How do we transform public sector institutions, empower key actors in governance, and strengthen networks for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? These were at the heart of the discussions that ensued during the first Plenary Session of the 2017 EROPA Conference. The session, sponsored by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the UN Project Office on Governance. Ms. Alicia dela Rosa-Bala, Chair of the Philippine Civil Service Commission, served as the Moderator for this session. Joining her as speakers are: Mr. Edwin Lau, Head of Public Governance Directorate, OECD; Professor Paul Collins, Visiting Professor of Public Policy, Fudan University, UK; and Mr. Chae Gun Chung, Head of UNPOG.
Mr. Edwin Lau’s presentation, “Public Sector Innovation for Sustainable Development and Citizen-Centric Government,” first interrogated on the kind of outcome indicators through which countries attain SDGs, which governments can use to identify new approaches and focus on implementation of SDG-related programs. Despite the resounding call for innovation, however, barriers continue to constrain innovation, such as rigidities in bureaucracy, lack of incentives, and overemphasis on rules and structures. He suggested the need for reforms and networking/sharing of insights along these areas to allow the transfer and adaptation of best practices, particularly in terms of openness as a key ingredient in reforms. He also highlighted the role of leadership in guiding reforms, as well as building of capacities among stakeholders.
Capacity building of governance actors was also the main focus of Professor Paul Collins’ presentation, “Empowering Governance Stakeholders for SHD: Human Resources and Social Capital for Quality Public Services.” Collins brought forward the dilemma between citizen participation (i.e., Power to the People), and government as the main driver for reform (i.e., “government at the forefront”). He also mentioned the challenge of balancing innovations with a review of the fundamentals. Collins argued that there needs to be cross-sectoral collaboration as well as coordination of public sector inputs, most especially human resources, to cope with challenges in HRD, particularly in view of the SDGs.
Mr. Chae Gun Chung elaborated on the idea of cross-sectoral collaboration in his presentation, “Participatory Governance for SDG Implementation: Whole-of-Society Approach.” He linked the whole-of-society (WOS) approach with the attainment of SDGs and realization of the UN Agenda for 2030, which seeks balance between economic growth, environmental protection and social inclusion. Citing cases from Korea, Indonesia, and Malaysia, Chung emphasized that governments should lead in adopting WOS and, at the same time, forge optimal relationships with non-state actors, such as businesses, media, civil society, and the academe, in implementing SDG programs.