Address by the Chancellor of the Prime Minister Development Cooperation Conference “Road to Successful transition in Afghanistan, Province by Province” 12 November 2010 Radison Blu Hotel Lietuva
It is no secret that development cooperation is a relatively new field in Lithuania’s policy. However, our Government fully appreciates the importance of this field. Even under conditions of deep recession we have allocated funds thereto, and we intend to act likewise in future as well. Nevertheless, we have limited funds and resources. Therefore we must correctly focus on our priorities.
As it has already been mentioned, support for reconstruction and modernisation efforts by the state of Afghanistan is one of the key priorities in our vision. Can we help in any way a state that has survived a historic tragedy and is now gradually rising like a phoenix from the ashes? My answer is “yes”, for we feel deep sympathy with the freedom-loving Afghan nation: not a single invader, including the Soviet Union, did manage to bring it down to its knees. Now, how could we help?
First, we have unique and valuable experience of transition from one system to another. We have created a modern and, I dare say, efficient system of state governance.
How specifically could Lithuania contribute in strengthening the governance of the state of Afghanistan? Causes that have determined the transitory period situation and the effects thereof, as well as cultural traditions, differ in our states. However, analysis of the starting positions of our state 20 years ago would reveal a number of parallels with the current situation in Afghanistan, such as the absence of market economy, high level of corruption, weak capacities of the state, and lack of experience in public administration.
In our country, foundations for the public administration system were started to be laid in 1990. We saw remarkable changes, for we made use of the support from the European Union and other countries as well as international organisations. No doubt similar processes take place in Afghanistan as well.
I recently visited Afghanistan and I am delighted that working relations between our countries have been established. My colleagues and I have been intensely analysing specific options for our support: what area of our experience would be useful and would yield the highest added value for our colleagues in Afghanistan? Today I could distinguish two realistic opportunities for our cooperation in the following areas: 1. Public service reform with a view to efficient policy implementation;
2. Strengthening of local self-governance bodies.
Let me briefly share my thoughts on the above-mentioned proposals:
Political will and efficient policy implementation do not only mark a trait of a democratic state, but also serve as an important factor in the process of initiating change and implementing reforms. Each political power comes with its own programmes and visions that have an indirect support of the voters. A successful policy may exist only when it is implemented by the powerful machinery of the public service. Political leadership is necessary in order to bring about new ideas, so that the necessary changes could take place. We must achieve that political will becomes an integral part of the entire state management system. Naturally, bureaucratic inertia, like elsewhere, exists in our country as well, when the work is focussed on the process itself, not on the results.
Today we could say that political leadership cooperates with bureaucratic competence, and that they find each other’s place in the management of our state. Fundamental changes have taken place in the field of strategic planning, and a result-based management is being created based on agreements on results and responsibility for implementation thereof in all the administration areas.
Successful implementation of political guidelines depends on the fundamental change in the culture of public administration as well. For this change to take place, it is essential to have a critical mass of professional and devoted to progress public servants speaking “the same” language.
From the outset, Lithuania’s public service saw growth and rapid development, and the concept of the public service underwent a number of improvements. At the beginning of the current decade, a career-oriented public service model was adopted in Lithuania, and I think we should regard it as a positive step. Indeed, it was absolutely essential to take immediate action with a view to creating the public service itself and developing the required administrative capacities; this might also have been determined by the processes of preparation for the EU membership. Lengthy discussions were held as to whether the body of the public service should be limited with public servants implementing the functions of public administration, or whether it should also include the public servants providing the public services. Nevertheless, we had to acknowledge that wide-ranging public service is a luxury for a small country like Lithuania. Hence, today we are oriented at a public service that is small, has features of a mixed model, and is mobile and professional.
We aim to strengthen the body of the managing public servants and to empower them to independently form their teams and seek performance results.
According to the recently released international ratings, Lithuania’s public service is at the top compared to all the other new European Union member states in terms of meeting the exemplary European principles for public administration.
We have gone a long road towards understanding of what we require, we had discussions with experts from the EU and elsewhere, hence we would gladly share the lessons we have learned with our colleagues in Afghanistan, who are in similar search. I am convinced that we can convey our experience to the Afghanistan people, as to how we could reach the political and administrative balance required for the state governance and to efficiently implement political guidelines.
Yet another significant area, in which we have gathered substantial experience, is the local self-governance. Today the Lithuanian municipalities play an extremely important role in providing public services to the citizens. Considerable effort is put in seeking to create favourable conditions for the citizens to take part in the local governance. Our municipalities are responsible for important functions like education, health care, planning and provision of social services, etc. This is great responsibility to the Lithuanian people. A number of changes have taken place over the recent decade in strengthening the local self-governance bodies. Opportunities for participation of the local residents in the processes dealing with topical issues for the local community have been broadened. This could be said about participation in the performance planning and allocation of funds.
This year we have also implemented an ambitious administrative reform: we have eliminated counties, the regional level of governance. Currently we have only two levels of the state governance, the national and the self-governance levels. We sought to reduce the administrative burden for business and citizens by removing an intermediary link of governance and by bringing the provision of public services closer to the citizens. Thereby we have also implemented the principle of subsidiarity. I am convinced that, if not right away, surely in time we will acknowledge the added value of this reform both for the public and the economy of our state.
I have mentioned only several areas, where we could be useful for you with our experience; however, in conclusion I should like to underline the following universal features required by any transitional period in the government of the state and any direction of the reforms chosen:
First: changes in the governance culture itself are more important than implementation of separate modern elements of governance. Right from the very beginning, it is greatly important to have a clear vision as to what we are seeking with the reform, what system of governance we want to see in the future, in what direction we are going, and what final results we are pursuing. Everybody must clearly understand the general philosophy and principles of the reform. Nevertheless, it is not always that the “big bang” reforms serve their purpose; small achievements in specific areas (“quick wins”) help retain consistency and support as well as strengthen motivation. Second: as I have already mentioned, following the restoration of its independence, Lithuania, on the road towards strengthening its statehood, has received substantial support from the European Union, its member states, international organisations, and bilateral and multilateral foundations of support; we had sincere partners and professional consultants who helped us successfully implement a number of projects. However, no matter what kind of cooperation agreements exist, it is essential that leadership remains national. It is not the provider of support who is the primary player, but the representative of the native culture, who knows what the people need, and who understands, whether it is time for the implementation of the proposed reforms and what are the measures to implement them.
We are ready to share our experience with you; however, I believe that Afghanistan’s success will depend not only on international support, but also on the political will in Afghanistan, it will depend on the determination of the people of the country and strong resolve to embark on the “thorny” road of the reconstruction of the state.
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