“Good government is not a luxury – it is a vital necessity for development.”
– World Bank
There seems little argument in the wake of the financial crisis shaking the foundations of the global economy that good government is a necessity for every country in the world. Since this argument extends to all levels of government, it soon becomes obvious that public sector management may be as extensive an activity on a global scale as found in the private sector.
As a result, international public management is a big business. Although it is difficult to establish reliable spending estimates, it is already a multi billion-dollar activity that extends to every public institution that employs workers and dispenses public funds. Moreover, the growth of activities in international public management has been considerable over the past 15 years, as more countries have become involved in public sector reform.
One of the reasons for the large scale of international public management is that there are at least three different ways in which international public management is manifested around the world.
The most obvious instance occurs when individual governments or one of their agencies initiate programs to improve the management in other countries, either on an individual basis or as a collection of countries such as the EU, ASEAN or APEC.
A second form occurs when consulting companies or NGOs organize themselves to provide advice or services to countries on a fee-for-service basis. Multinational firms such as Deloitte Touche or Canadian-based organizations such as the Parliamentary Centre, Rights and Democracy, Canadian Bureau of International Education, IPAC, and CAPAM are all examples of Canadian organizations that spend much of their time advising governments in all corners of the world on how to improve the management of organizations in their own country.
These are complemented by organizations based on professional interests or common goals that have a global reach such as accountants, program evaluation experts, competition lawyers or former parliamentarians (GOPAC in Canada).
The third instance is found in those public organizations that have multination membership and operate in more than one country. In this grouping are the United Nations and its agencies, the World Bank, the IMF and the OECD. All of these play a crucial role as change agent by directing needy nations to the countries or organizations with the appropriate expertise. The lending organizations make the financial support based on commitments to improve public management.
Historically, one of the most influential agencies in this regard has been the OECD, with an explicit change agenda of its own. Over the past 20 years, its priorities have been financial management, budgeting, civil service reform, government transparency, accountability, private sector partnerships, and the devolution of decision-making.
The growth of these groups of international public management organizations can sometimes be explained by individual factors. However, there are some common experiences that explain the overall growth. First, the public management change agenda is being driven by the continuing emergence of new democracies that recognize the need for good government and know it is a precondition for economic growth. This development was particularly inspired by the break up of the Soviet Union and the rapid move to democratic models of government. In addition, there have also been strong internal pressures for reform from parliamentarians, a global movement that was part of the New Public Management (NPM), and globalization has forced harmonization of many governmental activities.
Canada has been a major contributor to international public management. Many of our academics were well-established experts in various aspect of public management. Peter Aucoin, Donald Savoie, Sandford Borins, Ken Kernaghan, Bruce Doern, and Paul Thomas have been key contributors to the international public management literature by providing important comparative studies. In this regard, Canada has established a strong reputation in the areas of democratic renewal, government online, alternative service delivery, accountability, values and ethics, performance reporting, and the administrative-political interface. Potentially, the Clerk’s current efforts to reform the human resources regime will be of great interest to the international community.
Whatever form the international public management approach takes, experience has shown that for any intervention to be effective it not only must be tailored to the requirements of the receiving nation, but also must be sustained over the long term and requires an ongoing commitment from the advisors and the recipients. Only then will the billions of dollars spent on international public management initiatives be worth the effort.
David Zussman holds the Jarislowsky Chair in Public Sector Management in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and at the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa (firstname.lastname@example.org).