Press Releases

                                                                                                                     24 June 2004

    Strong, Effective Public Service Vital to Achieving Global Anti-Poverty Goals Says Secretary-General in Message to Headquarter Ceremony

    NEW YORK, 23 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the ceremony marking United Nations Public Service Day, delivered by Patrizio Civili,  Assistant Secretary-General, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in  New York, 23 June:

    United Nations Public Service Day celebrates the value and virtue of service to the community, and highlights the contribution that public services throughout the world can make to development, democracy and peace. Proclaimed by the General Assembly, this day is also meant to recognize the work of public servants, and to encourage young people to pursue careers in this vital area.

    A strong and effective public service is vital to the world’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Public administration systems and institutions are also an essential element in promoting good, democratic governance -- governance that is transparent, accountable, and sensitive to the needs of the public. Indeed, we have all seen the opposite -- weak governance, or corrupted public services, that not only serve as an obstacle to development, but also squander precious resources and undermine the ethical fibre of society.

    Thus we must do all we can to support all countries in building up and revitalizing their public service capacities. Special efforts should be focused on developing countries, on countries with economies in transition, and on Africa, since no other part of the world faces such daunting challenges, from deadly conflict to pandemic disease. For just that reason, we have arranged for today’s observance to coincide with African Public Service Day.

    Let us also pay tribute today to individual public servants, the best of whom provide outstanding service to their publics, at times under severe hardship and strain. Despite such contributions, public servants in many countries receive salaries that barely enable them to make ends meet. I appeal to all countries to review the working conditions of their public service, and put in place the compensation and incentives that will reward honest, hard-working, public servants -- and, most importantly, attract new talent for the future.

    As we move ahead, public sector institutions must become active “learning organizations”. That means harnessing the power of information and communication technologies. It means engaging more actively with new partners, from the private sector to civil society organizations. I call upon public servants throughout the world to renew their commitment to the values that make this possible.

    This observance also marks the second United Nations Public Service Awards ceremony. It is a source of real encouragement for the future of the public service that so many people, from so many countries, have shown great interest in the awards, which recognize outstanding achievements in the field. I congratulate the winners, and thank them for their service to their countries and communities. I hope that the best practices you have put in place, and the lessons you have provided, will be disseminated as widely as possible.

    Let us all, on Public Service Day 2004, acknowledge the crucial role played by public services around the world, and do our utmost to ensure that they can make their full contribution to our collective effort to building a safer, more equitable and more peaceful world. In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful observance.

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