Learning from New Zealand: Prioritizing Leadership Development in Myanmar’s Civil Service Reform

May 17, 2017

The Myanmar delegation with senior New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials.

A high level government delegation, led by the Chairperson of the Union Civil Service Board (UCSB), Dr Win Thein visited New Zealand last week to observe first-hand how the country has implemented civil service reform. The week-long study visit comes at a time where the Union Civil Service Board is finalizing the Government of Myanmar’s Civil Service Reform Strategic Action Plan, expected to be launched in July this year.

“Investing in leadership development is the main entry point to ensuring a successful modernization of the Administration and reform of the Civil Service in Myanmar,” said Dr Win Thein.

The delegation visited the New Zealand State Services Commission. They met Mr. Peter Hughes, State Services Commissioner who stressed the importance of “frank, fair and fearless advice” from senior administrators to politicians, reconfirming the importance of establishing a well rooted political and administrative relationship in support of change.
    
New Zealand’s focus on empowering Chief Executives (New Zealand’s equivalent to Myanmar’s Permanent Secretaries) and giving them the necessary authority and space to manage and ensure efficiency of the overall system reconfirmed the delegates’ conviction that leadership ‘matters’ in times of reform and modernization.  

Dr Win Thein committed to working more closely with all government institutions on strengthening the role of permanent secretaries and directors general in the civil service reform initiative in Myanmar and to nurturing future leaders.

The Myanmar delegation included senior level representatives from the UCSB, the President’s Office, the State Counsellor’s Office, the Ministry of Home Affairs/General Administration Department, the Ministry of Planning and Finance, the Ministry of Health, the Union Attorney General Office and the Anti-Corruption Commission. The delegation examined New Zealand’s ‘Better Public Services’ initiative, through lessons learned from its first phase (2010-2015) and the focus of its current phase (2016-2020).  It also met with the School of Government at Victoria University in Wellington, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Social Development as well as Microsoft.  

In addition to investments in leadership capacity development, Myanmar delegates concluded on the need to promote and enforce integrity, meritocracy, inclusiveness and equality across the system;  strengthen organizational structures and institutional performance management of public institutions; and  improve human resources management and development.

The study visit will directly contribute to informing the debate on the transformation of UCSB’s role and mandate in the midst of governance changes the country is witnessing.  In the coming months, a series of high level discussions will be organised during which the new role and functions of the UCSB would be examined further and a new Myanmar leadership initiative taken forward.

The study visit was undertaken as part of UNDP’s public administration responsiveness work to support democratic governance.  UNDP’s work in the area of democratic governance in Myanmar is funded by the Governments of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.