Peter Batchelor: Address at the Third Round of Consultations on the Development of the Civil Service Reform Strategic Action Plan

Dec 15, 2016

Excellency Dr. Win Thein, Chairman of the Union Civil Service Board, Honorable Members of Parliament, Esteemed representatives of States and Regions, Senior Officials, Civil Society Representatives, colleagues from the international community and the United Nations, distinguished guests.

It is a pleasure to be here at this third round of consultations on the development of the Civil Service Reform (CSR) Strategic Action Plan. Since the first workshop at the end of August this year, the Union Civil Service Board has consulted with civil servants in Naw Pyi Daw,Yangon, Mandalay and Taungyii.

I would like to congratulate the leadership of the UCSB for ensuring that voices at all levels of government,  at the union, state and regional level as well as the voices of civil society are heard in this important process and that many sensitive and difficult issues such as corruption are being discussed openly.

In August, when UNDP helped to launch the first of the consultations on the action plan, we highlighted the importance of civil service reform to the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in Myanmar and Agenda 2030.  

The draft Civil Service Action Plan which we are going to discuss further today includes four key focal areas: civil service governance, merit based and performance driven culture and systems, effectiveness and efficiency of the civil service, and transparency and accountability.

I would like to focus on the three key principles underlying these important reforms: principles of trust, inclusivity and diversity which are at the heart of the Civil Service Action Plan, and which can help create partnerships that will ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Surveys carried out by UNDP and other organisations have found low levels of trust among people in Myanmar; and between men, women and those in authority, be they civil servants, judges, parliamentarians, or police. Improving trust in the civil service will contribute to positive change: it will enable people to talk openly, and work together to find solutions to problems.

The Union Civil Service Board has taken a brave step in building trust by inviting civil society to take an active part in the deliberations so far on civil service reform. It is brave to be engaging on a process where, to some extent, the civil service has had to be open about its weaknesses, in front of ‘outsiders’. Those of you here today, from outside the civil service as well as within, must trust that these deliberations will in the end bear fruit.

Investing in the inclusiveness of the public service will enable people from all walks of life, and all parts of the country, to contribute to national efforts to achieve sustainable development and peace.

Civil servants can be motivated to do the right thing and to work hard, safe in the knowledge that their good performance will be recognized, and that- regardless of their gender, ethnicity, disability, age or personal connections- that good performance, competencies and attitudes can be the basis of advancement in their own careers.

Ensuring access to jobs and advancement in the civil service, without bias or discrimination will help attract and retain a workforce that reflects a wide range of existing and future talent; and which supports more effective policy making and service provision.

The Union Civil Service Board also recognizes the power that a diverse and inclusive civil service can have in driving transformation. Women make up more than half of Myanmar’s population, and account for more than half of its administration, civil service personnel.  

However, women are not equally represented at all levels of the civil service. Only 1.5% of the most senior leadership positions are occupied by women, despite the fact that women have equal potential and capacity to perform these roles as men. We have to do more to change this situation.

While we do not have much data, it is also clear that ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the civil service.

I am pleased that all of us present here today have the chance to consider how to provide civil servants with more incentives and opportunities for career progression, and support their skills and capacities.  This will strengthen the draft Civil Service Action Plan.

The Sustainable Development Goals focus not only on WHAT we need to achieve - better education and health - but also on HOW we can achieve it? The measures proposed in the Civil Service Action Plan will help improve the way that civil servants deliver the Sustainable Development Goal, but these activities done in isolation, will not be enough.

I want to focus on what may be the most unique Sustainable Development Goal: this is Sustainable Development Goal 17. It is about partnership and the need to revitalize a global partnership for sustainable development. It recognizes that the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved, without strong inclusive partnerships between government, civil society and the private sector.

Civil servants in Myanmar are on the frontline of service delivery efforts. Health workers and teachers are directly involved in delivering education and health services. Meanwhile, other civil servants focus on the plans and policies which guide government service provision, and ultimately the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Myanmar people have high expectations that all civil servants will do their best to meet the hopes of the people and find innovative solutions to the country’s service delivery and governance challenges.

What Sustainable Development Goal 17 emphasizes is that development is likely to be accelerated in Myanmar if the civil service works in partnerships with others - with the people of Myanmar, civil society, and with the private sector in sharing knowledge, expertise, technology, policies and financial resources.

Let me give you a practical example: the civil service alone cannot ensure that children all over the country are safe from preventable diseases like polio. Civil servants may develop a plan to vaccinate children throughout the country, but Members of Parliament must pass the budget to implement the plan. Health workers can deliver the vaccines, but often, it is private companies who produce the vaccines in the first place.

Parents, teachers and community leaders, as well as public health officials, have to be part of communicating about why vaccines are important, so that children do go to the doctor. This shows that the work of the government in Myanmar’s development is also dependent on the work of civil society, the private sector, and people themselves.

With an effective partnership amongst all these actors, we could see both the government and the private sector, as well as the international community and a host of other actors, playing on their strengths to address Myanmar’s development challenges.

Workshops such as this one help build effective partnerships which are based on trust, inclusivity, equality and dialogue- partnerships that will help Myanmar achieve the SDGs.

In closing, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to reiterate UNDP’s support together with the support of our development partners - United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, Finland and Sweden - to the Government of Myanmar in its endeavor to transform the civil service into a more ethical, meritocratic, fair and inclusive institution.  We will continue working with our national partners, and with the Union Civil Service Board in particular, in support of integrity and accountability, and will strive to introduce new and innovative systems and partnerships for the delivery of both civil service reform and the Sustainable Development Goals in Myanmar.

Thank you, and I wish you a productive workshop.

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