Welcome to the 4th and last part of the e-Discussions, now focusing on “Transparent, inclusive, and responsive public service delivery”, and on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected progress towards establishing more ‘just societies’, as envisioned by SDG 16, and what is needed for an equitable recovery from this crisis. The findings and experiences shared here will be consolidated into an overall synthesis report feeding into the Global Roundtable at the 2021 High-level Political Forum, and your contributions will be acknowledged in the report.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially scaled up demand for public goods and services while eroding traditional channels and resources for public service delivery. However, ensuring transparent, inclusive, and responsive public service delivery is critical to mitigating the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic,

Transparency means that information on budgetary processes and government decisions, implementation modalities and beneficiaries are publicly accessible, or at least that there is an element of checks and balances. Transparency is crucial to engendering trust, reaffirming the social contract and strengthening social cohesion. All of this is needed to respond effectively to the challenges of COVID-19. Transparency on the part of government is also vital to mobilize and sustain financing and support from other actors (donors, private sector, philanthropists) for an effective policy response. 

Public service delivery must also be inclusive, ensuring that ‘no one is left behind’. The number of poor and vulnerable people has increased due to the pandemic.  Overcoming the emerging global poverty trends depends on the inclusivity of the policy response. At a minimum, inclusiveness requires that service coverage expands to include vulnerable groups and that equity of service quality and access is prioritised. The range of available basic services also needs to be broadened, considering the different dimensions and multi-sectoral nature of COVID-19 impacts.

Lastly, responsive and timely public service delivery is fundamental to overall policy response. COVID-19 containment policies have meant that traditional delivery models, mostly face-to-face, have often been ineffective. Innovation around other models - especially digitization of service delivery - will be crucial. In addition, early response and preparation to ensure that institutions are resilient and can effectively respond are critical.

Overall, the three qualities - transparency, inclusiveness, and responsiveness - need to work together. They should complement each other and result in effective service delivery to the whole population.

This e-discussion will examine how COVID-19 is affecting transparency, inclusiveness, and responsiveness of public service delivery, and the implications of this for sustainable development in the context of Agenda 2030. Related to this, participants will be encouraged to map emerging trends at the global, regional, national and local levels. Innovative public service delivery mechanisms to respond to and recover from COVID-19, as well as to deliver just and equitable development, will be part of the conversation.  

Some additional questions to frame the discussion are:

  • What are the emerging constraints to ensuring transparent, inclusive, and responsive public service delivery? Do these constraints predate the COVID-19 pandemic and are these temporal or structural challenges? 

  • What are the implications of poor or exclusionary public service provision for recovery efforts and on progress made on Agenda 2030? In your view, what are the implications of poor service delivery on the achievement of SDG 16 targets on building peaceful, inclusive, and effective institutions,  and good governance? 

  • What are the current policy responses to these constraints and what more needs to be done?

  • How has the mode of provision of public goods affected the existing social contract, trust, and governance structure before and during COVID-19 (i.e. both under the lockdown and movement restrictions) and reflection on post-COVID-19? 

  • What lessons are important to draw from the pandemic for improving public service delivery? What innovations and best practices are adaptable and scalable post-COVID-19? 

The moderators for the e-discussion are:

  • Adedeji Adeniran, Director of Governance and Education Research, The Center for the Study of the Economies of Africa

  • Zoe Pelter, Policy Specialist, Local Governance, UNDP Crisis Bureau

  • Aseem Andrews, Policy Specialist, UNDP Oslo Governance Centre

Welcome message from Adedeji Adeniran:

To kick us off, Southern Voice member Avani Kapur (CPR-India) wrote an article on the “Four Lessons the Pandemic has taught us on Accountability”.



We look forward to hearing your ideas and to an engaging conversation!

To join the discussion

Click here to register on the SDG 16 Hub and join the discussion! If you are already a member, scroll down to the comment session, then click on "View group > Join group". In case you have any problems in joining the SDG 16 Hub or this discussion, please contact contact@sdg16hub.org

Participate in another language

You can choose to participate in this discussion in your preferred language. To translate this page, select a language through the Select your language tool at the top-right corner of the screen. This tool can translate all written content on this and any other page of the SDG 16 Hub to another language. Any comments made in a language other than English can also be translated to English through this tool. 

[ES] Participa en otro idioma

Puede optar por participar en esta discusión en su idioma. Para traducir esta página, seleccione un idioma a través de la herramienta Select your language en la esquina superior derecha de la pantalla. Esta herramienta puede traducir todo el contenido escrito en esta y cualquier otra página del SDG 16 Hub a otro idioma. Cualquier comentario realizado en un idioma que no sea el inglés también se puede traducir al inglés a través de esta herramienta.


