As Myanmar is undergoing democratic transition, the country is witnessing an increasing demand for a civil service that is people-centered, ethical, responsive and merit-based. Pressure is building on the existing 1 million civil servants to effectively deliver for the people of Myanmar.  

In partnership with Australia, Sweden & New Zealand, UNDP is supporting Myanmar to modernize its civil service. With their generous support UNDP has been implementing a project since July 2018 - Leadership, Effectiveness, Adaptability and Professionalism in Myanmar’s Civil Service (LEAP).

The project supports Myanmar’s Union Civil Service Board (UCSB) to review and modernize civil service regulations and systems; introduce results-based management practices that promote meritocracy, ethics, transparency, accountability and inclusivity; improve civil servants’ performance through enhanced leadership and motivation; and foster public service delivery and accountability at national and sub-national levels. UCSB adopted a new competency framework for selecting and promoting civil servants and is currently re-designing job descriptions and performance evaluation systems. This was followed-up by tailored trainings for over 150 civil servants on performance management and leadership, and to 40+ civil service professors on delivering modern, competency-based curricula, and to key institutions on use of data from end-users of government services to policy makers.


In what was a major milestone, in October 2019, UNDP and UCSB jointly launched a new senior and executive leadership development program including a toolkit for modern recruitment and selection, promotion, performance evaluation, and HR planning at the Board in Naypiytaw. “We have set the stage for a professional and transparent process of selection of the senior leaders in UCSB, which means that it will expand throughout the civil service of the Government of Myanmar,” said John Vong upon launching the pilot program at UCSB in Naypiytaw.


Earlier in 2019, UNDP supported Myanmar’s Civil Service Board and Central Statistical Organization to carry out what was the first-ever representative public perception study that used modern digital technology and reached out to over 2500 people from across the country. The study revealed some of the areas of improvements for Myanmar’s public service to ensure citizen-centered service delivery, transparency, and equal opportunity for access. For instance, the study showed that while over 80% of respondents were satisfied with government services, 66.4% of respondents expect government services need to get better.

  


The PPSoGS comes after another perception survey conducted in 2016, to assess the perceived level of meritocracy, transparency and ethics in Myanmar civil service system. “That study pointed out important gaps and provided useful recommendations including to review the mandate and role of Union Civil Service Board in relation to other ministries and agencies with regards to all aspects of civil service management. And what is worth noting is the Government has already started implementing some of the recommendations, such as by piloting a Senior Executive Leadership Program at the UCSB, providing transformational learning trainings to professors of the country’s two civil service schools,” says Valentina Bianchini, Project Manager of UNDP’s LEAP.


The PPSoGS comes after another perception survey conducted in 2016, to assess the perceived level of meritocracy, transparency and ethics in Myanmar civil service system. “That study pointed out important gaps and provided useful recommendations including to review the mandate and role of Union Civil Service Board in relation to other ministries and agencies with regards to all aspects of civil service management. And what is worth noting is the Government has already started implementing some of the recommendations, such as by piloting a Senior Executive Leadership Program at the UCSB, providing transformational learning trainings to professors of the country’s two civil service schools,” says Valentina Bianchini, Project Manager of UNDP’s LEAP.


Mark Brewer, who facilitated the two-day training says, “When we look at how we develop new leaders, we need to look at attitude and their personality first. Then we look at how we develop their ability to communicate and influence people. Once they have done that, then we look at how well they build and manage their team. Lastly, we look at how good they are at their technical abilities. Now all four domains are important but if you do it in that order, you are more likely to get a more effective civil service and that is really important in Myanmar because of the focus on mindset change.”

  

“The UNDP programme has really helped us learn the skills that are key to changing the mindset in the civil service. This training contributes to the ongoing process of reform. It will be more effective if we can train all the civil servants on the transformative leadership techniques,” says Dr. Nant Khin Thinn Su, Pro-Rector (Training), Central Institute of Civil Service Lower Myanmar, one of the participants of the training. Professors like Dr. Nant Khin Thinn Su are the trainers who will be engaged in training the rest of the civil servants from across the country.


Modernizing the civil service also means making sure that the civil service is more inclusive in terms of gender. To ensure that the transformed civil service of Myanmar is giving an equal and favorable environment for women leaders to grow, UNDP carried out the Gender Equality in Public Administration study (GEPA), surveying the entire 630,441 women civil personnel from across the country. The study revealed that a great deal remained to be done to clear the barriers facing women in the civil service including their promotion from mid-level gazette jobs to top leadership positions. Creating an enabling environment and a gender-friendly workplace is key to reduce the informal barriers preventing women in Myanmar to access leadership positions. For example, de-linking promotion to transfer to remote duty stations without childcare would contribute to provide a more gender-balanced civil service. Gender should also be mainstreamed in HR policies, job descriptions and performance evaluations.

While these are some of the efforts that have started showing results on the ground, a great deal remains to be done. UNDP remains committed to walk alongside the Government of Myanmar in its efforts to help transform and modernize the civil service. We believe with all of us working together, Myanmar’s civil service could become one of the examples in the region.



Note: This photo story was originally published in the Exposure

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