What challenges and strategies are involved in rebuilding public service delivery after conflict? This chapter considers the benefits of a multi-stakeholder approach and the potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Effective delivery of public services contributes to peace and stability, which in turn facilitates economic development. Post-conflict situations offer opportunities as well as challenges in public administration.
The fundamental purpose of government is the delivery of services to its people. These include social services, infrastructure, and security services, whether provided directly or by government-financed private providers. During times of violent conflict, the processes by which society produces goods and services are severely impaired. Restoring the delivery of public services is not just a matter of ensuring the population’s survival; it is a vehicle for rebuilding trust in government. Improving service provision also reduces tensions among groups struggling to meet basic needs.
Post-conflict situations provide a ‘window of opportunity’ for transformation, allowing states to develop better processes and systems for more efficient, effective and inclusive service delivery.
- Challenges of post-conflict service delivery include: infrastructure and resource deficiencies; accountability systems; meeting public expectations; equitable resource distribution; and balancing short-term needs with long-term reform and recovery.
- Sustaining peace depends in part on the capacity of public administration to ensure that access to services is equitable.
- Various players may rush in to fill the vacuum in delivering assistance. Fragmented approaches may provide much-needed basic services, but are not likely to be sustainable.
- Provision of relevant, accurate information is imperative after conflict, and should be treated as a basic service in post-conflict societies. In the short-term, information about security, emergency relief and services for displaced persons and refugees may literally mean the difference between life and death. In the long-term, information on development initiatives such as public health and education programmes can contribute to effective service delivery, nation building and sustainable development.
- ICTs, however, have not yet been widely incorporated into strategies for improving public service delivery in post-conflict situations.
Post-conflict, rapid restoration and rehabilitation of public sector services are imperative to build legitimacy of the state, promote development and prevent recurrence of conflict. Lessons for promoting citizen-centric public service delivery in post-conflict situations include the following:
- Public officials should adopt an inclusive approach that brings together both state and non-state actors, including multilateral and bilateral donors and local and international non-governmental organisations. However, any framework aimed at restoring public services must derive legitimacy from national ownership and local involvement. Coordination is essential.
- Using ICTs can allow faster sharing and use of information, outreach to remote areas, greater transparency and better coordination among stakeholders. ICTs should be increasingly incorporated into the service delivery systems and processes used by governments, international organisations, NGOs and the private sector.
- Building effective delivery capacity early on is good governance. Public service delivery approaches should allow for flexibility and innovation to meet changing needs and challenging conditions.
- Service-delivery systems should be crafted so as to use local resources, deliver tangible outputs based on need and target the poorest and most marginalised groups.