Public Administration Reform

“Public administration” refers to “(1) the aggregate machinery (policies, rules, procedures, systems, organizational structures, personnel, etc.) funded by the state budget and in charge of the management and direction of the affairs of the executive government, and its interaction with other stakeholders in the state, society and external environment; and (2) the management and implementation of the whole set of government activities dealing with the implementation of laws, regulations and decisions of the government and the management related to the provision of public services” (UN Development Programme, Public Administration Reform: Practice Note, pp.1–2).

“Public administration reform” is “understood as the search for administrative (public service) structures and processes that are more responsive to the needs of citizens and otherwise deliver better public goods and services” (Per Berling et al., Rule of Law in Public Administration: Problems and Ways Ahead in Peace Building and Development [2008], p. 8).

In a postconflict context, the public administration system often poses many challenges, including “absence of access to justice; politicization of the administration; lack of accountability; discrimination by civil servants and other public officials; and low level of awareness of rights among the citizenry” (ibid., p. 11). In addition, public buildings and records may have been destroyed during conflict. Competencies and responsibilities among state agencies are unclear. Corruption is another huge challenge, as is excessive centralization of public administration. Many of these challenges are also often encountered in developing countries.

Efforts to reform public administration can “be very comprehensive and include process changes in areas such as organizational structures, decentralization, personnel management, public finance, results-based management, regulatory reforms etc. It can also refer to targeted reforms such as the revision of the civil service statute” (UN Development Programme, Public Administration Reform: Practice Note, pp. 1–2). In addition, public administration reform can include legal reform; institutional reform of administrative courts, ombudsmen, and independent agencies such as anticorruption commissions; and training for administrators (ibid., xvi–xvii).

Below are links to resources that provide an overview of public administration reform, including approaches to improving public administration in postconflict and developing countries. See also Legal Reform, Institutional Reform and Change Management, and Training , given the overlaps between these topics and public administration reform.