Creating a culture of leadership and results for Palestinian civil servants

A female Palestinian civil service writes on a large piece of paper during a leadership training exercise. Photo: UNDP/PAPP Image Bank
A Palestinian civil servant participates in a leadership training activity. Photo: UNDP/PAPP Image Bank

By: Dania Darwish

Picture this:  Groups of students huddle around large pieces of paper. The papers are adorned with bright colours and complex diagrams. One teacher praises the students’ work. Another teacher tears it up.

The students, all senior members of the Palestinian civil service - are shocked and upset. However, that is the point.

This learning activity - designed to help civil servants better understand crises - is part of the conflict management curriculum in UNDP’s Civil Service Leadership Development Programme in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Highlights

  • 800 senior civil servants in the West Bank received leadership training.
  • Training is conducted both online and face-to-face.
  • A new e-database has been developed to store personal and salary information for all 86,000 Palestinian civil servants.
  • Standardized curriculum developed by the programme will be used to train the civil service's 86,000 staff and 6,000 managers.

The leader of the activity, an instructor from Birzeit University’s Centre for Continuing Education, goes on to demonstrate how wise management of such a shocking incident can strengthen relations among service members and prevent tensions from escalating.

Between 2009 and 2011 the Civil Service Leadership Development Programme, funded by the Government of Italy and implemented by UNDP, trained 800 senior civil servants in the West Bank in 10 key areas, including legal and financial awareness and strategic planning.

The Programme represents a first step towards establishing a standardized training programme for all members of the Palestinian civil service. Going forward, training will be carried out directly by the Palestinian Authority.

Hanadi Abu Bakr, head of recruitment at the General Personnel Council, which oversees the recruitment of all Palestinian Authority civil servants, recently completed her training. She said her favorite courses were on communication skills and human resource management.

“I learnt how to deal better with colleagues…and with different audiences such as the general public. It gave me a lot more confidence,” she stated. She noted how in the past, such standard training for civil servants did not exist.

“There was no quality control,” she recalls. “[However,] in this training, we are constantly being asked to assess the quality.”

Maha Abusamra, who manages the leadership programme, monitors the courses on a constant basis.

“I have a book in which all trainees are invited to make complaints, write comments, give feedback or offer recommendations. I look at the book each evening and reply to each point the next day,” she explains.

Over the years, UNDP has assisted the Palestinian Authority in its efforts to strengthen its governance systems and administrative institutions.

Doing so is one of the top priorities outlined in the 2011-2013 Palestinian National Plan. Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad affirmed that the Plan calls for, “a public sector that enjoys a reputation of integrity, good performance and responsiveness through the cost effective delivery of high quality public services to citizens and efficient and effective management of national resources.”

The Civil Service Leadership Programme has contributed greatly to the achievement of these goals. It has helped to ensure that civil servants gain the skills they need to carry out their roles effectively, and to prepare for eventual statehood.