Political settlements and public service performance

Singapore, 12-14 April 2016 

UNDP civil service support officers in South Sudan (Brian Sokol)How do political settlements influence the public service and what can be done to improve efficiency and delivery of the SDGs?

This conference was hosted by the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence in partnership with DLP and the Centre for Public Impact. Among the speakers are Verena Fritz, Mushtaq KhanBrian Levy, DLP's Alina Rocha Menocal, and Michael Woolcock.

At least 11 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals demand a public service capable of delivering their ambitious targets. There is increasing recognition that a public service’s ability to deliver inclusive development goals depends on more than structures, technical skills and high-minded strategies and policies: power and politics play a crucial role.

However, current understanding of how formal and informal power and politics influence public service performance is limited. Decades of technocratic – and often ideologically driven – approaches to public service reform have dislodged the development delivery discourse from its historical, local and political context.

Through a political settlement lens, and with the focus largely on non-crisis countries, the conference looked at key components of public service performance: recruitment and promotion, performance management, effectiveness and responsiveness. It considered the complex political realities hidden by the technical terms that are common in public sector reform.

The overall objective was to outline a framework that describes how the political settlement impacts public service performance for inclusive development. The hope is that this will help practitioners make sense of the complexities and politics of change, identify practical solutions that will work ‘with the grain’ and, eventually, make it possible to construct a truly ‘local’ variant of public service that works for development.

See the agenda and the conference web page, which includes links to presentations. 

Conference speakers and participants

Images: UNDP civil service support officers in South Sudan (Brian Sokol, Flickr); Conference speakers and participants (UNDP GCPSE).


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About DLP

The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

DLP focuses on the crucial role of home-grown leaderships and coalitions in forging legitimate political settlements and institutions that promote developmental outcomes, such as sustainable growth, political stability and inclusive social development.

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