Trends and Challenges in Public Administration Reform in Asia and the Pacific

Patrick Keuleers, Mark Turner

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper


For more than four decades, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been a leading provider of technical advice in Public Administration and Civil Service Reform, with 90 Country Offices reporting activities in this area in 2004/5. The recent focus on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) calls for renewed interest in the role of the State and for increased attention to the quality of public sector management, and emphasizes the need for an effective and efficient public administration that is responsive, transparent and accountable, capable of providing quality services to the population and ensuring the broad participation of citizens in decision-making. A study of UNDP’s governance work in the region, undertaken by the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific (RBAP) in October 2003, indicated that other agencies, particularly the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB),were becoming increasingly involved in areas where UNDP previously enjoyed an advantage. Public Administration Reform (PAR) was one such area. In 1999, 11 UNDP Country Offices in the region reported activities grouped under “Promotion of an efficient and accountable public sector”, while in 2003 that number had decreased to eight. Further, with only one PAR proposal from the region submitted to the Thematic Trust Fund in 2003, and no PAR proposals submitted in 2004, there were indications that UNDP was gradually shifting its focus to more recently popularized service lines such as Decentralization and Local Governance, Access to Justice, and Human Rights. In 2005,by contrast, five out of the 18 expressions of interest for the Thematic Trust Fund in the Asia-Pacific region were in the area of PAR and anti-corruption, while three others were closely related to this service line. Several of the expressions of interest in the area of decentralization also contained elements of PAR. Further, in several countries where UNDP had pulled out of PAR, governments have now made requests for renewed UNDP support in this area (e.g., Bangladesh, Bhutan,Mongolia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka). This renewed interest reflects a change in approach with PAR now being addressed from the new entry points of accountability, transparency and performance management. Further impetus for reform and improvement to public administration will be provided by the implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which, once ratified by the required number of countries, will require substantive donor inputs and support. These trends call for a more in-depth analysis of PAR experiences in the region,and of UNDP’s involvement in national PAR programmes in particular, in order to understand UNDP’s contribution to this large area of demand, and to assist UNDP in making well-informed decisions on the allocation of regional and domestic advisory services and resources to the PAR service line. This regional study is a follow-up to the RBAP survey on governance in the region, and aims to: i) increase our knowledge and understanding of PAR in the Asia-Pacific; ii) address trends and challenges in PAR; and iii) identify how UNDP can reflect and respond to these changes. The study is not meant to be an in-depth evaluation of UNDP’s projects and activities in the area of PAR. Such an evaluation would involve impact assessments which are not feasible within the scope of this report.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationThailand
PublisherUnited Nations Development Programme
Number of pages101
ISBN (Print)9749363205
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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