Welcome Remarks by Ms. Beate Trankmann,
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative,
21 September 2018
Excellency, Mr. M. Enkhbold, Speaker of the Parliament of Mongolia
Excellency, Mr. G. Zandanshatar, State Minister& Chief of Cabinet Secretariat
Excellency, David Sproule, Ambassador of Canada
Honorable Members of Parliament,
Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour to join you at this important meeting on a subject that concerns us all: the quality of public service. At the United Nations our focus now is achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – a world free of poverty, with reduced inequality and an environment that can sustain us by 2030. Those goals – agreed by countries worldwide, including Mongolia, are the toughest the world has set. It will take strong civil services to turn them into reality.
An efficient civil service plays a fundamental role in all the SDG. Because we need to ensure public services reach anyone and everyone, and in particular, those furthest behind – a core principle of the SDGs. A capable, competent civil service is also critical to ensure governments make the right decisions on the scarce public resources that carry the SDG agenda.
Trust is everything. The SDGs are a two-way street. They call for commitment not only from decision-makers, but also the public, through changes to our everyday lives. To realize this, leaders need the governance capital that trust provides. If institutions are trusted, citizens are more likely to cooperate with unpopular decisions in the present, for the benefit of our future. If institutions are distrusted, citizens may refuse to cooperate, or ignore laws and regulations, reducing government effectiveness.
A professional, modern civil service, bound by ethics, builds public trust and confidence. How civil servants interact with citizens, including openness to participation in public discussions, directly affects how citizens perceive government legitimacy. Promoting rule of law and bureaucratic fairness are key steps that governments can take to raise trust. To strengthen transparency and accountability, checks and balances are needed, such as empowering citizens to participate in public processes – monitoring service delivery, for example.
What else does it take to build trust? A merit-based, ethical civil service. Ethics and meritocracy in civil service are goals in their own right, and embedded in the Civil Service Law. But these must be translated beyond policy declarations, through enforceable regulations of human resource management at all levels, including selecting, appointing, promoting, evaluating, rewarding and sanctioning, as well as codes of conduct for civil servants. Developing an ethical, merit-based civil service also requires the involvement of government agencies, the Civil Service Council and academia.
There is a lot to be gained. When the recruitment, development and promotion of civil servants are based on fairness and merit, then staff pride, motivation and performance goes up. Furthermore, corruption tends to be lower, while public services tend to be higher quality and more efficient.
We need a system that supports those outcomes at every level. One in which entrance is based on competition, rather than connections. And that protects civil servants from being arbitrarily removed.
Mongolia’s new Civil Service Law will be a major step towards this, when it takes effect in a few months. However, civil-service reforms also take long-term efforts to succeed. They need political will and stamina. A legal framework is not enough to create a professional, politically neutral service. Politicians must put their interests second, to those of the public that they serve.
International experience has shown that civil service reform must be embedded within wider public administration reforms to work. This is particularly relevant to Mongolia, where frequent government changes undermine the continuity of public policies and services. So, this is an opportunity to review the structure and roles of government ministries, agencies and local authorities, to improve coordination across them, too. Such reform at the macro level can serve as a yardstick for reforms at micro levels, for example in the development of job descriptions for civil service positions. Additionally, structural reforms must enable gender equality. There are many women working in Mongolia’s civil service – but very few leading it. There is still only two female ministers but no female governor across 21 Aimags. This needs to change. Achieving gender parity at the top will not only send an unambiguous message and take gender equality from rhetoric to action, but also ensure that the country benefits from the large talent pool of women in public office.
UNDP has a long tradition of supporting Mongolia in reforming its civil service. We helped draft the first Civil Service Law of Mongolia in its transition to democracy. And we are proud to be working with the government to this day. The latest joint initiative - “Towards a professional and citizen-centered civil service in Mongolia” - will be implemented until 2022. I would like to thank the Government of Canada for its generous funding to carry this forward.
One of the aims of the project is to share international best practices of civil service reforms with Mongolia. So we are delighted to welcome delegates from countries with exemplary civil services: New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Bhutan, Singapore, and Georgia. New Zealand leads the global ranking on a corruption-free civil service. South Korea, meanwhile, has one of the most high tech civil services, with a sophisticated electronic system allowing different agencies to ’talk’ easily with each other. Bhutan is championing high ethical standards within its public sector. Georgia leads the international league of Doing Business. And Singapore tops the index of Government Effectiveness. There is much learn from each of these countries. So thank you to our international speakers for accepting our invitation to share your valuable experiences.
UNDP is committed to supporting the Government of Mongolia to achieve its objectives of building professional and modern civil service, serving citizens from cities, to soums and baghs.
Only then can we realize a sustainable society that leaves no one behind.