Transparency and Accountability in the Public Sector in the Arab Region

  • Executing agency: UN/DESA Division for Public Economics and Public Administration
  • Senior advisor: Ms. Elia Yi Armstrong
  • Start date: 1 January 2002
  • End date: 1 April 2004
  • Partners: UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States, Advisory Group
  • Total budget: USD 350,000

Globalization is shaping a new era of interaction - and interdependence - among nations, economies and people. It is providing new opportunities to countries around the world through liberalization of trade, foreign investments and capital flows, technological change and information flows. Yet, global wealth has not led to equitable benefits for millions of people around the world. The reasons for an inequitable distribution of benefits vary, but one factor is constant, State capacity. Among the key issues in the State capacity to cope with the challenge of globalization, of interest to the Arab Region, are frameworks and tools for administrative and financial transparency and accountability including regulatory frameworks, institutions against corruption, and transparent procedures for public procurement. The establishment of a transparent and accountable public sector is a fundamental starting point for the development and good governance of a nation.

In direct response to this interest, DPEPA began undertaking a comparative study in the Arab region, in cooperation with UNDP RBAS. Started in January 2002, the objective of the project is to assist Governments in the Arab Region, and their development partners, to improve transparency and accountability in the public sector. The study results are aimed to introduce new and improve existing policies, programmes, procedures, and practices in financial and human resources management of operational agencies and generally strengthen the capacity of oversight bodies. The improved performance of key public sector institutions will, in turn, boost investor confidence and build general public trust in the State capacity of the countries in the region.

Activities Implemented

A Project Advisory Group (PAG), composed of regional organizations, has been set up to guide the research process: ARABOSAI, Arab Council for Economic Unity, ARADO, Arab Journalist Union, Arab League, Arab Social Science Research Network and the Union of Arab Banks. Its first meeting has been organized in Beirut for the end of May 2002. Eleven countries have been contacted to determine their interest in participating in the study: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen. Of these, the project aims to include eight. To date, four have confirmed. In addition, four consultants are currently carrying out a literature survey, producing three concept papers and drafting the first version of the interview guide. These documents, as well as the terms of reference for national consultants and a project evaluation framework, will be discussed at the first PAG meeting.

Future Activities

After the PAG has given inputs into the research methodology, DPEPA and UNDP RBAS will undertake start-up missions, where necessary, to selected proposed countries to brief appropriate stakeholders and solidify support for the project. DPEPA will recruit teams of national consultants in each participating country and hold a training workshop for them on conducting expert interviews and document analysis in their data collection. It will supervise and guide the consultants during the data collection phase. The project team will collect the completed interview guides and supporting documents for analysis, exercising quality control and verification. A database will be used to assist in the analysis. A final report will be produced, comprised of regional trends, developments and needs and edited case studies. The PAG will meet once more to review and endorse the study outputs. A project web-site will post the report and the database on with a link to UNDP RBAS site, . The project outputs will be launched at a suitable regional venue in 2003. Subject to remaining funds or additional resources, the study findings will also be disseminated at the national level.

Problems Encountered

Thus far, there have not been any significant problems in initiating the implementation.