Summary - Lessons Learned Review of UN Support to Core Public Administration Functions in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict
For over 50 years, the United Nations has supported public administration in developing countries. From helping newly independent countries in Africa and Asia to build essential public institutions in the 1950s and 60s, to running transitional administrations in Kosovo and East Timor, the United Nations has understood that core public administration capacity is essential for development and indeed statehood.But, as the Secretary General recognised in his 2009 report on ’Peacebuilding in the Immediate Aftermath of Conflict’, appreciation of the critical role of “core government functions, in particular basic public administration and public finance“ has faded. This is true not only within the United Nations, but within the broader development community. For example, Official development assistance (ODA) to peacebuilding and statebuilding increased from 2005 to 2009, except for ODA 'to strengthen core public sector management systems and capacity’ (OCED 2011). Although the United Nations has produced important reports and policy on the rule of law, gender equality, and other post-conflict challenges in the decade since Report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations (the Brahimi Report), very little has been produced on public administration in fragile environments.
This UN Lessons Learned Review rectifies gaps and captures the experience of the United Nations System in working on public administration in post-conflict environments. Through the review of external and internal literature, as well as seven-case studies, it provides recommendations for more predictable, efficient and timely United Nations support in this area. The findings and recommendations focus on the immediate aftermath of conflict, which is defined as the first two years after a conflict has ended. The report should not seen as the conclusion of a comprehensive research initiative, instead it should be approached as the first step in a process of re-directing the United Nation’s work on post-conflict public administration, in collaboration with recipient countries and other development partners.
The review is focused on ‘core’ or ‘basic’ public administration functions, as opposed to service delivery functions. This builds on the Secretary General’s Report on Civilian Capacities in the Aftermath of Conflict, which identified five core functions: policy formulation and public financial management, managing the centre of government, civil service management, local governance, and aid coordination as essential for government ownership of the political and development process.
Five countries were visited by the team (Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Kosovo, Liberia, and Timor-Leste), while two countries (Afghanistan and Sierra Leone) were covered through desk reviews. In addition to the country case studies, the lessons learned review situates UN experience in the wider policy and ‘lessons learned’ context. Undertaken as part of the preparation of this report, there are three main sources of lessons the review has drawn on: (1) the practice of state and peacebuilding over the past decade or so; (2) the much longer tradition of public administration reform (PAR); and (3), recent academic research into governance and institution-building.