Department of Economic and Social Affairs Public Institutions

World Public Sector Report 2021

Institutions for the Sustainable Development Goals: a five-year stocktaking

The World Public Sector Report 2021 aims to document key trends in the institutional arrangements adopted by countries to implement the 2030 Agenda, and to assess some of the strengths and weaknesses of those arrangements in relation to the performance of key functions of the policy process (for example, monitoring and evaluation). The report will focus on the time dimension of institutional changes, examining how governments have tried different institutional responses and adjusted their institutional systems to better accommodate the requirements of the 2030 Agenda since 2015. The report will also aim to inform a more systemic view of national institutional arrangements for SDG implementation by looking at how the different institutions involved in specific policy functions fit together as a system, focusing on the relationships that exist among them rather than on individual institutions. Through the review of institutional developments in a sample of countries, the report also aims to highlight novel and innovative practices adopted by countries at different levels of development to remedy perceived shortcomings, with a view to enabling the exchange of experiences and practices in this regard.

Concept Note

Concept Note for the World Public Sector Report 2021

Call for Contributions

An opportunity to contribute. Preparations for the 2021 edition of the World Public Sector Report are now underway. This call for contributions invites individual researchers and experts as well as policy research institutions to contribute to the report through inputs that highlight trends, issues, research findings or solutions. Contributions should address the guiding questions for the chapters outlined in the concept note. All contributions that meet the requirements of this call will be acknowledged, and their content will inform relevant chapters of the Report.

Contributions should be submitted to in .doc or .docx format, using email subject: WPSR 2021 Chapter Contribution.

The deadline for submissions is 31 August 2020.


Chapters and guiding questions

Chapter 1: National institutional arrangements for the SDGs: How well are they working?

This chapter will synthesize the findings of research done for the report. It will highlight the strengths and weaknesses stemming from the analysis of the interaction among key policy functions: strategizing and planning; budgeting; implementation; and monitoring and evaluation; in the context of SDG implementation. The chapter will aim to present commonalities in terms of strengths and challenges faced by countries at different levels of development to make institutions work better for delivering the SDGs. It will also highlight promising practices adopted by some countries to address shortcomings in specific institutions and relationships among institutions in relation to specific policy functions.

Research questions:

  1. What areas and policy functions have countries focused on in their attempts to adapt their institutional systems to the 2030 Agenda? What critical policy functions have been less addressed?
  2. How are different types of institutions involved in the various policy functions? Are there common patterns in terms of strengths and weak links among those institutions in relation to SDG implementation?
  3. How well is the institutional apparatus put in place around the 2030 Agenda integrated with other policy and institutional processes? Are the institutional setups put in place around SDG implementation reinforcing the broader institutional systems, or are they largely operating in silo?
  4. What is the available evidence of the effectiveness of efforts to make institutions work better as a system for delivering on the SDGs?
  5. To what extent are institutional arrangements in relation to different policy functions working in an integrated and systemic way to support the implementation of the SDGs?
  6. How have government efforts to enhance the capacity of public administration worked in practice to support the implementation of the SDGs?
  7. What are key prospects, challenges and opportunities for national institutional arrangements for SDG implementation in the medium term (5 years)?

Chapter 2. Integrating the SDGs into national institutional frameworks: a five-year stocktaking

This chapter will attempt a comparative analysis of institutional arrangements adopted by countries to deliver specific functions in relation to SDG implementation. The analysis will be based on information for a large number of countries collected through existing sources (VNR reports and analyses thereof), as well as more in-depth information collected on a restricted sample of countries. For the latter, mappings showing the relationships among different institutional actors in the delivery of key functions - strategizing and planning; budgeting; implementation; and monitoring and evaluation - will be developed. The chapter will also aim to document the rationale behind the choices and adjustments of institutional setups, based on national timelines of institutional change and country-level information. Novel and innovative practices at the country level will be used to illustrate the potential for countries to more fully incorporate the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs into their national institutional frameworks.

Research questions:

  1. What adjustments have been made over time in the institutional arrangements for SDG implementation (e.g. National Sustainable Development Strategies, National Development Plans, high-level coordination mechanisms for SDG implementation sectoral strategies and plans, planning and budgeting processes, monitoring and evaluation, oversight)? What factors explain those changes?
  2. What has been attempted to make institutions work better (individually and as a system) for delivering the SDGs? (Government leadership and commitment to the 2030 Agenda; horizontal integration, vertical integration, whole of society approaches)
  3. Are there any trends/patterns across countries in terms of changes in the institutional arrangements supporting different policy process for delivering on the SDGs?
  4. What systems have countries put in place to assess the effectiveness of their institutional arrangements for SDG implementation (e.g. evaluations, audits)?
  5. How have lessons from the first 4 years of implementation been fed back into institutional design?

