Engaging Competency Frameworks to Strengthen Public Service Performance for the SDGs
To achieve the 2030 Agenda in less than 12 years, civil service systems will need performance frameworks that are aligned and integrate the SDGs including its core principles as such as “Leave no one Behind” and “Putting the Furthest Behind First” to enable public service to achieve the SDGs.
Competency frameworks help provide basic agreed performance standards, which are equally needed to drive civil service change for the SDGs by 2030. Globally, countries are launching new competency frameworks that emphasize much of the behaviors required to achieve the SDGs, such as holistic systems-thinking, citizen engagement, partnerships and more.
Last year, the United Kingdom for example completed a reform process and launched a new competency framework focused on ten competencies. The framework includes competencies such as "seeing the big picture" promoting holistic thinking behaviors, collaborating and partnerships, and more defining Competencies as “the skills, knowledge and behaviors that lead to successful performance” in government.
In the Asia-Pacific region, countries have implemented reform processes to foment competencies that can increase public sector performance alongside a framework of agreed core values, knowledge, skills, attitudes and ultimately behaviors. These new competencies are equally essential to enable public sector performance for SDG achievement. Countries such as the Republic of Korea implemented these reforms as early as 2002 to ensure a “future-oriented perspective” among civil service and increase government performance as the nation developed. Singapore recently launched an updated Civil Service Competency Framework including new values and skills such as "Whole-of-Government" thinking to emphasize holistic and collaborative performance standards. Sri Lanka has also recently undergone a reform of its Common Competency Framework launching a new model for an “effective, efficient and ethical public service culture”. The new Sri Lankan competency framework also includes a systems-thinking competency and a citizen-focus competency, as well as competencies such as teamwork to emphasize collaboration across government.
A key outcome message of the June 2018 United Nations Public Service Forum was that “Public servants need to change behaviors and mindsets to ensure effective, accountable and inclusive implementation of the SDGs” and that “Institutes responsible for training public servants should include 2030 Agenda principles and SDGs in their curricula”. The UN Public Service Forum also hosted the first meeting of the Global Initiative for Schools of Public Administration, which aims to impact these issues and also contribute to the development of the competences required by public sector leaders and public servants for the achievement of SDGs through the development of revised and/or new curricula. In this vein, the 2018 Symposium on Strengthening Capacities of Public Institutions and Developing Effective Partnerships to Realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development hosted in Incheon, Republic of Korea from October 24-26 will also convene public administration schools to strengthen SDG based competencies and curricula for the Asia-Pacific region.
Shifting the focus to competencies for the SDGs can enable public sector to link progress with real-time performance management centrally across government – an opportunity for a whole of government approach in shifting public service behavior for the SDGs.
Sara Castro De Hallgren
Programme Expert, UNPOG, DPIDG, UN DESA