Service delivery
May 7, 2012

Exporting public sector expertise

CGE Vol.13 No.4 April 2007

Western countries and institutions have for many decades been involved in assisting developing nations with a multitude of issues from poverty to health to government. That assistance has gradually changed from a “daddy knows best approach” to a partnership model.

People have come to understand that to deal with the diversity of issues, one must take a holistic, systems approach. This means that, for example, you cannot just concentrate on economic reform, but you have to look at all the factors. One of the important pillars that support the development of a civil society is an effective, efficient, non-partisan, and non-corrupt public service.

Since 1990, IPAC (Institute of Public Administration of Canada) has been at the forefront of exporting Canadian expertise in public administration to developing countries and countries in transition. As those of us in the public sector know, Canada’s public service – municipal, provincial and federal – is one of the best in the world. If there is one thing Canadians excel in, it is public administration. But we tend to take this for granted. Through innovations in service delivery, results-based management and accountability, just to name a few areas, Canada is at the vanguard of public sector reform. This is a resource that should be shared.

IPAC’s approach is to bring together the academic and the practitioner perspectives, and facilitate the exchange of Canadian knowledge of public administration with other countries. We deliver our international programs, independently and with others, through a variety of innovative means, including twinning jurisdictions and institutions, and providing both academic and practitioner-to-practitioner support through short-term field placements, job shadowing and study tours.

The IPAC International program was established to respond to the desire of IPAC members to share their expertise and experience with their public sector colleagues in developing countries, to enhance the experience of Canadian public servants and to increase awareness and understanding of development issues within Canada.

Our vision, at the international level, is to be the best Canadian source of senior-level public sector knowledge and expertise in support of sustainable development, good governance, and effective public policy. Our unique expertise is our capacity to twin Canadian and international jurisdictions, and to bring public servants together in practitioner-to-practitioner relationships that focus on common issues and solutions.

IPAC has undertaken a variety of projects in partnership with other Canadian and international organizations with financial support from the Canadian International Development Agency, the World Bank, the Commonwealth Secretariat and partner countries. To date, our International Program has focused on centre of government reform, strategic and financial planning, decentralization, poverty reduction and climate change. Through our projects, we have helped improve the managerial, technical and administrative capacities of public servants so that governments can better deliver their mandates and foster sustainable progress.

Good governance is widely seen to be a basic condition of sustainable development. Our IPAC mission at the international level is to make constructive contributions to international governance issues based on principles of sustainable development in the areas of democratic decision-making, administrative soundness, and organizational efficiency. Our international program draws upon the same human resources, professionalism and goodwill that power our domestic program. The international program extends the use of these assets outside Canada, while broadening the experience of its Canadian participants, enhancing their capabilities, and increasing their awareness and understanding of international issues related to effective governance.

Deputy minister/CAO surveys
There are many aspects of IPAC’s international work that relate directly to its national agenda. IPAC’s domestic agenda is based on a biennial survey of deputy ministers, chief administrative officers, and regional groups on the issues facing public sector organizations.

The most recent survey identified priority issues driving the public sector management agenda in Canada:

  • managing the demographic “generational shift” within the public service
  • improving transparency, accountability, and results-based performance management
  • cost-effective service delivery
  • adjusting policies and programs within fiscal constraints and responding to intergovernmental fiscal imbalances
  • renewing infrastructure; and
  • strengthening trust and confidence in government.

These same issues underpin the international program.

IPAC has organized and coordinated an innovative job shadowing program, a pre-election transition program for Permanent Secretaries (DMs) and a number of study tours for senior officials from several countries, including Uganda, Namibia, Malawi, Mali, Tanzania, Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, Indonesia, the Philippines and China.

IPAC has managed and implemented five development assistance programs in 16 countries in Africa, the Americas, Central and Eastern Europe, China and Southeast Asia. Over 300 public servants from Canada and our partner countries have participated in our international programs and have shared Canada’s public-sector knowledge and expertise in the areas of leadership, centre of government reform, human resource and fiscal management, policy development and implementation, decentralization, and climate change.

Canadian public servants contributed significantly to IPAC’s international activities through project coordination, training workshops, seminars and job shadowing initiatives, as well as participation in domestic and overseas missions.

One of our existing projects is the CIDA-funded Good Governance Program. This program will foster responsive democratic governance and an enabling environment for sustainable social, economic and environmental development by focusing on good governance and centre of government reform.

We continue to place a high value on our International Program. We see this program as a two-way street in terms of sharing best practices, experiences and learning from each other.

The impact of globalization and new communication technologies means that the distance between peoples is shrinking or, as Thomas Friedman says, “the world is flat.” This inter-connectiveness means that how we act affects others and how they act and develop affects us. This view of the similarities that unite our world will continue to drive IPAC’s international vision and program.

Gabriel F. Sékaly is executive director of IPAC, and a former Ontario public servant. For further information about IPAC and its international program, see www.ipac.ca. To volunteer for international work, contact international@ipac.ca.     

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