Department of Economic and Social Affairs Public Institutions

World Public Sector Report 2021


National institutional arrangements for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals: A five-year stocktaking

Institutions are paramount to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Five years after the start of the implementation of the Agenda, governance issues remain at the forefront. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted even more the importance of national institutions for the achievement of the SDGs. The World Public Sector Report 2021 focuses on three dimensions of institutional change at the national level. First, it documents changes in institutional arrangements for SDG implementation since 2015. Second, it assesses the development, performance, strengths and weaknesses of follow-up and review systems for the SDGs. Third, it examines efforts made by governments and other stakeholders to enhance the capacity of public servants to implement the SDGs. Based on in-depth examination of institutional arrangements for SDG implementation in a sample of 24 countries in all regions, the report aims to draw attention to the institutional dimension of SDG implementation and provide lessons for national policymakers in this regard. The report also takes stock of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on national institutions and their implications for delivering on the 2030 Agenda.


Executive Summary (PDF)
Full Report (PDF)
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Unofficial Chinese Translation (PDF)

Individual Chapters

Introduction: National institutional arrangements for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: where are we after five years?
Chapter 1: Changes in institutional arrangements for Sustainable Development Goals implementation at the national level since 2015
Chapter 2: Monitoring, follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals
Chapter 3: Building the capacity of public servants to implement the 2030 Agenda
Chapter 4: The impacts of COVID-19 on national institutional arrangements for Sustainable Development Goals implementation Annex: Overall strengths and challenges of SDG monitoring, follow-up and review

Policy Briefs

Connecting the dots: The still elusive synergies between accountability institutions and the follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals
Horizontal and vertical integration are more necessary than ever for COVID-19 recovery and SDG implementation
A view of changes in institutional arrangements for SDG implementation at the national level since 2015
Building the capacities of public servants to implement the 2030 Agenda

Background paper

David Steven and Margaret Williams, Governance and COVID-19: a background paper for the SDG 16 conference

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.

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.