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08 March 2012

MENA and African officials support administrative reform

Photo: Ph. Ricard
Yesterday your blogger attended a high-level conference in Paris at the invitation of the ministry of finance's technical assistance agency, ADETEF. The theme, prompted by developments in the MENA region in the last 12 months, was "developing together the responsibility of the administration" to support democratic governance. Some 10 MENA and African countries discussed with experts from the US, France, Ukraine, Albania and multilateral agencies (EU, World Bank, OECD) how the new governance, with its emphasis on participation, transparency and accountability, could improve the quality and efficiency of public service delivery, and contribute to growth and more cohesive and inclusive civil society. Along the way several myths or apparent contradictions were dispelled: transparency need not limit efficiency of administrative processes, concern for sustainable growth did not necessarily thwart potential economic growth. Administrations must adapt to the new governance context: "it is the people who make the government, not the government that makes the people" said Minister Dr Asraf Abdel Wahad (Egypt) in his keynote address. Stakeholders, especially from the civil society, needed to engage fully, which required a well developed public service in the right mindset and effective leadership: "You must avoid capture of the political forces by economic interests" said Mr H. Larbi Head of MENA department, World Bank.
Several practicioners had been invited to illlustrate by practical success stories the validity of the new approaches, such as a regional director from Algeria who showed how tourism could be developed without jeopardising the environment and social cohesion. The impact of the regional dimension was highlighted by director Mrs H. Allal from the Mediteranean Energy Observatory.
Participants agreed that in many countries a focus on grass-root implementation through communication and training, for a better understanding of the requirements of democratic governance, was now the priority. Mr Cissé director of Customs of Sénégal concluded: "the necessary legal framework had been set up, what is now needed is implementation."
Overall, an inspiring and useful event to meet the concerns expressed by the "Arab spring" and support the forces of change within the administrations of the region. See also official press release.

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