Department of Economic and Social Affairs Public Institutions
Committee of Experts on Public Administration

 

Current work

 

Making the public sector workforce fit for purpose: In support of the 2023 ECOSOC cycle of work and in preparation for its 22nd session (2023), the CEPA working group will provide policy advice on reinventing public sector workforce training and institutional learning towards changing mindsets in the public sector.


Background

 

Placing human resources development at the core of sustainable development and developing short-, medium- and long-term strategies to effectively enhance human resources capacities and achieve educated, skilled, healthy, capable, productive, and adaptable workforces are the foundation for achieving sustained, inclusive, and equitable economic growth and development. The COVID-19 pandemic has severely tested political leadership, institutional frameworks at the local, national, and global levels and societal trust in governments and the public sector workforce. It has demanded resilient strategies to cope with the crisis while simultaneously keeping track of achievement of the SDGs.

 

Over the years, the Committee has examined how to develop transformative leadership, build capacities and enhance relevant competencies and awareness of public servants at local and national levels, including in relation to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and in the context of the digital era. At its 20th session (2021), the Committee examined issues in public sector workforce management in the recovery from coronavirus disease pandemic. At its 21st session (2022), the Committee agreed that building responsive, robust and resilient institutions called for more creative, flexible and integrated ways of working, focused on the needs of people, as well as an adequate stock of competencies and resources, able to be activated in times of crisis. Governments were encouraged to further promote the professionalization of the public sector workforce, invest in digital skills, update competency frameworks for implementation of the SDGs, and address inequalities within the public sector workforce as well as social inequities in the design and delivery of public services. Such efforts could help to address questions of legitimacy in the public sector and trust in institutions.


Recent CEPA observations and insights

 

Short-, medium- and long-term strategies are required for a healthy, educated, skilled, capable, motivated, productive, and adaptable public sector workforce. Public sector capacities in the form of skills, capabilities and resources are necessary, paired with public sector legitimacy through societal trust in government and public institutions. That is particularly relevant due to an apparent disconnect between people and public institutions, often reinforced in times of crisis. (CEPA 21st session) 

 

There is a need to build forward better by, among other things, integrating resilience into public institutions.  An integrated public sector capacity and legitimacy approach makes it possible to build resilient and agile public sector institutions that can be activated in times of crisis, while accelerating the achievement of the SDGs. (CEPA 21st session) 

 

Governance robustness emerges as a dynamic resilience approach for the achievement of the SDGs and demands a flexible and agile public sector workforce able to transform and adapt in turbulent times. In that context, organizational barriers, such as archaic systems, reluctance to share information, lack of planning, collaboration and trust, and inefficient workplace processes and technologies need to be eliminated. ​(CEPA 21st session) 

 

A focus on public sector workforce professionalization, expertise and motivation is recommended in order to improve the quality of government. The kind of public servants required must be clearly defined. (CEPA 21st session) 

 


What action does ECOSOC recommend?

 

ECOSOC recognizes that building resilient institutions calls for more creative, flexible and integrated ways of working that are focussed on the needs of people, as well as an adequate stock of competencies, capabilities and resources, and encourages Governments to further promote professionalization of the public sector workforce, invest in digital skills, update competency frameworks for implementation of the 2030 Agenda, address inequalities that exist within the public sector workforce, and  take steps to address social inequities in the design and delivery of public services (ECOSOC resolution 2022/09, para. 12). 

 

ECOSOC recalls that building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels calls for a comprehensive understanding of the scope and capabilities of the public sector workforce, recognizes that new modalities of work are emerging in many countries, and encourages Governments to develop appropriate schemes for managing flexible work and contract work in the public sector, review public sector labour laws to reflect flexible work arrangements, develop protocols and guidelines for performance assessment in flexible work regimes, and accelerate efforts to enhance digital skills in the context of public sector workforce planning at both the national and subnational levels (ECOSOC resolution 2021/12, para. 12). 


Technical guidance for government officials

 

  Document

CEPA strategy guidance note on promotion of public sector workforce diversity (draft) 


Expert papers on this topic (2016-present) 

 

  Document

Questions of public sector workforce capacity and legitimacy in relation to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (E/C.16/2022/7, 24 January 2022)

Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish 

     
  Document Issues in public sector workforce management in the recovery from coronavirus disease pandemic (E/C.16/2021/5, 12 January 2021) 

Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish

     
  Document

Government and public sector workforce management in the digital era (E/C.16/2020/4, 20 January 2020)

Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish

     
  Document

Sustainable Development Goals training for public officials (E/C.16/2020/7, 8 January 2020) 

Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish

     
  Document Training and awareness-raising for the Sustainable Development Goals: Ghana’s experience (conference room paper2020)
   

 

  Document

Enhancing the capacity of the public sector in a fast-changing world for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (E/C.16/2019/2, 24 January 2019) 

Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish

     
  Document Enhancing the capacity of the public sector in core functional areas of administration: African perspective (conference room paper12 December 2018
     
  Document

Building the awareness, competencies and skills of civil servants at the national and local levels (E/C.16/2018/414 February 2018

Arabic  |  Chinese |  English |  French |  Russian |  Spanish   

     
  Document

Understanding the needs of local authorities and communities and supporting and equipping them for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (E/C.16/2017/3, 26 January 2017)
Arabic | Chinese | English | French | Russian | Spanish      

     
  Document Transforming local authorities and communities into stakeholders to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (conference room paper-French22 March 2017)
     
  Document Diversity and non-discrimination in public administration: strategic enablers of sustainable development (E/C.16/2016/320 January 2016)