If you wish to be notified each time a new comment is posted on the discussion, click on “Follow content”, right below the banner on the top of the page. If you participate in the discussion, you will be automatically notified of any new activity.

If you wish to reduce the notifications to a daily summary, you can do so by clicking on your picture on the top-right corner of the page, then “Settings > Email notifications > What I follow” and select “Daily”.

Comments (12)

Adedeji Moderator

I am glad to welcome our esteemed experts to the fourth e-discussion on ensuring transparent, inclusive and responsive public service delivery. My name is Adedeji Adeniran and I am the Director of Education and Governance Research at the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa, a leading development think tank based in Abuja Nigeria that conducts independent, high quality and evidence-based research which aims to enhance economic and development issues in Africa. Over the next two weeks (15th June-30th June, 2021), I will be co-moderating the discussion with Zoe Pelter and Aseem Andrews.

Covid-19 pandemic disruptions have increased the demand for public services as well as interrupted the traditional delivery mechanism for public goods. Sustaining a transparent, inclusive and responding public service delivery is crucial, but how to achieve this is less clear. Innovative responses are emerging across countries and regions, but the pace of development amidst pandemic does not allow critical assessment of progress and exchange of ideas in a way that enhances regional and global actions. It is against this background that Southern Voice and UNDP Oslo Governance Center launched four series of e-discussions focusing on separate but interconnected issues around building peaceful and inclusive institutions.

In this last discussion, we are keen to hear from you on the current global and regional trends and emerging innovations towards delivering a transparent, inclusive and responsive public service delivery for all.  

Aseem Andrews Moderator

Dear Colleagues,

It is a great pleasure for me to be co-moderating this 4th and last eDiscussion on the important topic of ensuing transparent, inclusive and responsive public service delivery along with my co-panelists Adedeji Adeniran and Zoe Pelter. Over the course of the next 2 weeks we will be looking closely at how and why in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic it is critical to ensure timely, responsive and inclusive public service delivery. This e-discussion also hopes to examine how COVID-19 is affecting public service delivery mechanisms around the world and the implications of this for sustainable development in the context of Agenda 2030

Public service delivery or the provision of goods and services is a basic human need. Therefore any potential implications on its delivery should be a topic of great relevance to everyone, everywhere! We don't need to look far to see how in these pandemic times there have been causal effects but also we see innovative ways of dealing with potential negative disruptions.

However this issue has been further complicated by the fact that COVID-19 has increased demand for public service delivery on the one hand, and on the other, pandemic related negative influences have created constraints. This is a very challenging situation which most countries are having to deal with. This has also prompted several questions of concern of: how do we deal with the challenges? What are the learnings that we can gather from what is happening around us? Are there policy implications? Can we evolve better and more sustainable solutions?

I hope, all with my fellow panelists that many of you will contribute in large numbers sharing your experiences and providing answers to the questions we have listed above. Thank you!

Joseph Ishaku

On the constraints to public service delivery

First, many of the constraints to public service delivery are old —they existed before COVID-19. These include weak state capacity to deliver public service in an inclusive and responsive manner, corruption, and bureaucracy.

Nigeria's government does not have the capacity to meet the public service delivery needs of its many citizens, especially the least well-off. Most of the public services including security, education, health, energy subsidies and even public employment are not inclusive, well-targeted, and disproportionally serve the well-off. However, one recent development of note is the development of a national social register to aid the targeting of social interventions. It is reported to have enrolled about 35 million people. The meager sums allocated for social programs can barely reach two percent of this number, and there are many more not captured that need support. Nigeria has almost a 100 million people living in poverty.

The ugly head of corruption was raised even in responding to the pandemic, when we expected empathy and compassion from public servants. The provisions/palliatives appropriated by the government and donated by individuals and corporations that were meant for delivery to the vulnerable in society found their way to the wrong channels. It was embarrassing to see warehouses containing undistributed items looted by people all over the country. Public servants struggled to explain why those items were not distributed to intended beneficiaries months after they should have been distributed. This singular event defined new lows for an already infamous public sector, further eroding public trust —with severely negative consequences for mending the social contract. People felt the elite reached new heights of wickedness by keeping food and other items locked away in private warehouses as people were crushed economically under the weight of the lockdown, restrictions to economic activities, and economic slowdown occasioned by the pandemic.

Via voanews.com: A man reacts while carrying a bag of noodles during a mass looting of a warehouse that have COVID-19 food palliatives that were not given during lockdown to relieve people of hunger, in Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 26, 2020.

