Welcoming Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to UN Public Service Day and Awards Ceremony
New York, 23 June 2009

Excellencies,
Distinguished Awardees,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining UNDESA to celebrate the 7th United Nations Public Service Day and to recognize the winners and finalists of the 2009 United Nations Public Service Awards.

The Awards recognize women and men in public sector institutions who have strived to make the public sector more effective, efficient, transparent, accountable and citizen-centred. This year’s winners have succeeded in doing so even in the midst of the current economic and financial crisis, public health insecurities and environmental hazards.

I know that the advocates of the New Public Management have been calling on public sector institutions to produce more with fewer resources. In these economic times, this is no longer an ideological position. It is a practical reality.

Meanwhile, with the decline in citizens’ purchasing power, demand for public services has increased.

In this new paradoxical framework, operational efficiency and innovation are not simply the names of the new game; they are its essence. The critical question is this: when the demand for public services is growing but resources are declining, will the public sector have the requisite capacity to innovate, as well as master risk management in policy decision-making and implementation?

In the 1970s and 1980s, the weaknesses of the public sector were made prominent. The current economic and financial crisis has exposed anew problems and weaknesses in the private sector. There is a danger in emphasizing or elevating one sector over the other. The two must work together to search for and to implement the solutions to the problems faced today. If public-private partnerships have been regarded as fashionable before, now they are critical.

Finally, given the nature of the challenges we face, the search for solutions cannot be left to national authorities alone. Global actors, including the United Nations System, the Breton Woods institutions and global economic groups, and regional organizations must support national efforts to search for solutions to crises – and vice versa. Public servants in the national arena must be predisposed to work with such global and regional actors and engage in multi-stakeholder partnerships.

I believe that the current crises must be seen as an opportunity for us to strengthen the capacity of the public service to advance economic, social and sustainable development.

We can draw inspiration and momentum from the innovators and devoted public servants being recognized here on United Nations Public Service Day.

Thank you and congratulations again, UN Public Service Award winners and UNPAN Knowledge Sharing Award winners, for your accomplishments in putting public service at the heart of development.

Thank you.