UNPAN Workshop Theme: Enhancing Regional Integration for sustainable development through UNPAN Address by UNDP Country Director on behalf of the UNDP Resident Representative

Jul 22, 2015

Mr. Walid Badawi, Country Director - UNDP South Africa

Ms. Thuli Radebe, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Public Service and Innovation of South Africa

Ms. Lydia Phalwane, Chief Director: Enabling Environment

Distinguished delegates and government representatives from the SADC region,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here today on behalf of UNDP to join you in this workshop on Enhancing Regional Integration for Sustainable Development through the UN Public Administration Network (UNPAN) which UNDP was honored to financially and technically support.

UNDP’s interest in supporting this event is premised on the convergence of the objectives of this meeting which are to promote South-South learning on innovative public administration practices with our own priorities as expressed in our Country Programme Document (CPD) for South Africa. UNDP in agreement with the Government has identified support for strengthened public sector delivery and accountability as well as supporting South Africa in its regional and global roles as two of our four programme objectives, the other two being inclusive growth and greening the South African economy. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s workshop brings together senior government representatives to share lessons and experiences, address challenges, explore collaborative solutions, and enhance knowledge sharing on  innovative practices in the public sector domain in the SADC region.  Moreover, it aims to increase the contribution and use of the UNPAN portal in the region More specifically, one of the concrete outcomes of this workshop is to define the parameters of a joint research on innovation in the civil service, including harnessing data for evidence-based policymaking, and on leveraging new digital technologies and social media to promote citizen engagement. Indeed experiences in empowering citizens to participate in public processes, by monitoring service delivery have shown significant results in terms of public accountability and transparency as well as improved quality of the services. In an age of advanced information and communications technologies (ICTs), there are many new opportunities and tools for opening up such engaging spaces between the citizens and the public authorities and within the public sector itself.

For UNDP, innovation is not an end in itself it is about using the most up-to-date concepts and means available to get the best development results. Innovation is indeed a driver for sustainable development; it is evidence based, practical and results-driven. Innovation accelerates human development and is anchored in learning to inform future human development practices.

It is encouraging to see that the African Union has adopted a science, technology and innovation strategy for Africa, in line with the Common Africa Position for the post-2015 Development Agenda. Innovation is crucial for Africa’s emergence because it is an outlet for the tremendous creative force of the continent, and especially its youth. Africa is capable of generating its own innovations, not just adopt those of other.  We have seen for example, in Kenya M-Pesa, which was an innovation to overcome the barriers of a developing financial system through mobile technology.

Within South Africa, many initiatives have been taken in order to underline and broaden innovation oriented networks. The Innovation Hub, for instance, provides unique spaces for high-tech entrepreneurs, emerging and established businesses, academics, researchers and funders or venture capitalists to meet, network and collectively work towards growing the South African economy through innovation. The Innovation Hub is also within close proximity of various government departments, notably, the Department of Science and Technology. With Technology innovation as one of their five main programme pillars, DST has made it its mandate to increase the wellbeing and prosperity through science, technology and innovation. Of course let us not forget, the immense efforts by the Centre for Public Service Innovation. It creates enabling environments that aims to change the mind set of public servants and instil in them a self-challenging attitude. This is done to encourage the continuous development of the public sector to build a cadre of effective and innovative leaders that are creative and responsible risk takers.      

While indeed South Africa has taken tremendous strides in embracing innovation, some key strategic questions remain, for example, how can innovation help fulfill the promises of the Constitution? How can innovation contribute to the attainment of the strategic objectives of the National Development Plans-Vision 2030? What role can innovation play in nurturing the democratization process? And most importantly, How do we position the South African public sector to ensure it supports the government’s developmental agenda, and lastly, how do we ensure we do not miss out on innovation at community level?

UNDP can be of assistance in helping to find solutions to some of these questions.  UNDP has long experience in supporting more than 170 countries to implement public service reforms and as part of its good governance agenda. In doing so, we work with ministries, local authorities, constitutional bodies, and civil society organizations. UNDP can draw on this wealth of experiences in supporting the countries of this region to find context specific solutions to these challenges.

To help process, synthesize and disseminate the knowledge generated from these various country level experiences in public service and administration, and in partnership with the Government of Singapore, in 2012 UNDP established the Global Centre for Public Service Excellence. The Center, through its evidence building activities identifies trends, innovations and public service solutions. It brings officials, leaders, policy-makers and experts together to debate and collaborate on addressing the public challenges of the day. We are pleased that on the second day of the workshop our colleagues from Singapore will be able to join in via Skype to share more information about how the Center can support public service efforts in the region.

In 2014, and to further incentivize country offices to innovate, UNDP launched the Innovation Facility. Since its launch, the facility has supported 49 initiatives across 54 countries. The support enhanced community participation by developing responsive feedback mechanisms and pathways; strengthened national planning processes by developing national planning instruments; and encouraged inclusivity by establishing spaces to co-design solutions to social problems. An African innovation facility has also been launched and country offices across Africa have galvanized around this agenda with a groundswell of proposals being considered for funding. I therefore take this opportunity to encourage participants in this meeting to engage with my counterparts in UNDP country offices in the region to explore further possibilities for collaboration.

As we approach the MDGs deadline, and open a new chapter with the SDGs, innovation must be one of the key drivers of this new development agenda. In the words of Ms. Helen Clark, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, when referring to the process of consultation around the SDGs themselves put it “placing the “end-users” at the heart of the process, and engaging them in identifying the challenges and in co-creating solutions, can contribute a lot to implementation of the post-2015 agenda. Indeed the way in which the global citizenry has been engaged in the dialogue on post-2015 shows how new technologies can be employed to reach very wide audience.”

She goes on to describe the role of innovation by saying: “to contribute to sustainable and equitable development, we must continue to invest in innovation in its programing and in its ways of working.  New partnerships must be built. We must continually improve our processes to become more agile. We must be calculated risk-takers. We should openly share what works and what doesn’t.”

It is my hope that the quality of discussions and information sharing at this workshop will generate meaningful and innovative solutions for the SADC members. UNDP South Africa looks forward to working with CPSI and other partners to expand institutional capacities and provide technical support to enhance efforts to unearth, develop and implement innovative solutions within the country and the region.

I thank you and wish you a fruitful workshop.