Much of the recent literature on civil service reform (CSR) emphasises that reforms have tended to fail and that political factors are critical to the success or failure or reform efforts. Political contextual factors and the impact of bureaucrats’ and politicians’ personal interests are most frequently discussed. Regional and ethnic political factors were generally not explored in detail. Several points emerge as themes from the literature included in this report:
- Strong, committed political leadership is critical to CSR success.
- Civil servants are embedded in society and are therefore entrenched in societal norms. There is broad consensus that reforms must take account of institutional context.
- An analysis of incentives should be part of CSR programmes in order to increase the chances of reforms being adopted and embedded. These incentives do not always have to be financial.
- There has been experience of ‘soft’ reforms that focus on facilitating personal attitudinal and cultural change amongst bureaucrats.
- CSR programmes should consider ways of building the public legitimacy of reforms.
- CSR in developing countries often happens in a wider context of public scepticism and apathy. Several articles explore the role of civil society as a political actor in public administrative reform.
- Donors and reformers need diagnostic tools to assist in the design of politically sensitive reforms.
There is very little evidence and research on donor engagement with the politics of CSR. The World Bank evaluations listed in this report emphasise that the Bank has not consistently or adequately engaged in political issues surrounding CSR, and emphasise the need for supporting diagnostic tools. Bangladesh and Bolivia are noted as the exceptions, but no further details are given (see page 29, Evans 2008). The Evans and Wilder 2006 paper is part of a wider World Bank / DFID review on tactics and strategies in CSR reform. Finally, the Jacobs 2009 paper reviews a DFID funded programme in Bangladesh which attempted to influence the motivations and mindsets of senior level bureaucrats to make them more ‘reform-minded’.