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Why was the Programme established?

These are challenging times for governments around the world. In the last half of the twentieth century, and more even so at the beginning of the new millennium, Governments have been under pressure to respond to the demands from their citizens and to the increasing complexity and change in their global environments.

On the one hand, governments need to respond to a number of alarming social and economic issues, including poverty; spread of diseases (particularly severe in the case of HIV/AIDS); unemployment; poor education systems; and environmental degradation. On the other hand, countries are being forced to readjust their policies and skills to effectively integrate into the world economy. To meet these challenges, the United Nations adopted in the year 2000 the Millennium Declaration, which was followed by the development of specific targets encapsulated in the Millennium Development Goals.

While the challenges are many, so are the opportunities for innovation in public administration. In fact, it has been gradually recognized that public administration has a crucial role to play in meeting these challenges.

The myth that markets and the private sector alone can accelerate development, spearhead growth, eliminate inequalities and make life better for all has been replaced by bitter disappointment, and therefore people are looking back at government and at public administration as a catalytic force.

Therefore, public administration cannot remain its old self. It needs to be revitalized, to become more proactive, more efficient, more accountable, and especially more service-oriented.

How a country's public sector is managed and how it operates is, arguably, one of the most important factors in the successful implementation of its national development agenda. Yet managing the public sector in today's environment of constant change has become a demanding challenge for policy makers, service delivery managers and civil servants – a challenge that is especially daunting for those in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.

Public administration needs to be transformed into a responsive instrument to meet the needs of all citizens, including the poor, and to be accountable to the most vulnerable populations. To accomplish this transformation, governments need to innovate their organizational structure, practices, capacities, and how they mobilize, deploy and utilize the human, material, information, technological and financial resources for service delivery to remote, disadvantaged and challenged people. Globalization also requires that states adapt to new and changing local, national and international forces. In fact, public sector reform is one of the most important ingredients in reinvigorating the economy and in allowing countries to integrate into the global economy. There are two important factors that need to be highlighted: on the one hand public administration should serve the people and not the other way round, and on the other the people must also be actively engaged in facilitating and promoting compliance with reforms.

In view of the above, and in line with the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations is dedicated to promoting the exchange of experiences, ideas and best practices concerning innovations in governance and public administration in order to contribute to social and economic development. The General Assembly itself has reiterated, in resolution 57/277 that particular emphasis should be given to the exchange of experience related to the role of public administration in the implementation of internationally agreed goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration. In resolution 50/225, it also underlined the importance of enhancing international cooperation in the field of public administration, including South-South and interregional cooperation.

Within the framework of United Nations’ efforts to promote economic and social development, the Programme for Innovation in Public Administration in the Euro-Mediterranean region has been established to assist interested governments in improving their governance and public administration systems and to provide policy makers, experts and citizens in general with relevant regional knowledge and information on governance.

Who implements the Programme?

The Programme is implemented by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, through its Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM), with the support of Formez – Training and Research Centre based in Rome, with branches in Naples (Arco Felice) and Cagliari, Italy. It has been launched in mid 2003.

Who funds the Programme?

The Programme is financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Italy through Funds in Trust to UNDESA.

Other United Nations efforts in Public Administration

For over 50 years the United Nations, through its Programme on Public Administration and Development, has assisted Member States in their efforts to strengthen, improve and reform their governance systems and administrative institutions. The 50th Resumed Session of the United Nations General Assembly, in April 1996, reaffirmed that “democracy and transparent and accountable governance and administration … are indispensable foundations for the realization of social and people-centred sustainable development” (para. 5, A/RES/50/225).

It also recognized that “there is a need for public administration systems to be sound, efficient and well equipped with the appropriate capacities and capabilities through, inter alia, capacity-building, promotion of transfer, access and utilization of technology, establishment or improvement of training programmes for public service, strengthening of partnerships of the public sector with the private sector and civil society, as well as providing an enabling environment for private sector activities, as appropriate, (and the) promotion of the role and involvement of women in public administration … (para. 7 ibidem). The Resumed Session furthermore recognized the importance of international cooperation in improving public administration through deliberate programmes of exchange of information on administrative reform, so as to illustrate the variety of reform strategies undertaken in various countries, as well as highlighting organizational innovations to governments facing similar challenges.

Based on the above premise, the United Nations Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), which currently implements the United Nations Programme on Public Administration and Development, has launched several projects on administrative reform. DPADM has been entrusted with the important responsibility of ensuring that governance institutions of developing countries and countries with economies in transition function in a sound, participatory and transparent manner. It also promotes the collection and dissemination of information that may be helpful to member states and to organizations concerned. The development of the United Nations Network on Public Administration and Finance (UNPAN),, is among the most significant of these initiatives.

United Nations Millennium Development Goals:

Division for Public Administration and Development  Management (DPADM), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) (in English)

United Nations Center for Regional Development (UNCRD) (in English)

Nations Unie Commission Economique pour l'Afrique (ECA) (in French)

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) (in English) 

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