Fourth Regional Working Group Meeting on Civil Service and Integrity, Rabat, Morocco, 4 April, 2008
The Working Group on Civil Service and Integrity, chaired by Morocco and co-chaired by Spain and Turkey, intends to support Arab countries in establishing an efficient civil service inspired by strong ethical values. The objective of the Working Group meeting was to narrow down the programme of work and to define concrete activities and practical orientations to be implemented during the second phase of the GfD Initiative (2008-10). Particularly, it sought to:
update the current tendencies and challenges in Human Resource Management (HRM) and Integrity in the public sector in Arab countries in order to adequate strategies for regional dialogue, capacity building and peer advice to support reforms at national levels;
discuss the methodological and practical basis for implementing joint learning activities and identify topics and interested countries in their development;
discuss how to reinforce the efforts currently undertaken by Arab countries to measure and report reform progress; and,
provide orientation and guidance for the elaboration of the Terms of Reference of the Working Group to be discussed and eventually endorsed at the next Steering Group Meeting at technical level.
The meeting took place at the École National d’Administration (ENA) of the Moroccan Ministry of Public Sector Modernisation. OECD countries were represented by participants from Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Turkey. The Arab countries that attended the meeting included: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, The Palestinian National Authority, and Tunisia. International organisations such as the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the World Bank also took part in the meeting.
The Working Group (WG) meeting, organised around four sessions, was officially opened by Mr. Mohammed Abbou, the Moroccan Minister delegate to the Prime Minister in charge of Public Sector Modernisation, and chair of the WG. In the opening session, chair and co-chairs underlined the relevance of the GfD initiative and of the WG in particular to enhance reform processes in Arab countries to modernise the civil service underpinned by strong ethical values and expressed the support of their countries to the GfD initiative and their commitment to reinforce the activities of the WG. The OECD Secretariat explained that this was an operational meeting intended to: a) find out ways to improve and make the most of capacity-building activities; b) intensify joint-learning studies at national level; c) exploring mechanisms for measuring progress; and, d) promoting capacity centres.
Session one focused on reporting the main achievements and ongoing activities of the Working Group. Arab participants were asked to update the working group on the main challenges of their country and on the policy responses their country is implementing in the areas of HRM and integrity. Arab delegates were also invited to suggest the main thematic priorities for capacity building events that in the context of the GfD their country would be interested in attending and/or willing to host. The main thematic priorities may be summarised as follows:
Fighting corruption seems to be the first priority for Arab countries as the majority of them manifested interest in this topic. Most of the arguments expressed by participants coincided with the idea that dealing with corruption constitutes the basis for reinforcing reforms to modernise the public service and strengthening political and economic development as a whole. Issues regarding transparency, integrity and ethics will be seminal components of the agenda for the activities of the WG during the second phase of the GfD initiative.
As for HRM topics, performance-related pay (PRP) schemes appear to be the topic in which more countries are interested. However, the discussions and arguments raised during the meeting suggest that PRP is seen as a way to improve performance and efficiency in the public service but also as an alternative to increase salaries and make the public service an attractive employer.
Recruitment and training of civil servants are two other relevant HRM themes for Arab countries. These topics are related to integrity issues as Arab participants expressed their need to improve their own recruitment systems to make them more open and transparent. Training is not only seen as a technical issue but as an instrument to increase civil servants awareness regarding their responsibilities towards civil society. Other areas of interest, more related to the particular needs of each country include: career development, professionalization of local agents, flexibility in HRM, mobility and retirement policies.
Session two was dedicated to analyse strategies for reinforcing joint learning activities and indentify countries interested in making use of this tool to assure a successful implementation of reforms. In this session, Morocco shared its recent experience in a joint-learning study on integrity in public procurement stressing the value and lessons learnt of this activity. Belgium presented its experience in the recent peer review in HRM as a reviewed country conducted by the OECD. The Netherlands complemented the session by sharing its experience as a reviewer country in the Belgian HRM peer review arguing that these are mechanisms for sharing experiences and mutual learning.
