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Yvonne Gomez
on Thu, February 18, 2016 at 09.15 am

Political Settlements and Public Service Performance

Start date: 
Tue, 2016-04-12
End date: 
Thu, 2016-04-14
Contact information: 
Nigel Goh (overall project coordination) nigel.goh@undp.org Peter van de Pol (content and program) petrus.vandepol@undp.org Yvonne Gomez (logistics) yvonne.gomez@undp.org
Organizer: 
UNDP GCPSE in partnership with Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) and the Centre for Public Impact (CPI).
Venue: 
UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence

This conference explored the impact of the political settlement on improving public service performance in developing countries. Among the keynote speakers were Verena FritzProf. Brian Levy, Magdy Martínez-SolimánAlina Rocha Menocal and Michael Woolcock.

All around the world, governments and their development partners are looking for opportunities to improve performance for development results. The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 has provided additional impetus to this quest: at least 10 of the 17 SDGs require a public service capable to deliver the ambitious set of targets.

There is increasing recognition that a public service’s capacity and capability to deliver inclusive development goals depends on more than structures, technical skills and high-minded strategies and policies: power and politics play a crucial role in ‘making the system’ work for development.

The current understanding of how formal and informal power and politics – the ‘political settlement’ – influence the performance of the public service is limited, however. Decades of technocratic (and ideological) approaches to public service reform have dislodged the development delivery discourse from its essential historical, local and political context.

‘Making the system work’ for development, therefore, requires:

  • deeper understanding of how the political settlement impacts the performance of public service
  • diagnosis of the political dimensions of crucial areas of public service performance (and a way to ‘measure’ the relative impact of politics on these areas in different political settlements)
  • identification of  concrete opportunities and activities that, while in keeping with, leverage ‘politics’. 

We took a closer look at the public service as a key state organisation to project power, implement political priorities and accumulate governing capacity and how that affect its role, relative position and relationships within a dynamic political settlement.

The conference used the political settlement lens to take a closer look at key components of public service performance, e.g. recruitment and promotion, performance management, effectiveness, responsiveness, etc., and try to establish where technical terms that form the staple of public sector reform, hide complex political realities.

Lastly, the conference made an attempt to identify concrete opportunities and activities to improve public sector performance for inclusive development, given local political settlements and leveraging ‘politics’. The focus of the conference was on non-crisis countries.

View the concept note and conference report here.

CONFERENCE MATERIAL (Speeches & Presentation Slides)

  • Speech by Magdy Martinez-Soliman, Assistant Secretary General, Assistant Administrator and Director Bureau for Policy & Programme Support 
  • Speech by Max Everest-Phillips, Director, UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence

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