Red tape also prevented people from accessing the response packages from the government like the credit facilities announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Processing and disbursing funds were marked by delays and lack of transparency.

Adedeji Moderator

Thanks Joseph for the wonderful contribution. Your points highlight to important trends. First, most of the challenges faced in effective public service delivery during covid-19 are caused by factors predating the pandemic. The lesson here is the need for countries to identify and address their systemic issues, otherwise whenever "it rains, it pours". Second, corruption and effective public service delivery are linked. However, points underscore our reasons for coming up with this dialogue to discuss how to change the narrative and ensure transparent, inclusive and responsive public service delivery. Your point on Nigeria improving its social registry suggest access to quality and timely data is a crucial element in that process. 

Joseph Ishaku

On responsiveness

The way the Nigerian government is able to do stuff is by setting up specific vehicles, outside of the regular public service framework. Depending on the priority placed on the public service to be delivered, these vehicles are often well-equipped with the necessary legislation, resources, and backing to deliver on clearly defined objectives.

We have seen this approach to public service delivery in numerous areas where the government is able to create pockets of efficiency amidst a characteristically unresponsive public sector. For instance, in education, the government —motivated by the MDGs— bypassed the extant public basic education delivery system and created a vehicle, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), to reduce the physical barriers to education access.

The government did something similar when COVID-19 cases started being reported in Nigeria. A presidential task force on COVID-19 was constituted to respond to the pandemic. Members were tasked to design and implement measures to limit the spread and impact of the virus. Although, the government was criticised for delays in placing international travel restrictions and lockdown measures after cases were already recorded in the country, the constitution of the presidential task enabled a multisectoral response that has been commendable in limiting the spread of the virus.

The Central Bank of Nigeria also launched a multi-trillion naira package across several sectors and targeting diverse beneficiaries. In addition, the moratorium on existing credit was extended and interest rates were reduced. However, this set of interventions, especially the credit schemes have not escaped public criticism for being ridden with delays and corruption.

Adedeji Moderator

Thanks Joseph for laying some some key areas of innovations emerging from states with weak capacity. Creating some island of effectiveness across sectors can indeed mitigate the challenges in public service delivery. This, however, also raises the issues of scaling. Specifically, how do we scale up or add up these gains to show tangible effect at the macro level? 

Sone Osakwe

The covid-19 era exposed several existing gaps in public service delivery especially in low-income countries around the world. It also reinforced the importance of having resilient public institutions that serve the needs of vulnerable citizens in an efficient and responsive manner.

While the prevalent issues of corrupt practices and processes, lack of accountability, deficiency in transparency, limited citizen participation and limited  resources and capacity remain pervasive pre and post covid-19, a major constraint to public service delivery that has evolved from the pandemic is increased distrust.  

The important role of data and information in combatting the virus and mitigating its socioeconomic impact cannot be over emphasized. However, with government agencies being able to access a greater amount of citizens' information during and after covid-19, there are widespread concerns on how this information is being used, and if indeed it is in the best interest of the masses.

Although access to credible data is necessary for a public service ecosystem to function effectively, an inclusive and responsive system must address concerns related to potential data privacy abuse and lack of transparency on how information gathered is being used.

Other lessons to consider:

  • leveraging digital technologies to enhance communication flow and collaboration between public institutions and citizens, in order to improve ease with which feedback can be given on efficiency of processes in accessing public services
  • eliminate obsolete practices in public institutions that slow down the ability of these agencies to respond and make reforms based on feedback from civil society – this is possible as we witnessed an unprecedented speed in decision making during the pandemic.
Adedeji Moderator

Thanks Sone for your thoughts on this. Certainly, data is a crucial component of public service delivery. Your insight on how distrust and weak institution affect public service delivery is also well noted. It will be good if you can share some best practices emerging out of the crisis. 

Aseem Andrews Moderator

Sone you have made several very pertinent comments related to the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating several of the existing societal fault-lines. The issue of rising mistrust has been recurring across several of our previous eDiscussions and is spurred through by rising inequality in society (apart from other factors). We are seeing that as a consequence of the pandemic there have been excessive governmental reactions and shrinking of civic spaces and decreased public participation in issues that directly concern them. With a general lack of oversight, linked to all this are also reports of perceived corruption related to public spending and resources and governments' (mis-) management of the pandemic. All ultimately linked to how citizens are perceiving their governments and further eroding an already undermined trust in democratic institutions as people demand (and deserve) accountability from the State!

