Kazakhstan at the forefront of civil service reform

Sep 8, 2016

Kazakhstan is taking the lead in overhauling its civil service and is at the forefront of initiatives aimed at strengthening the professional civil service and enhancing regional and international cooperation in this area.

In 2013, the Government of Kazakhstan and UNDP founded the Regional Hub of Civil Service in Astana, a resource centre for the key players involved in reforming this sector in Central Asia and beyond. The Hub brings together government officials, academics and other stakeholders from the 32 countries and five international organisations taking part in the project.

“Given the importance of civil service excellence to sustainable development, this Hub will help position Kazakhstan as a leader in the implementation of the new sustainable development agenda,” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark told delegates at the Astana Economic Forum in May 2015.

The Regional Hub aims to promote this excellence by introducing more merit-based principles and connecting people in different countries so they can share their experiences and best practice.

The Hub has already had a positive impact on shaping government policy, with its suggestions feeding into Kazakhstan’s new Law on Civil Service which took effect on 1 January 2016.

“Our most recent recommendations to the Government were to delineate the functions of political and career civil servants as well as introduce a competencies framework and pay-for-performance practices,” says Yernar Zharkeshov, the Hub’s Head of Research Team.

This new civil service law is a key element of Kazakhstan’s plans to modernise its society, with the aim of joining the ranks of the 30 most developed nations in the world by 2050. In the 100 Concrete Steps reform programme, unveiled by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in May 2015, reforming recruitment practices in the public sector was defined as a priority for Kazakhstan. The programme recommends a shift to a career-based model with promotion dependent on qualifications and work experience.

On gaining independence in 1991, Kazakhstan inherited a centrally-planned, Soviet-style civil service. In the mid-1990s, officials started the groundwork to move away from top-down policy-making and to put in place greater accountability in the public sector.

Initially, civil service reform in Kazakhstan introduced structural and functional changes. It reduced the number of government agencies and civil servants at the national and regional levels and defined the scope of work that each agency performed. The next step was to introduce a greater degree of professionalism.

The reform process gathered pace at the turn of the 21st century, with major achievements secured such as the adoption of specialised laws on Civil Service and on Administrative Procedures, and the creation of a Code of Ethics for Public Servants.

“An open, accountable and professional civil service is important to build public trust and confidence in governance and service delivery,“ says UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Kazakhstan Munkhtuya Altangerel. “It is reassuring to see that Kazakhstan has embarked on this road and is carrying out a number of reforms that are designed to further strengthen its civil service.“ 

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