19 April 1996

Press Briefing



The first-ever session of the General Assembly devoted to public administration and development had been a very valuable and rich experience, Ole Ingstrup, Senior Adviser to the Privy Council Office of the Government of Canada, said at a Headquarters press briefing this morning.

One of the striking things he found from the statements of more than 60 delegations was that their countries were moving towards better government and the restructuring and remaking of their public services. They were also striving for a much better balance between public administration, private sector and non-government organizations in delivering public services to their citizens. There was a very mature, balanced discussion about the role of the public and private sectors. There was also a clear recognition that a healthy, sustained social environment and economic development could not be accomplished without a public sector of high calibre in collaboration and in partnership with non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

Mr. Ingstrup also said that many delegations expressed the view that there was need to focus on ways in which the public sector could become more competently responsive to both their political masters, the citizens and other sectors of society. He did not think he heard a statement that governments should be more business-like. Delegates wanted, among others, honest, ethical administrations, freedom from corruption, equal access to services, equal opportunities for citizens, participatory decision-making processes to the extent possible and effective and efficient administration. There was also strong emphasis on open accountability.

He said the United Nations was seen to be doing very valuable work in those areas. There was a great desire to see the Organization and its agencies continuing in those directions. On the other hand, there was also a clear understanding among Member States that the United Nations had to think about effectiveness and efficiency and that it should lead by example, working with other inter-governmental and regional organizations.

Zola Skweyiya, Minister for Public Administration of South Africa, also commended the United Nations for organizing the session in which some of the problems faced in South Africa, he added, had been highlighted. South Africa needed a new direction, a new approach and a new culture in its public services. He hoped the United Nations would continue to create a forum in which different countries would share their experiences. Countries would, at such gatherings, be able to see how apartheid had completely destroyed not only the people of South Africa but also the country as a whole, he said.

Public Administration Briefing - 2 - 19 April 1996

He said his Government was under terrible pressure to deliver public services for the majority of the people whose expectations were very high. It had become very clear in South Africa that that delivery would never be there unless there was a public administration that was legitimate and trusted by the people. His delegation had attended the session in the hope that the world, in the same manner that it assisted South Africa in achieving a democratic society, would show understanding of its problems. Coming from a past in which there was confrontation between the state and the national liberation movement and between the state and capital, it had been quite a new experience to be able to work not only as a state but with the private sector as well. His delegation had welcomed the highlighting of such issues at the session.

Guido Bertucci, Director of the Division of Public Administration and Development Management, Department for Development Support and Management Services, said the General Assembly would this afternoon conclude the resumed session, adopting by consensus a resolution containing a number of recommendations both for governments and for the United Nations.

He said the session had shown the strong interest of Member States about the issues of public administration. Governments had realized that public administration was a key tool to deal with a number of issues such as the pace of economic development, social imbalances, international relations and technological innovations. It was clear from the debate that countries, both rich and poor, faced common problems.

Mr. Bertucci hoped the results of the session would provide a valuable input to the overall strategy of the United Nations in the restructuring of its economic and social sectors, as public administration was a key factor in the implementation of all the strategies adopted at the various United Nations conferences to date.

The aim of the resumed session, which began on 15 April, was to explore the role of public administration and capacity-building for effective administration. In deciding to hold it, the General Assembly recognized the important role that governments and public administrations could play in promoting sustained economic growth and sustainable development.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.