Speech at public administration reform (PAR) partnership forum

27 Nov 2009

Speaker: Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director
Date:       27 November 2009
Event:     Public administration reform (PAR) partnership forum

Mr. Nguyen Tien Dinh, Vice-Minister of Home Affairs;
Representatives from the ministries of agriculture and rural development, education, health and culture;
Representatives from Da Nang, Vinh Phuc, Cao Bang and Hai Phong provincial government;
International development partners;
Ladies and gentlemen;

Let me start by thanking Minister Tran Van Tuan for his personal interest in this partnership forum on public administration reform and for the great support he has extended for its organization.

With the new approach we are taking to the partnership forum, I hope it will provide an excellent opportunity for the government and donor community to share information and views on the process of public administration reform in Viet Nam – and to discuss both the achievements as well as the remaining challenges. Such an open and honest exchange of views will help strengthen coordination of our efforts, speed up the reform process and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public administration reform. 

By providing this space for policy dialogue on public administration, I believe we will be able to engage with a wide group of stakeholders who all have an interest in the process. The aim of the forum is to strengthen discussion and collaboration among concerned stakeholders – not just between government agencies and development partners but also to systematically reach out to other groups, including the private sector and civil society. This will ensure that the partnership forum becomes a true partnership.

Today’s forum is part of a series of recent events which aim to foster policy dialogue between the government and donor community on topics which are closely related to public administration reform – such as anti-corruption efforts and legal and judiciary reform. Yesterday, the annual anti-corruption dialogue was held in Ha Noi, at which many of you were present, and this afternoon a new project between  the Ministry of Justice and UNDP on strengthening legal empowerment of the poor is being launched, looking at ways to improve access to justice and protection of rights.

Before I hand over to Mr Hoa, I would like to spend a couple of minutes focusing on some of the areas within public administration which the UN believes are of particular importance for Viet Nam’s on-going reform efforts.

As we know, an efficient, responsive and transparent public administration is of crucial importance for the proper functioning of a country. Such a public administration system is vital for economic growth, industrialization, poverty reduction and human development. The formulation and implementation of the first-ever PAR Master Plan in 2001 marked a turning point for public administration reform in Viet Nam. The plan comes to an end next year and this provides a good opportunity to take stock and analyse the successes and challenges – yielding important lessons for future public administration reform and the development of a follow-up master plan (covering 2011-2020). The UN remains very interested in contributing to this important reflection and supporting the Government to conduct the review. I am sure that other development partners are also keen to contribute.   

Secondly, the UN believes that experience gained at the sector level, in particular the transformation within the Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development toward a macro-management ministry, provides important lessons for the next stage of public administration reform in Viet Nam. In addition, there is also valuable information and feedback that needs to be captured from the beneficiaries of public sector services – information on the quality of the services they receive. For instance, earlier this week I was in Lam Dong Province with the Vice Minister of MARD and the provincial authority and people at the commune level to discuss reduction in emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. We learned that protection of forests and livelihoods of people, including the ethnic minority groups in high land areas, is a complex issue. Good governance such as land classification, financial incentives for protection of forests, and surveillance against illegal logging, is key to achieving sustainable development. After all, the aim of public sector reform is to improve the quality of public services, especially in basic social services such as education and public health.   

Thirdly, we see the Law on Public Officials and Civil Servants, which comes into effect in January next year, as another important step in public administration reform. The law will help manage human resources in the public sector in a more transparent and meritocratic way – thereby helping to build a more capable public sector. By separating ‘public officials’ (can bo) from ‘civil servants’ (cong chuc) corruption problems such as viewing public office as a vehicle for personal enrichment can be effectively addressed.

Finally, let me stress that we look forward to reports on the ongoing pilot on non-organization of people’s councils at the district and commune level. This is an innovative initiative that needs to be monitored closely in order to prevent any side effects which would undermine indirect democracy, in particular at the grass-root levels

Let me end by thanking the leadership of MOHA again for hosting today’s important forum. I would also like to thank the donor community for their continuous support in this crucial reform area. On behalf of the UN and UNDP I would like to stress that the UN stands ready to bring comparative perspectives, insights and best practices from the rest of the world to help Viet Nam in defining the key directions and priorities for public administration reform to bring the country to the next level of development.

Thank you.