UN news‎ > ‎

Empowering local governance for global development

posted Apr 2, 2012, 8:27 AM by Unknown user
    Empowering local governance for global development

    Achieving effective outcomes in local public administration has become increasingly challenging due to ever more complex and unpredictable environment in which governments operate, often with insufficient resources. The focus of  the eleventh annual session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) will be on local government strategies for more results-oriented public governance.

    The goal of this session is to assist stakeholders developing public service capacity building for local-level development, as well as increase transparency, accountability and citizens’ engagement.  In the second year of its multi-year agenda of “Public Governance for Results”, the theme of this session  is “Local public governance and administration for results”. It will be held from 16-20 April 2012.

    Intergovernmental Governance and Regimes

    What must be met in order to make the most of representative democracy at the local level? A report by Jan Ziekow, a member of CEPA, indicates that “the position of representative democracy at the local level is, in this respect, more difficult than representation at the national level. At such higher levels, interconnections and interdependencies are not as closely knit as for local representatives. The status given to representative democracy at the local level in a particular national context depends very much on culture, tradition, values, social structure, and legal and administration systems and thus it varies greatly.”

    The report suggests that a careful balance of the competencies of local authorities and administrations together with a carefully balanced decoupling of local councils from state institutions grants legitimacy, financial power and autonomous self-government to municipalities. It also suggests that a representative democracy that relies solely on institutions legitimized by elections is under constant pressure of proving its legitimacy.

    Public Service Capacity Building for Local-level Development

    A case study of the Singapore Public Service reveals that “Singapore faced dire economic challenges at its birth as an independent State. The city-State lacked a hinterland it could exploit, and its historical role as an entrepôt was being threatened by its neighbours’ nationalistic economic policies. The country needed to create jobs. Given those challenges, it is understandable that the foremost priority of the Singapore Public Service was to pursue economic growth for the nation.

    The Public Service indubitably achieved its mission. Per capita income trebled between 1965 and 1977. By the mid-1970s, the problem of high unemployment had transformed into the challenge of full employment. Singapore is, today, globally renowned for being a wealthy city-State with an excellent public education system, efficient public transport, safe streets and a highly capable and honest bureaucracy.”

    Singapore managed to do this by basing their approach to governance on six principles: pragmatism, the avoidance of welfarism, constant re-evaluation, holistic approach to government, honesty, and development of human capital in the public sector.

    Transparency, Accountability, and Citizens’ Engagement

    Economics is no longer the sole factor to be considered in measuring progress towards development: “This twenty-first century has seen something that is genuinely new: the globalization of values. There is a growing awareness that the problems are global and that on issues such as drinking water, environment, non-renewable resources, endemic diseases, climate change, biotechnologies and health and food security, all countries are affected and the solutions require new forms of worldwide coordination,” argues Ms. Oyhanarte in her report.

    “Major development assistance decisions are still based primarily on macroeconomics, but national per capita production is no longer the sole factor to be considered in measuring progress towards development.”

    Citizen’s engagement – orderly, concerted action by individuals and organizations – is considered to be one of the best local development management tools. However, to be effective, transparency and access to information have to be in place.

    The knowledge of good practices in transparency and citizen’s engagement can be used as a model for the development of joint management and multi-stakeholder partnerships. This creates a network of stakeholders and has a positive impact on the drafting of a public agenda that gives priority to the MDG’s post 2015.