options to Member States.

The Committee will also produce a compendium of basic UN terminology in governance and public administration. Its purpose is to identify the most important and frequently used terminology in governance and public administration in order to increase consistency and clarity in discussions among Member States.

The Committee of Experts on Public Administration reviews pivotal issues in public administration and governance and advises Member States, the Economic and Social Council and the Secretariat on trends and strategies to cope with these issues. This year the Committee will examine the theme of the Council’s upcoming Annual Ministerial Review – on strengthening efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger, including through the global partnership for development – from the perspective of public administration.

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Coordinating international economic and social classifications

UN expert group to assess the status of the work on international classifications from 16 to 18 April

Ensuring harmonization and convergence among international classifications is the raison d’ĂȘtre of the Expert Group on International Economic and Social Classifications. In its biennial meetings, the expert group examines the status of the work on international classifications, makes recommendations to the Statistical Commission concerning future direction, and plays the role of coordinating body in the realm of international classifications. The classifications considered by the expert group form the basis on which statistical data is collected and published in various fields of statistics.

The expert group also agrees on strategies for updating and revising classifications, and reviews the underlying principles as well as practical proposals to facilitate the convergence of existing classifications. It is composed of members from international organizations, who are custodians and major users of international and economic classifications, in addition to representatives from developed and developing countries and regional agencies.

The meeting taking place from 16 to 18 April in New York will cover three topics, and review additional work being undertaken in revising or developing economic or social classifications. Topics include a review of the revision process for the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-08) and the draft structure for the revised classification, the strategy for the implementation of the newly revised International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC Rev.4) and Central Product Classification (CPC Ver.2) including the development of the ISIC/CPC companion guide, taking into account recommendations made by the Statistical Commission and, finally, future work within the Family of International Economic and Social Classifications.

Under the last point, the assembled experts will discuss proposals for work on the Classification by Broad Economic Categories, and ongoing work in the area of health classifications including the WHO experience in developing a family of health classifications.

A technical subgroup of the Expert Group on International Economic and Social Classifications will meet in New York on 19 and 20 April to carry on with the work on the ISIC/CPC companion guide. The technical subgroup will also work on other tools required for the ISIC and CPC implementation and consider the state of alphabetical indexes and correspondence tables.

The subgroup of the expert group was set up in 1999 with the specific task of carrying out the detailed technical work for the revision of the International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities (ISIC Rev.4) and Central Product Classification (CPC Ver.2).

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The pandemic of rising inequality

Nine out of ten citizens live in countries with deteriorating income distribution, reveals a UNU-WIDER study

The richest two percent of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth. That is the extent of inequality according to a recently released study by the UN University’s World Institute for Development Economics Research, which was presented by one of its authors, Professor Edward Wolff, on 29 March in New York. The event was organized by the DESA Financing for Development Office in collaboration with the UN University Office in New York and chaired by the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

In his briefing on world distribution of household wealth, Wolff stressed that wealth is heavily concentrated in OECD countries – almost all of the world’s richest individuals live in North America, Europe and high-income Asia-Pacific countries. Each of these groups of countries contribute about one third of the members of the world’s wealthiest ten percent.

Mr. Wolff took a glance at the geographical spread of wealth relative to population to conclude that for Africa, China, India and lower income Asian countries, share of wealth is largely less than population share, sometimes even by a factor of more than ten. By contrast, North America has six percent of the world adult population yet, at thirty-four percent, commands a significantly disproportionate share of wealth. The same is true for Europe and Japan.

Among the main findings, the UNU-WIDER study reveals that regardless the size of within-country inequality, most of wealth inequality is between countries. In addition, wealth is more unequally distributed than income across countries, while there are large differences in wealth composition for countries at similar income.

These findings give inequality the appearance of “a global pandemic,” to paraphrase Under-Secretary General Ocampo. As he told the Civil Society Forum last February, “the persistence of economic and social inequalities at the international and national levels impedes the realization of the UN Development Agenda.”

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African Network of the Global Alliance for ICT launched

The Alliance promotes the use of ICT for the achievement of the development goals

More than fifty representatives from African Governments, civil society organizations, private sector actors, academia and international organizations took part in the launch and first meeting of the African Regional Network of the UN Global Alliance for ICTs and Development on 23 March.

The network intends to play a significant role in ensuring that regional views and needs mirror the global work of the Alliance. Its aim is to link local policy-makers, researchers and practitioners to try to boost coordination and collaboration.

The meeting gave a green light to the creation of a Steering Committee made up of three facilitators from government, academia, and civil society organizations from Western, Central and Northern Africa. The Steering Committee will guide the African Global Alliance for ICTs and Development Network with the assistance of the Economic Commission for Africa, which hosts the secretariat. The launch was followed by online discussions on the structure of the Alliance and modalities of action.

In her opening remarks, Aida Opoku-Mensah, Director of the ICT, Science and Technology Division of the Economic Commission for Africa, stressed the need to use the Alliance as one of the weapons for exploiting information and communication technologies to attain the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, in Africa. “The launching of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development in 2006,” she said, “is based on the UN's commitment to building the enabling environment to bring together all stakeholders active in information and knowledge economy to reflect on strategies to ensure the effective implementation of the World Summit on the Information Society plan of action and the use of ICT for development and the achievement of the development goals and other development agendas.”

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Fighting corruption in government

Some 1500 participants are expected to attend the Fifth Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity in Johannesburg from 2 to 5 April. The Government of South Africa will host the event. The Division for Public Administration and Development Management is a member of the international organizing committee and its representative, Esther Stern, will chair a half-day session during the forum on voluntary involvement of the private sector in fighting corruption.

Participants will discuss how best to bolster action for effective implementation of anti-corruption measures, to ensure participation and contributions from non-State actors, and to encapsulate political will and commitment. A concrete look at law enforcement will enable participants to examine measures and legislation to combat corruption and organized crime, with an emphasis on money laundering.

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