Chapter 3. Monitoring and evaluation systems for the SDGs

This chapter will attempt to analyse the performance of monitoring and evaluation systems for the SDGs. While considering individual elements of such systems (for instance, the production of indicators for the follow-up and review of progress on the SDGs), the analysis will focus on the relationship among the different parts of the M&E system. This includes, for example, how the M&E system for the SDGs is connected to key institutions and processes in terms of accountability and oversight such as parliaments, supreme audit institutions and civil society. The chapter will also look into how well the M&E system for the SDGs is integrated with other M&E processes and whether the various M&E processes are supporting each other (e.g. increase in statistical capacity in government; improved performance indicators for the national development plan or the budget). Broader political economy questions which the chapter will pose are how M&E systems for the SDGs inform government actions beyond the preparation of voluntary national reviews; and whether information produced in the context of SDG follow-up and review has provided new channels for awareness raising, information sharing and engagement among State and non-State actors. In all these areas, the chapter aims to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement, based on the perspectives of different actors.

Research questions:

  1. How have national M&E systems for the SDGs been designed, and how do their different components interact both formally and in practice (e.g. reporting, validation, contribution from different levels of government…)?
  2. What are the connections (considering both synergies and tensions) between SDG-related M&E systems and processes with other M&E processes? (e.g. for national development plan; for budget performance indicators)?)
  3. How is the SDG M&E system connected to key accountability and oversight institutions and processes (e.g., Parliament, supreme audit institution), and how does it inform the work of those processes?
  4. How has the SDG M&E system informed government action beyond the preparation of the VNR?
  5. How have the outputs (data /information) of the M&E system on SDGs been used by different stakeholders to inform decision-making, raise awareness and engage around SDG issues?
  6. What is the performance of the M&E system for the SDGs based on available evidence and/or the perceptions of different stakeholders?

Chapter 4. Capacity building for SDG implementation in public administration

This chapter will consider efforts made by governments to enhance the capacity and skills of the national public administration (including sub-national levels as relevant) to implement the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. It will consider the priority given to this by governments; the tools and channels that have been mobilized, from broad awareness raising to targeted capacity building in specific policy functions (e.g. planning, budgeting, citizen engagement) and specific parts of government; the actors that are involved in the delivery of capacity building around SDG implementation in the public service; the resources mobilized, the scale of capacity building efforts and their sustainability over time; as well as any indication of impacts and remaining gaps. The chapter will aim to assess the potential for exchange of practices and synergies among national, regional and international actors in capacity building for the SDGs.

Research questions:

  1. What has been done by governments and other actors to raise awareness of the SDGs among civil servants?
  2. What has been done by governments and other actors to assess capacity needs and gaps for SDG implementation in public administration and to develop strategic responses to address such gaps? (e.g., capacity gaps assessments; government-wide strategies or action plans for capacity building)
  3. What has been done by different actors in terms of building the capacity of civil servants, both across government and in specific government departments for implementing the SDGs?
  4. As of 2020, what has been the scale of the capacity building efforts, and are there any measurable results and impacts?
  5. What are achievements and challenges in terms of enhancing the capacity of public servants to implement the SDGs, and how could the shortcomings be addressed?

World Public Sector Report 2019


Sustainable Development Goal 16: Focus on public institutions

The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prominently feature institutions, both as a cross-cutting issue in many of the goals and as a standalone goal (SDG 16). The World Public Sector Report 2019 looks at national-level developments in relation to several concepts highlighted in the targets of Goal 16, which are viewed as institutional principles: access to information, transparency, accountability, anti-corruption, inclusiveness of decision-making processes, and non-discrimination. The report surveys global trends in these areas, documenting both the availability of information on those trends and the status of knowledge about the effectiveness of related policies and institutional arrangements in different national contexts. It also demonstrates how the institutional principles of SDG 16 have been informing the development of institutions in various areas, including gender equality and women’s empowerment (SDG 5). The report further examines two critical instruments that can support effective public institutions and public administration for the SDGs, namely national budget processes and risk management. The World Public Sector Report 2019 aims to inform the first review of SDG 16 at the United Nations high-level political forum on sustainable development in July 2019, and to contribute to future efforts to monitor progress on SDG 16. By reviewing key challenges and opportunities for public institutions in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda at the national level, the report also aims to inform efforts by all countries to create effective institutions to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

Launch of the World Public Sector Report 2019 at the 2019 United Nations Public Service Forum (UNPSF) in the Republic of Azerbaijan on 24 June 2019


World Public Sector 2019
Executive Summary
Full Report


World Public Sector Report 2018

Working Together: Integration, Institutions and the Sustainable Development Goals

The World Public Sector Report 2018 (WPSR 2018) examines how governments, public institutions and public administration can foster integrated approaches to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. The report examines key challenges and opportunities for integrated approaches from the perspective of public administration, highlighting experiences from past decades both at the sectoral and cross-sectoral levels. It also examines how governments across the world have chosen to address existing interlinkages among the SDGs, and the implications of this for public administration and public institutions. The report thus aims to produce a comprehensive empirical analysis of policy integration for the SDGs at the national level, with a view to drawing lessons on how emerging initiatives aiming to policy and institutional integration might lead to long-term success in achieving the SDGs, in different developmental and governance contexts. Arguments made in the report are illustrated by concrete examples in relation to SDG goals, targets or clusters thereof. The report is built around two structuring dimensions: first, the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals as an integrated and indivisible set of goals and targets; and second, the role of the government and public service, including the institutional aspect, in fostering sustainable development.

