Statement at the Opening Ceremony of the 6th Global Forum on Reinventing Government: Toward Transparent and Participatory Governance by Mr. Jose Antonio Ocampo Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Seoul, Republic of Korea 24-27 May 2005

I would like to thank the Government of the Republic of Korea for its organizational capacity, enthusiasm, and generosity in organizing the Global Forum on Reinventing Government for the first time in the Asia-Pacific region. In the name of the United Nations, and as co-host of the Forum, I also take great pleasure in welcoming our many distinguished participants to Seoul.

It is now my honour to read the message of the UN Secretary-General to this Forum:

When public servants and leaders from across the world and sectors of society can come together to address common challenges, it is a truly positive sign of a joint commitment to improve conditions for world citizens and the communities in which we live.

Increasingly, we find that the new challenges posed by globalization cannot be faced in the traditional ways. Innovative responses and creative partnerships must be employed to reach the people in our countries that have not always had the means or the voice to play an integrated part of civil society. At the same time, people’s expectations for government have grown, in terms of how they want it to operate, what they hope it will accomplish, and the role that they themselves would like to play in decision making processes that affect their daily lives. This is why we have chosen the theme of this year’s Global Forum to be “Toward Participatory and Transparent Governance,” which will provide us all with a framework to analyze these issues and improve the ability of government to develop effective responses in a time of accelerating change.

It is my hope that every participant in the Sixth Global Forum will leave Seoul with new perspectives and practical ideas that can be adapted and taken home to further these goals, strengthen our abilities to meet new challenges, and improve conditions for world citizens. I also hope that a greater understanding of the commonalities that exist between all of our countries will emerge, encouraging us each to learn from the experiences of one another.

Around the world, Member States of the United Nations and an array of social actors, are preparing for a summit-level review, this September, of progress in implementing the Millennium Declaration – including its specific development goals.

The Millennium Declaration made manifest the capacity of the United Nations to generate a global consensus on development. A broad political process of consensus-building on development – indeed, the construction of a comprehensive UN Development Agenda – has been underway since the landmark UN conferences and summits of the 1990s, which continued into this decade.

Each conference focused on a different aspect of development – and produced a specific set of internationally agreed understandings and commitments. Each yielded its own political momentum and constituency determined to transform those commitments into action. But there are also cross-cutting themes that span across all global conferences, and good governance is one of them. A clear consensus has indeed emerged that transparent, accountable, and participatory systems of governance, based on the rule of law, are an essential component of efforts to advance progress in every area of development.

Since its inception, this Forum has focused on various aspects of good governance. Each gathering has generated concrete efforts to reconfigure governance systems; to strengthen institutions for public administration; and to improve public service delivery at multiple levels of society. Nonetheless, it has never confronted the question of reforming governance in such a comprehensive and compelling political context as the 6th Global Forum, where we will address the issues of transparency and participation.

The Forum will consider a variety of methods for promoting transparency. Some, for example, entail means of fighting corruption, such as institutional reform, regulations, and improved oversight systems. Implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption has an important role to play in this regard. Other methods focus more on the accessibility to public information, such as through e-Government initiatives. The 2003 World Public Sector Report of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs found that, worldwide, public administrations are increasingly making use of e-Government as an information tool. Yet, it also discovered that there is vast under-utilized potential for e-Government as a tool for increasing participation.

Participatory governance provides citizens with access not only to information, but also to decision-making and power. It means access not only for a privileged few but for all, including those who are still too often excluded from the benefits of development, particularly the poor and minorities. At the domestic level, it means expanding the very concept of governance, recognizing that the sphere of the public interest is a responsibility not only of government and the political process but also of civil society and the private sector.

Participation so defined is an essential political right. Over the long run, it also serves, like transparency, to strengthen the capacity for responsive and effective governance.

Increasing transparency and the scope and quality of participation by all in the governance process starts with vision and leadership from the public sector – geared especially toward the effective management of our public servants as an indispensable strategic resource. This is the theme of our 2005 World Public Sector Report. Whether at the local level or the global level, we must work toward a public service that:

  • exhibits the highest levels of competence, efficiency, and performance-orientation;
  • curbs corruption;
  • functions in an impartial, professional, and responsive way; and that
  • draws, where appropriate, on the skills and resources of civil society and the private sector.

The concepts of participation and transparency apply equally to good governance at the global level. Indeed, the series of conferences and summits that produced the UN Development Agenda have been an exemplary process of participation on a global scale, involving not only the Member States of the United Nations but also international organizations, civil society, and the private sector. And for the United Nations, the upcoming summit-level review of progress in implementing the Millennium Declaration represents a major, system-wide exercise in transparency and accountability.

This Global Forum on Reinventing Government opens its sixth session in the midst of a watershed year for the UN Development Agenda, a year for accountability, affirmation, and action:

  • accountability for our performance to date;
  • affirmation of the basic consensus and specific commitments that constitute the Development Agenda; and
  • action to adjust and accelerate as needed in order to transform those commitments into reality.

As a reflection of our system wide commitment to the Global Forum on Reinventing Government over the last few years, I am pleased to announce that the United Nations intends to host the 7th Global Forum. This will provide us with a good opportunity to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Public Administration and Development.

I would like, finally, to reaffirm our thanks to the many organizations that have helped to make the 6th Global Forum possible, especially our host, the Government of the Republic of Korea; the Government of Italy, for its continued support to this Forum; and the many partner institutions. With the combined efforts of all involved, I have great hope that the events of the next few days will prove productive, leading to constructive improvements in each of our home countries and in our common effort to advance the UN Development Agenda.