Public administration and development

Since its founding in 1949, Public Administration and Development (PAD) has been reviewing and assessing the practice of public administration at the local, regional, national and international levels where it is directed to managing development processes in low and medium income countries.

The role of public administration in bringing about development?

On the role of public administration, it will address such areas as sustained economic growth, the promotion of social development, facilitating infrastructure development and protecting the environment, promoting public- private partnerships, managing development programmes and maintaining a legal framework for

ROLE OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION IN DEVELOPMENT TO BE CONSIDERED AT RESUMED GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION 15-19 APRIL

19960412 Background Release The crucial role of public administration in development, particularly in developing countries and economies in transition, will be the subject of a one-week resumed session of the General Assembly, beginning on Monday, 15 April. The resumed session represents the first time the Assembly will meet specifically to consider that issue.

The aim of the resumed session of the General Assembly is to explore themes contained in two distinct categories: the role of public administration, and capacity-building for effective administration. Thirteen specific topics were identified within those categories.

On the role of public administration, it will address such areas as sustained economic growth, the promotion of social development, facilitating infrastructure development and protecting the environment, promoting public- private partnerships, managing development programmes and maintaining a legal framework for development.

With respect to capacity-building, the Assembly will discuss improving civil service systems, organizational strengthening, the enhancement of policy-development capacity, strengthening financial management for development, human resource development for the public sector and the development of administrative capacities for post-conflict and crisis conditions.

In deciding to hold the resumed session, the Assembly recognized the important role that governments and public administrations can play in promoting sustained economic growth and sustainable development (resolution 49/136). It also recognized the need for strengthened public administrative and financial management capacities in order to ensure a civil service that is responsive to the needs of the people.

As a stimulant to its discussion, the Assembly will have before it a report of the Secretary-General containing a series of recommendations on strengthening the role of the United Nations in public administration and development, including recommendations for national governments (document A/50/847-E/1996/7).

Recommendations in Secretary-General’s Report

The report of the Secretary-General contains recommendations on the role of policy-making for public administration and development, the focus of the United Nations programme on that subject, the coordination of relevant activities within the United Nations system and support of donors. It also includes recommendations for national governments and United Nations responses.

On the role of policy-making, the Secretary-General recommends that the issue of public administration and development be included as a regular item on the agenda of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council and that the Group of Experts on Public Administration and Finance be redesignated the Committee on Public Administration and Development, which would report to the Council. Likewise, the United Nations programme in public administration and finance should be renamed the United Nations programme in public administration and development.

The United Nations programme in public administration and development should enhance its role as the central depository for materials, reports and non-print media on public administration and development worldwide, the report recommends. Using the latest technology, it should become the clearing-house for all materials on the subject, to serve as a catalyst for a network of international, regional and national institutions and organizations involved in those issues. The programme’s focus should be on action-oriented, practical research on effective systems and procedures in public adminstration.

Tied to its research and clearing-house functions is the assistance the United Nations can provide to individual governments, at their request, in helping them improve their governmental machinery and public management systems for development. To that end, the United Nations programme should be strengthened in the areas of advisory services, needs assessment, diagnostics and substantive support to projects. It is recommended that the United Nations assist governments, when requested, in translating the recommendations of global conferences into detailed programmes for implementation.

The report recommends that the United Nations programme assist in all the phases of the restoration of public administration institutions in countries recovering from conflict and crises, and that it actively assist developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

On coordination of public administration and development activities within the United Nations system, the Secretary-General recommends that a consultative group on the matter will meet once a year, under the auspices of the Department for Development Support and Management Services. It will focus on closer collaboration in the planning and implementation of global

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programmes of information exchange, research, preparation of guidelines, and organizations of seminars and workshops. It will also provide a forum for mobilizing international assistance.

With regard to donor issues, the report recommends that the donor community recognize the significance of public administration in development and provide adequate resources to improve such structures in developing countries and those with economies in transition. Particular consideration should be given to the loan of expertise to carry out practical research and advisory missions. To that end, the Secretary-General recommends the establishment of a trust fund for United Nations activities in public administration and development.

The Secretary-General highlights a number of recommendations for governments made by the Group of Experts on Public Administration and Finance, which held its twelfth meeting from 31 July to 11 August 1995. Following each recommendation is a projected United Nations response (document A/50/525- E/1995/122, annex).

The Group states that national governments should strengthen the policy, advisory and administrative capacity in critical areas, while the United Nations programme can organize professional exchanges, arrange professional training programmes and prepare case studies on policy matters for dissemination.

According to the Group, in the process of restructuring public administration, government institutions should be encouraged to develop strategic plans and monitor their performance, while the United Nations would continue to undertake comparative studies on restructuring and disseminate them on a regular basis.

Leaders should invest in people, upgrading the capacity of national training institutions to develop a core group of professional trainers, the report states. The United Nations would seek to create and sustain momentum for a global exchange of information on human resource development.

Governments are asked to establish clear goals, encourage operational flexibility, measure results impartially and develop appropriate incentives, while the United Nations would continue offering advisory services in areas including the management of change, performance management and measurement, and information technology.

Public administration services should be provided to reflect ever- changing needs of the citizens they serve, the Group states. The United Nations can assist in developing state-of-the-art technological communication networks.

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Furthermore, governments should encourage financial management at the grass-roots level, the Group states. For its part, the United Nations would assist governments in creating and strengthening national capacities in fiscal policy analysis and economic management, and in promoting a proper environment for capital flows for investment, private sector development, transparency and accountability.

According to the Group, governments should seek objective evaluations of their privatization programmes to establish the appropriate place and timing of privatization in structural adjustment programmes; they should also pay greater attention to performance improvement in parastatals. For its part, the United Nations shall, at the request of the government, arrange for such evaluations, assisting governments in defining the role and scope of their public, private and combined sectors.

While governments should provide an encouraging environment for small and medium-sized enterprises, the report states, the United Nations would assist countries by operating an information clearing-house, developing case studies of successes and failures and providing technical support.

National governments should assume the responsibility for establishing environmental standards for all infrastructure policies, the Group states. The United Nations would assist governments in administrative capacity- building and infrastructure management. Codification of laws must be undertaken to facilitate access to legal guarantees, with the United Nations assisting governments to organize a legal framework of public administration and strengthen judicial supervision of public administration.

For countries recovering from crisis and conflict, the development of both immediate and transitional or long-term strategies is recommended. The United Nations would provide special assistance to countries in post-conflict situations and to collapsed States, to help restore effective public administration.

Governments should promote the use of aid as a stimulant for development and economic growth in civil society, the Group states. The United Nations would provide technical assistance to strengthen institutional machinery capable of evaluating the consistency between development project outcomes and such macro-objectives as growth, employment and income distribution.

Related Meetings, Activities

A number of activities are also being carried out in connection with the resumed session. Among these, Cabinet ministers and other high-ranking officials from each of the major regions will hold an executive session to discuss their experiences in restructuring governments. An International Technical Forum was held on 11 and 12 April at Headquarters, the site of a

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related Internet Exposition until 19 April. (For more information, see Note to Correspondents No. 5329, of 10 April.)

In the lead-up to the resumed session, regional meetings were held in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Central and Eastern Europe. The impetus for the session arose from the June 1994 Tangier Declaration of the Pan-African Conference of Ministers of the Civil Service, which called for the convening of a global conference on public administration and development.