Zoe Pelter Moderator

Dear colleagues,


Allow me to follow my co-moderators Adedeji and Aseem Andrews and welcome you to this Southern Voice-UNDP e-Discussion on transparent, inclusive and responsive public service delivery for all. My name is Zoe Pelter, and I am a Local Governance Policy Specialist at UNDP joining you from New York.

This discussion could not be timelier. In so many cities and territories, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been driven by inequalities in access to basic services, and it has exposed structural barriers to accessing services that impede the wellbeing of many communities. It is for this reason that we have seen disproportionately high caseloads in informal settlements in cities such as Mumbai or reduced access to health services for slum communities in Nairobi, Ibadan and Lagos during the pandemic. What have been the implications of exclusionary public service provision for development and recovery efforts in your country?

The crisis is also a reminder that it is not just what services are delivered but how they are delivered that matters, particularly for social cohesion and minority rights. How has the mode of provision of public goods affected the existing social contract, trust, and governance structures in your country? How can accountability, transparency and inclusion help to overcome these effects?

Finally, the pandemic means that local and national government revenue has dropped considerably, threatening public service delivery everywhere. In this restricted fiscal environment, what innovations and best practices might be adaptable and scalable post-COVID-19?

Over the next two weeks, we look forward to hearing your reflections and ideas for some of these challenging questions.

Aseem, Adedeji and I encourage you to review the framing questions at the top of the page and post your comments to respond. Be sure to give specific examples, add links to useful resources and, of course, to engage with other comments from our colleagues from around the world.

Thank you!


Gichung Lee

Greetings colleagues. My name is Gichung Lee and I am a Policy Analyst at UNDP Seoul Policy Centre. Based on the discussion with my colleague at Global Anti-Corruption Team, a secondee from Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission of Republic of Korea to UNDP, I would also like to contribute to this important dialogue. As a Korean Civil Servant, Mr. Jungoh Son shared some valuable insights and examples on the lessons worth drawing from the pandemic for improving public service delivery.

The inter-connectivity and complexity of various factors within the public service delivery mechanism now became more revealing thanks to the COVID-19. It is also evident that the resilience of the very soft spot within the mechanism could determine whether the whole system would crumble down.

Vaccine provision would be a case in point. In order for the vaccines to be provided to the citizens in an efficient and transparent way, below factors should be ensured. Otherwise, it could have a snowball effect and threaten the relevant public service delivery as a whole.

  1. Transparency and fairness of the health authorities and relevant Taskforce in vaccine provision-related decision-making including delivery, storing and distribution;
  2. Integrity of public officials and citizens involved in the process;
  3. Social infrastructure that allows citizen’s access/convenient and equitable distribution to vaccines utilizing ICT;
  4. Real-time database and disclosure of vaccine distribution-related information;
  5. Accountability and proper response to address the vaccine-related appeals with operation of complaint handling mechanism;
  6. Vibrant media and monitoring of CSOs for verifying fake news (with daily press briefing by the government authorities); and
  7. Zero-tolerance on the corrupt cases and violations related to vaccine provision

As such, the important lesson learned is that we should never underestimate the fact that public service delivery is an integral part interwoven within the governance system. With this in mind, the following criteria should be examined before implementing a certain public service delivery plan: a) what relationship will this plan have with the other factors within the same system; b) what impact will it bring about on the other factors within the system; c) how can it be integrated with other factors; and d) will this integration and impact be cost-effective and worth the investment in the long run. Moreover, anti-corruption is the key enabler and foundation without which the fully functioning service delivery mechanism cannot be maintained. In case of South Korea, it took a few decades of work and long-term budget allocation to build the basic framework for this and also had to constantly upgrade it through various crisis like SARS epidemic. Yet, it is never too late to start and in fact, well-designed public policy based on the learning from the good/bad practices around the world can save a great deal of budget and time which can be otherwise wasted during the trial-and-error process.

I look forward to learning more from all of you and thank you Adedeji Adeniran, Aseem Andrews, and Zoe Pelter for excellent moderation.

Zoe Pelter Moderator

Thank you so much Gichung Lee for sharing these valuable lessons from Mr Jungoh Son (of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission Republic of Korea) on Korea’s experience with public service delivery. In particular, he makes an important point that transparent, inclusive and responsive service delivery (in the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond) depends on a system of inter-connected factors that must be given equal priority for the whole system to function – transparency and fairness of health authorities, integrity of public officials, proper systems for equitable access to services, effective monitoring on service distribution, anti-corruption measures and effective space for CSO/media monitoring and dialogue. In turn, I also take his point that much of this requires long term commitment and budgeting/investment to make inclusive, responsive service delivery systems a reality when services are needed most. Thanks again for your time and inputs!

Please log in or sign up to comment.