UN Public Service Day has been observed on June 23 since 2002. On this day we celebrate the value of public service and the important contribution of efficient, accountable and effective public administration for achieving global development goals.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the relevance of strong public institutions has become even more evident, while the global effects of the war in Ukraine dramatically demonstrate the transnational nature of the problems that public policies seek to address. The European Union itself was born as a peace project of regional integration, deeply rooted in peer learning.
From this experience, the EU and its member states, working together as Team Europe, are mobilising European public sector expertise through peer-to-peer exchanges and institutional partnerships. Framed by the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, our collective goal is to support partner countries’ policy reforms in a demand-driven, tailored, and structured way, to promote development effectiveness, and to build trust-based relationships. These partnerships improve the coherence, coordination and transformational impact of European responses to global challenges and nurture a rules-based multilateral order of shared priorities and values, such as rule of law and democracy.
Our political leaders have shown their commitment to promoting the participation of member states’ public administrations in the EU’s external action and development architecture. On 19 November 2021, at the Foreign Affairs Council, the EU development ministers acknowledged public sector expertise as a key asset that EU member states can use in the service of partner countries. The Council conclusions call on the Commission, the High Representative and member states to exploit the full potential of European public sector expertise. They further acknowledge the importance of existing European networks, including the Practitioners’ Network, as fora for promoting synergies and mutual learning.
On 17 March 2022, the European ministers responsible for public administration, public transformation and the civil service adopted the Strasbourg Declaration on common Values and Challenges of European public administrations. The declaration emphasises the importance of improving internal coordination between our public services and the need to bring European public sector expertise into our international partnerships to address common development challenges and promote shared values. The EU’s and member states’ development and international cooperation programmes with partner countries and regions are demonstrating how public sector expertise can address the multidimensional challenges of development, find joint solutions for the Global Goals, and improve our collective alignment with new geopolitical realities.
European integration has shown that public sector expertise is especially valuable in the context of the EU enlargement process. It is a vehicle for transmitting the EU acquis and the experience of the process of accession to the EU, making it a flagship of EU external action. Among the many relevant examples, EU member states have actively engaged in the Western Balkans, in fields such as public financial management, cooperation between security forces, natural resources management, the rural environment and public administration reform. The same applies – today more than ever before – in the context of the EU Neighbourhood Policy.
In Africa and in other regions of the world, such as Asia, the EU has relevant experiences on the potential of public sector expertise to support key reform processes, contributing to strengthen sectors such as education and health, rule of law, and sustainable development in general, while ensuring ownership and alignment with partner countries’ priorities. In Latin America and the Caribbean, EU regional cooperation programmes are proving the potential of public sector expertise to address the multidimensional challenges of development in transition. These programmes support new social pacts towards a just, green, digital and socio-economic transition and build policy-driven, trust-based partnerships that feed into political dialogues.
For almost 25 years, the EU Twinning and TAIEX tools have provided one of the most important references for peer-to-peer cooperation in the public sector. The current extension of these tools for global outreach shows the potential of public sector expertise within the EU’s external action and development policy, including in Team Europe initiatives on manufacturing and guaranteeing access to vaccines.
To further support partnerships, the European Commission launched the Team Europe Partnerships Portal (TEPP) in June 2022. This platform creates a virtual bridge by providing key information about the goods, services and technical expertise, including public sector expertise, that Team Europe can provide.
EU member states are introducing clear commitments to use public sector expertise in their development policies. These highlight the strategic importance of public technical cooperation, the role of public servants as agents for development cooperation and the need for internationalisation of our own public administrations. The engagement of line ministries with peer institutions in partner countries, combined with cross-government coordination at headquarters, has proven to be a cost efficient and high-value means to respond to partner countries’ demands in a growing range of areas. Member state organisations and bilateral development agencies are engaging public institutions for the international partnership agenda and creating bilateral public sector expertise programmes to better complement our common European tools.
As Team Europe we are committed to share the whole range of our public sector capacities, helping to promote universal values, providing European standards and the policy approaches necessary to enhance strategic partnerships for sustainable and inclusive development around the globe.
Heidy Rombouts, Director-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Belgium
Koen Doens, Director General, International Partnerships, European Commission
Titta Maja, Director-General for Development Policy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland
Michel Miraillet, Director General for Globalization, Culture, Education and International Development, Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, France
Dr. Kirsten Scholl, Director-General of European Policy, Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Germany
Fabio Cassese, Director General for Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Italy
Rasa Kairienė, Director for Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lithuania
Cristina Moniz, Vice-President of Camões – Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua, IP, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Portugal
Bogdan Filip, Director General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Romania
Eva Tomič, Director-General for Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Slovenia
Eva del Hoyo Barbolla, Director-General for Sustainable Development Policies, Ministry for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Spain
A first reflection from us:
The launch of the 2030 Agenda and the need to upscale development finance from millions to trillions has resulted in a greater focus of the development community on how to better engage the private sector in international cooperation. However, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also call for a renewed role of the public sector and public Administrations in global development. While social development results, rather than processes were at the core of the Millennium Development Goals, establishing partnerships for development (SDG 17), promoting peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16) or reducing inequalities (SDG 10) call for a bolder and greater action on the part of the State and for a strengthened dialogue between the North and the Global South.
Iliana Olive, Senior Analyst, Elcano – Spain
The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated – if still needed – the critical role that the State must be able to play in the economy and for the well-being of the people. While private initiatives and investments are the backbones of prosperity, these can only flourish for the benefit of society in a properly regulated environment with a strong and effective public sector. As public-private partnerships become more common, including in the Global South, their contribution to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) depends on efficient, solid and socially responsible public policies and institutions adapted to local contexts. Collective action and sharing of good practices can be instrumental in providing public goods. The EU has a strong role to play in that respect, mobilising its vast public and private know-how, experiences and international engagement to benefit the global community, emerging economies and more vulnerable countries. So do research centres and think tanks, such as the European Think Tank Group (ETTG), as providers of policy and practical insights on how to most effectively articulate public and private sector activities for achieving the SDGs, in an inclusive and gender-sensitive manner, leaving no one behind.
In the context of the European architecture for development, this notably means that European public administrations, donors and development agencies should further enhance their endeavours to innovate and work more closely together, with financial institutions for development, and with the private sector.
San Bilal, Head of the Economic Transformation and Trade Programme, ECDPM – The Netherlands/Belgium
Photo by Jean-Louis Paulin on Unsplash.
The views are those of the authors and not necessarily those of ETTG.