Statement by the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kazakhstan Mr. Norimasa Shimomura The national Conference “Nursultan Nazarbayev and new model for civil service”

Jan 28, 2016

28 January 2016,

9:45am, Nazarbayev University

 

Honourable Chair, Minister Donakov,

Excellencies,

Representatives of the Government, Parliament, Diplomatic Corps, academia and civil society,

United Nations colleagues,

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to join you this morning at this important event to share and learn ideas on the new model of civil service in Kazakhstan. I am delighted to be joined by leading experts and practitioners from the government and academia.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate again Honorable Minister Donakov and his staff with the formation of the new Ministry of Civil Service. This is a great achievement, and very timely as Kazakhstan undertakes the next stage of structural and political reforms.

I also would like thank Nazarbayev University for hosting this important event. The beautiful halls of this University, and its academic capacities, truly represent the bright future of Kazakhstan. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have gathered here to deliberate on a topic essential to a nation building for any country. It is an understatement to point out that civil service is critical for achieving long-term sustainable development. Last year, at the General Assembly, the Heads of States have ratified a new global development agenda encapsulated by the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. The agenda is bold, transformational and universal, requiring commitment from all countries, developed and developing, to build a better shared future.  For example, the Goal #16 aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

The good news is, during the last twenty years, Kazakhstan has worked ceaselessly to build a strong foundation by achieving transformational economic and social results. It is the only country in Central Asia which was able to reduce its poverty levels eight fold, from 40% to less than 5% [during this period].  Kazakhstan has no rivals in vision-setting, and implementing step-by-step reforms. Kazakhstan’s 2050 long-term strategy is an example of a visionary leadership of the President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his competent Government bodies.

The President’s five institutional reforms and ‘the Plan of Nation -100 concrete steps’ is the logical continuation, and form a building block towards achieving the country’s ambition to join the ranks of the thirty most developed nations in the world.  We can almost refer to the ‘100 steps’ as a ‘last mile’ journey towards modernizing Kazakhstani’s public institutions on par with OECD standards.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, we all recognize that achieving these ‘last mile’ structural reforms are often the most difficult, and require well thought-out and deliberate steps, as well as sustained collaborative efforts from ministries, agencies and citizens, both at central and local levels.  Much time, patience and a lot of efforts are needed towards building a social consensus and public ownership of these fast paced reforms.

Let me now highlight some of the key principles of building effective and modern civil service – which are meritocracy, ethics and prevention of corruption. Each of the principles have been explicitly captured in the ‘100 steps’ program.

Ethics and meritocracy in civil service are important goals in their own right, since they help to improve public trust and confidence in the government’s ability to meet people’s aspirations and expectations.

At the macro level, a credible, honest, professional civil service is essential for building and sustaining investor confidence, which is vital for economic growth. International experience shows merit-based state institutions have a positive correlation with higher economic growth rates.

At the level of institutions and individuals, civil service based on fair and meritocratic practices contributes to positive motivation and attitudes among staff, thus leading to a better organizational performance. In such environment of shared commitment, and a merit-based career advancement, corruption incidences also tend to be lower.

Most importantly, as I have mentioned before, excellence in civil service cannot be achieved without reform-minded politicians and leaders who are empowered to see through with a “change agenda.” I am glad to observe that Kazakhstan is full of such ‘centers of innovation,’ willing to ‘test drive’ new and bold ideas. 

Colleagues, let me now turn to the work of the United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], the organization whom I have served for many years. I will also speak of the role of the entire United Nations system, in my ‘hat’ as the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kazakhstan.

UNDP has the largest in-country presence out of all UN agencies, working directly in 177 countries and territories around the world. UNDP’s central focus is on improving human capabilities and building resilient nations. I can say with confidence that UNDP’s biggest expertise lies in the area of governance and building capable public institutions. Our biggest measure of success is that the Governments around the world accept UNDP as their trusted and committed partner, ready to deliver impartial expertise and timely support even in the most difficult and challenging of circumstances.  Through this vast experience UNDP recognizes that it is wasteful to provide mere ‘copy-and-paste’ approaches, and thus promotes practical solutions carefully tailed to historical and political contexts of each country.

Please allow me to describe one practical example from my previous country experience. In Montenegro, UNDP, together with a local municipality and civil society has developed a mobile application called Be Responsible. Essentially, the app enables ordinary citizens to track and report on the local issues, such as illegal waste dumps, misuse of official vehicles, failure to issue official receipts, etc. The citizen reporting generates collections of fines, and in the first six months alone, about 500,000 Euros have been collected. Half of this money was then re-used to finance local development priorities, such as local parks, homes for the elderly persons, kindergartens for the disabled children, etc.

This is but one example of how one innovation through the use of modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can enhance our collective work towards minimizing the risks of corruption. Positive reinforcement, and preventive measures are the only way to strengthen integrity in civil and public services.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Excellencies,

In the next five years, the United Nations Agencies will be implementing its new joint programme called the Partnership Framework for Development. We stand ready to provide joint support to the implementation of your reforms. Right now, the UN Agencies are preparing two joint proposals, one in the area of Sustainable Urbanization, and another, in the area of modernizing public health services. We stand ready to provide joint UN support in the area of civil service reforms, and the implementation of new laws such as the ‘Law on Access to Information’ and the ‘Law on Public Councils.’ 

As for UNDP, which also has begun implementing its five-year country programme, support to the implementation of the 100 steps will remain one of the highest priorities. We will continue working with you on various concrete tasks, such as the introduction of the new competency and grading systems for civil servants, preventive measures to reduce the risks of corruption among public institutions, and empowering both citizens and public institutions to implement the open data/open information policies.  We also stand ready to test out some of the innovative approaches similar to the Montenegro example I have described earlier in my speech. We will continue supporting the Regional Hub of Civil Service in Astana, a flagship initiative financed by the Government of Kazakhstan. [This innovative platform enables countries to effectively exchange best practices and solutions, conduct joint research, and network on topics related to civil service transformation. It has already brought together thirty two countries and five international organizations, and is helping position Kazakhstan as a regional, if not global, leader in promoting goal 16 of the SDGs.]

 

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank Mr. Donakov for the invitation to speak at this Conference, and would like to wish all the participants very successful deliberations. I understand this is the first of the series of national and local conferences and seminars which will be organized throughout this year. On the next occasion, I would be honored to participate in an event at a local level, and engage with rural governments and citizens.  Let paraphrase an oft repeated saying “the future is here. It’s just unevenly distributed.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us work jointly towards re-distributing the bright future which is already present in Kazakhstan!

 

Thank you.

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