Public administration experts comment on the World Public Sector Report 2018


Click here for WPSR 2018 Presentations and Background Materials


World Public Sector Report 2015

Responsive and Accountable Public Governance

The 2015 World Public Sector Report, titled Responsive and Accountable Public Governance, presents the need for public governance to become more responsive and accountable in order for the State to lead the implementation of a collective vision of 2030 sustainable development. Social and technical innovations are providing an opportunity for the social contract between the State and the citizenry to shift towards more collaborative governance, supported by effective, efficient, transparent, accountable, inclusive, equitable and responsive public institutions.


World Public Sector Report 2010

Reconstructing Public Administration after Conflict 

The 2010 World Public Sector Report brings to the fore a very critical issue - how to reconstruct public administration in post-conflict situations so as to enable it to promote peace and development in countries that have been affected by civil war and destruction. It is a question that has remained unresolved for decades and has brought poverty, despair, and death to people in many corners of the world. The Report shows that no progress can be made in promoting peace, development and protection of human rights unless appropriate governance and public administration institutions are established, leadership and human resources capacities are re-built, citizens are engaged in the process of reconstruction through decentralized participatory mechanisms and basic public services are delivered. In fact, unless newly established governments are able to provide essential public services to the population, including safety, security, health, education, shelter, access to water and sanitation and job opportunities, there will be no durable peace.The report also emphasizes that because post-conflict situations are heterogeneous, there are no "one size fits all" solutions to governance challenges. In each country, public administration reforms should be tailored to local needs. Finally, the report highlights that contrary to commonly held belief, post-conflict situations not only present challenges, but also offer numerous opportunities to leapfrog stages of development by adopting innovative practices in public administration, particularly through the application of ICTs in government and service delivery.

World Public Sector Report 2008

People Matter: Civic Engagement in Public Governance

The 2008 World Public Sector Report, People Matter: Civic Engagement in Public Governance, highlights the importance of civic engagement in public governance and by profiling several case studies, demonstrates how such practices gain the capacity to strengthen governance, make it more transparent and accountable and most importantly, contribute to developmental outcomes that are more sustainable, equitable and just. The Report also highlights several challenges and cautions that adequate attention must be given to the issues of power relations, institutional capacities of the government as well as the civil society organizations and adaptation of methodologies and strategies that suit the local conditions and other factors crucial to the introduction of successful civic engagement practices in public governance.


World Public Sector Report 2005

Unlocking the Human Potential for Public Sector Performance

As recommended by the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration (UNCEPA), the third World Public Sector Report will be published in 2005, with a particular thematic focus on human resources management (HRM). More specifically, the report will explore how the human potential can be unlocked to enhance public sector performance. UNCEPA, at its Second Meeting in April 2003, stressed that human resources capacity was critical to the quality of public administration. The increasing complexity of both policy-making and administrative processes, as well as the erosion of human resources capacity to carry out those functions, are making it difficult for many Member States to implement national goals and strategies to reduce poverty and to promote sustainable human development, as emphasized in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


World Public Sector Report 2003

E-Government at the Crossroads

The World Public Sector Report 2003 presents a view of e-government as a tool for creating public value. It puts e-government development in the context of the United Nations Millennium Declaration, the Report claims that meaningful e-government applications are those that support the environment conducive to human development and suggests that such an environment can be created by a conscious effort "world making". It discusses the special cases of e-participation and privacy, all as part of the main message the ICT by itself will not result in a different, better government, or higher quality of life, but that thoughtful reform and change must precede or go hand-in-hand with in the introduction of ICT to public administrative operations. The Report identifies development of a networked government, management of information and creation of knowledge as the most important e-government application of the future.


World Public Sector Report 2001

Globalization and the State 2001

Globalization, although not a new phenomenon, is unquestionably of paramount significance for all countries, developed or developing, rich or poor, large or small. What is globalization? How is globalization affecting the role and functions of the nation- State? Is globalization "good" or "bad"? Is there a universal understanding of its potential or its costs? Can all societies benefit from globalization? Are all States adequately prepared to enable their people to seize the opportunities of globalization while minimizing its negative effects? How should public administration systems be redesigned in view of the changes occurring at the global level? This Report, written in two parts, attempts to answer these and other essential questions in an objective and clear fashion, based on observed experience and the views of prominent experts on the matter. Part One deals with globalization and the State, and comprises five chapters. Part Two focuses on defining and measuring the size of the State.