The Role of Public Service and Public Servants during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Policy Brief
Innovation and Service Delivery
Contributed by

Key messages:


1. Comprehensive public service capacity development: Governments must pay attention to developing the capacities of the public service and public servants; be it in their numbers, their competences, values, the protective gear they need, the incentives for their productivity, the tools and facilities as well as the technology they require to effectively do their jobs. Governments must invest in having very well-functioning public services and effective public servants.

2. Institutionalize early warning, emergency planning, preparedness and quick response in the public service: Governments must put in place and operate effectively, permanent, public sector, well-coordinated institutional frameworks that can support public servants to be anticipatory and prepared, to look out for signs of crisis, such as pandemics, find solutions quickly and respond appropriately in time to avoid severe impact.


3. Network, collaborate, share and learn from successful practices and mistakes to build better and more effective public services for future pandemics and crisis: Public servants must be facilitated to network, collaborate, and share to enhance co-learning; something that stands better chances for improvement in finding quick solutions not only to pandemics and crisis but in the work of public service delivery in general.


4. Sustain development of responsible, responsive, accountable and people-focused leadership in public sector institutions: The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that during uncertain and fluid times, resolved people-focused, calm, credible, trusted leadership is required. The development of this kind of leadership in the public service must be sustained.


5. Provide for financial resources for pandemic and crisis before they happen: Governments must always provide budgetary resources to take care of emergencies and crisis such as this pandemic. The often-cited excuse that Governments have no funds for problems that have not happened has been proven wrong by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many governments have had to spend lots of money suddenly and in unforeseen way; probably more than they would have spent if they had already provided for this in their public service delivery budgets.

File added date: February 2021

Published by: UN DESA/DPIDG