Helen Clark: Speech at Side Event on “Effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: E-governance, Transparency and Public Services”

Sep 19, 2016

Engaging youth on public concerns, and to empower through entrepreneurship. Photo credit: UNDP

I am pleased to join this side event on “Effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: E-governance, Transparency and Public Services”. I thank Georgia, Estonia, and the Republic of Korea  for co-hosting this important event with UNDP. 

The importance of effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions to sustainable development

Twelve months ago, UN Member States unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The objective is to eradicate poverty and hunger, tackle discrimination and inequality, and protect our planet for present and future generations.

The Agenda recognizes that sustainable development cannot be realized without peace – and vice versa. SDG 16 specifically commits Member States to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels”. 

Advancing SDG 16 helps advance progress on all the other Goals. Effective institutions are central, for example, to:

•    achieving SDG 3 on health and SDG 4 on education. From the national to the local levels of government, there must be capacity to deliver services effectively, efficiently, and equitably;

•    achieving SDG 5 on gender equality, particularly the target to “ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership”. This requires, among other things, that attention is given to the role of women in public administration. UNDP’s Global Report on Gender Equality in Public Administration underlines how women’s engagement and leadership in public administration not only helps bring broader gender perspectives to policymaking but also breaks ground for advancing gender equality across society; 

•    achieving SDG 10 on significantly reducing inequalities. Eliminating discriminatory laws, policies, and practices requires inclusive public sector institutions; and  

•    achieving SDG 11 on safe, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable cities will require highly capable urban governance. The world’s cities are growing fast, and are home to significant concentrations of poor and marginalized people.  Urban governance has to step up to meet the challenges. 

Overall, effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions are critical to ensuring that no-one is left behind. 

UNDP support to countries to strengthen governance

This year, UNDP has 579 projects focused on building effective, responsive, and inclusive institutions, with a total budget of nearly two billion dollars. These projects range from the global to the regional and country-specific. 

•    At the global level, and with the support of the Singapore Government, UNDP established in 2012 the Global Centre for Public Service Excellence in Singapore to bring together the best thinking on public service policies, strategies, and institutional innovations from around the world. Our Seoul Policy Centre for Global Development Partnerships, supported by the Government of the Republic of Korea, has also become a platform for sharing practical country experiences on developing and sustaining effective, accountable, and inclusive public sector institutions.

•    At the regional level, UNDP hosts the Regional Hub of Civil Service in Astana, with the support of the Government of Kazakhstan. This Hub is contributing to the development of effective systems of public administration in the region and beyond. 

At the country level, UNDP has long experience of supporting governments with public administration reforms. For example,

•    In Georgia, we have supported such reforms for over a decade, including by bridging capacity gaps in national institutions through our flagship UNDP Governance Reform Fund. It provides on-demand technical advice to the highest levels of the civil service, together with training, capacity building, and seed funding for key priorities. Georgia has worked hard to establish a public sector which can deliver effectively in the ways SDG 16 envisages.

•    In the Dominican Republic since 2012, the Cabinet uses a management system developed with support from UNDP. Called SIGOB , it tracks progress on more than a hundred development commitments in consultation with civil society groups, and facilitates problem-solving. This tool is now being adapted in other countries in the region to track the implementation of SDG targets.

•    In Viet Nam since 2009, we have spearheaded the innovative Public Administration Performance Index which captures citizens’ views on governance and public administration performance. The data gathered enables public institutions to develop action plans to improve service delivery and enhance transparency.

Responsive and accountable institutions must foster collaboration between governments and civil society actors. As a partner of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) since 2013, UNDP has been helping build links between states and citizens, and supporting a number of the commitments made in OGP action plans developed at the country level. I was pleased to see Georgia recognized at last year’s OGP Summit with the first ever Government Champions Award. This recognized the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan which UNDP helped develop to increase citizen engagement in legislative affairs, including by allowing public comments on draft legislation.

The role of ICT in making progress on SDG 16 and Agenda 2030

Over the years, UNDP has worked on e-governance to harness the potential of ICTs to improve public service delivery. E-governance can transform communication between government institutions and citizens, and improve business processes, service delivery, and transparency.

The 2030 Agenda calls for further efforts to harness the potential of ICTs for better service delivery; to include and engage citizenship in decision-making processes; and to enhance the transparency and accountability of public institutions in this area: 

•    in Rwanda since 2013, UNDP has supported the Youth Connekt programme. It uses ICTs and social media to engage youth on public concerns, and to empower youth through entrepreneurship; 

•    in Bhutan, we are using internet hubs based in local centers to engage citizens on governance issues. Last year we supported the launch of the Virtual Zomdu programme which uses fiber optic networks and videoconferencing to connect citizens across the mountainous country with their representatives in the capital; and 

•    in Mexico, UNDP worked with the Government to develop social inclusion indicators, and a georeferenced open data platform which was launched during the OGP 2015 Summit in Mexico. This platform allows users to explore and compare over 100 indicators to follow the progress of SDG implementation.

•    Simplification of civil registration and improvement of delivery of public services by state agencies has been a hallmark of successful reforms in Georgia. UNDP has been supporting such reform there since 2005, including by helping to establish the modern Civil Registration Agency. This institution is a best-practice example in the region, providing citizens with a prompt and friendly service in issuing essential documents such as birth, death, and marriage certificates, IDs, and passports. I saw this streamlined system at work in February 2013 during my visit to the Public Service Hall in Tbilisi.

•    Working with the Government of Estonia, in 2002 UNDP helped to establish the E-Governance Academy. To this day, it trains and advises leaders and others on the use of ICT to increase government efficiency and public participation in decision-making. UNDP continues to work with Estonian experts to advise policy makers on these issues across the countries covered by its Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS and beyond.


Realizing the 2030 Agenda will require capable and responsive institutions at all levels of government. SDG 16 commits governments to strengthen these institutions so they can help drive sustainable development. At UNDP, we are committed to supporting this work.


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