‘The Future is Not What it Used to Be’: Preparing Public Administration in Big Ocean States for a New Era of Uncertainty

Feb 8, 2017

HE Tuila’epa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi (Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Samoa) in conversation with Dame Meg Taylor (Secretary-General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat)
Ms Osnat Lubrani (UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, UNDP Pacific Office, Fiji) and HE Namoliki Sualiki Neemia (Minister for Home Affairs and Rural Development, Tuvalu). In the back: HE Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva (Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tonga) and HE Billy Talagi (Minister of Natural Resources, Niue).
The Global Centre for Public Service Excellences introduces the Empower Futures Initiative which promotes the use of foresight approaches in the public service.

On 8 February 2017 the UNDP’s Global Centre for Public Service Excellence (GCPSE) hosted one Head of State (the President of Nauru, Baron Waqa), three Heads of Government (the Prime Ministers of Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga), Foreign Ministers from the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu), Minister of Natural Resources from Niue, Minister of Home Affairs from Tuvalu, Minister of State for Timor-Leste, Minister of Finance of Palau. Important officials, such as Chairman of Niue Public Service Commission, Permanent Secretary of Civil Service in Fiji also attended. At the event, GCPSE hosted the heads of 3 International Organisations (Pacific Islands Development Forum, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and Pacific Community). The purpose of the visit, arranged at the request of the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was to consider ways of improving public administration in the Pacific in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In his introductory speech Max Everest Phillips, Director of GCPSE, highlighted critical development challenges for public administration. Osnat Lubrani, UN Resident Coordinator for Pacific Office described the steps that many countries, with support from the UN and regional partners, are already taking to localize the SDGs in alignment with their national priorities.

Dr. Cyrus Rustomjee of the Centre for International Governance Innovation, framed the opportunities for Big Ocean economies, and emphasized the importance of a whole of system approach, new forms of planning to integrate use of resources, extraction, maritime transport sustainable energy. Other speakers outlined the importance of strategic foresight, public service motivation and peer to peer learning as drivers of successful development. Nigel Goh, speaking on public service motivation, quoted Peter Goh, a former head of the Singapore Public service: “Policy is implementation and implementation is policy.” Senior representatives from Microsoft presented a proposed joint initiative with GCPSE, The Virtual School of Government to strengthen capacity-building for public service officials in the Pacific. Microsoft also outlined cyber security threats, and mitigation measures. The work of the UNDP anti-corruption effort in the Asia/Pacific region was also presented.

Lively discussion followed each presentation. The Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, emphasised the participants key role as leaders: “If there is no political leadership, then talking about development has no purpose.” political leadership in public administration set the vision and direction of public sector reform, bolstering public service motivation. The Prime Minister of Tonga, Samuela Akilisi Pohiva stated that “Tonga would have no future” if leaders did not instil moral courage, and moral leadership in the public service. A former Prime Minister of Timor Leste noted the importance of the political/administrative interface for building the confidence of civil servants. The event concluded with the agreement to strengthen regional collaboration in achieving SDGs. Osnat Lubrani summed it up by noting that “the robust exchange between Pacific leaders and GCPSE shed light on great potential for a more motivated, well-supported, public service to become a driver for advancing the SDGs at country level. Many ideas emerged for the UN to work with its regional partners to make it happen”.

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