The discussion in session three focused on three key issues: i) the information and data that Arab countries are already collecting regarding HRM and Integrity; ii) the needs of Arab nations in terms of collecting data and information for better policy-making in HRM and Integrity; and, iii) how the GfD Initiative could contribute to improve data collection. World Bank (WB) presented its experience in developing indicators on governance in the MENA region , stressing the importance and usefulness of developing benchmarks for comparison and measuring progress. The OECD Secretariat stressed that developing indicators for measuring public governance constitutes a tool for reinforcing government capacities, obtaining support for reform initiatives, and enriching regional dialogue. Delegates discussed the possibilities to measure and report progress suggesting the creation of a task force for each of the focus themes. The task force would be composed by a reduced number of interested countries that will share data and develop common strategies to improve systems of information. The WB expressed its interest in cooperating with the OECD Secretariat in this direction.
The fourth and final session of the meeting aimed at synthesising the future activities of the WG based on the results of the discussions. Morocco informed of the objectives of the Regional Centre for Public Policy Evaluation that will be created in the framework of the GfD Initiative. The OECD Secretariat outlined the main thematic areas of interest for participating countries that will be integrated in the terms of reference to be presented and eventually endorsed by the next Steering Committee.
|Suggested Topics for Technical Seminars|
|Anti-corruption strategies, codes of conduct, integrity and transparency, managing conflict of interest|
|Performance-related pay schemes and public servants remunerations|
|Training of civil servants at national and local levels of government|
|Recruitment of public servants|
|Manpower planning and workforce restructuration|
|Elaboration of indicators of impact and results|
|Management of change|
|Quality in public service delivery|
|Suggested Joint Learning Studies|
|Integrity in public procurement|
|Early retirement policies|
|Elaboration of HRM statistics|
As a result of the meeting, the following points may be highlighted:
Arab delegates manifested their interest and willingness to continue supporting the activities of the GfD in its second phase. The activities of the WG have contributed to increasing dialogue and cooperation among Arab and OECD countries from where lessons and experience on public governance issues have been learnt. The relevance of the WG activities has been made evident by the fact that there were new countries joining the WG such as Algeria and that other international organisations have shown interests in the GfD activities such as the OIC and the WB.
The Working Group defined concrete activities and practical orientations to be implemented during the second phase of the GfD Initiative and provided with strategic conclusions that will be integrated in the terms of reference for Working Groups to be presented to the next Steering Committee. The development of capacity-building activities and joint learning studies appear to be the most recurrent tools for cooperation among member of the WG. Delegates discussed the methodological and practical basis for implementing joint learning activities and identified topics and interested countries in their development. Arab delegates expressed their wish to continue with these activities as they have proved to be valuable channels of communication and cooperation.
The GfD in its second phase is expected to make a contribution on data collection procedures to build benchmarks for comparison and the assessment of reform progress. One suggested direction discussed during the meeting was the setting up of a task force for each of the focus themes. The task force would be composed by a reduced number of interested countries that will share data and develop common strategies to improve systems of information. Progressively, other countries could join this pioneer group in order to develop and share information.
Morocco expressed its interest in working in the field of gender. The possibility of creating a focus group integrated by 4 or 5 experts of the region was raised. The focus group would develop a strategic reflection about the treatment of this cross cutting issue in the different focus themes of the GfD initiative.
HR- Peer Review: the Belgian experience, Mr. Philippe Vermeulen, General Advisor at the Federal Public Service
The World Bank's experience in developing indicators on governance in the MENA region, , Mr. Robert Beschel, Lead Public Sector Specialist at the Social and Economic Development Group of the World Bank
Developing Tools for Measuring Performance, the GfD Contribution, Mr. Carlos Conde, OECD Secretariat, Coordinator of the OECD-MENA Governance Programme