Efforts by leaders to engage in dialogue with citizens to hear their voices and feedback should be welcome and encouraged, UNDP Country Director in Vietnam Louise Chamberlain has said.
The UNDP official made the statement in an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper last week, in reference to Huynh Duc Tho, chairman of the People’s Committee of Da Nang City, making his email address public on February 26, and Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, Minister of Health, announcing her official Facebook page on February 28. Chamberlain remarked that such moves are consistent with a more responsive and accountable government agenda that Vietnam’s government has committed itself to.
“More frequent interactions with users of public services – if their feedback is heard – can help improve the quality of the civil service in general and of public services in particular,” she said.
Interaction can also help with the monitoring of people’s satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, with public services and therefore provide important information that helps the government further improve its performance, Chamberlain said.
“Of course, inviting feedback means being open to both praise and criticism! If the government is committed to receiving and acknowledging feedback, and responding to it, then it can pave the way for really meaningful dialogue that improves the government’s services to its citizens.”
Regarding the cases of Da Nang Chairman Tho and Health Minister Tien, the UNDP official said, “We hope that more public offices will engage directly with citizens. We look forward to seeing how this develops, and hope that others will follow.”
She affirmed that public servants and officials all over the world are eager to listen to the concerns of citizens, and many have a strong service ethic and a drive to improve their locality and country.
But the government needs to have the tools to act on it – the bureaucracy needs to be responsive to the concerns of citizens, and this is why outreach mechanisms are important, Chamberlain said.
A well-performing public service office is not static, it evolves over time in response to people’s needs and other opportunities, Chamberlain said, adding that survey tools to systematically collect citizen concerns also play an important role.
“The Vietnam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) is one example of such consultation that we are supporting at UNDP,” she said.
Every year, through PAPI, the voices of nearly 14,000 Vietnamese citizens are captured, analyzed, documented, and transferred to policymakers and practitioners at both central and local levels.
Last year, UNDP also supported a survey in Da Nang to collect the views of 30,000 respondents, Chamberlain said, adding that this survey provided leaders with useful evidence and information for further reform.
There are different ways to consult citizens, but methods involving technology and social media are used by the majority of countries today, she said.
Some countries like Switzerland consult citizens about specific issues via referendums, while in Asia, a good example of using modern technology is in Singapore, where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched his Facebook page to hear and discuss public concerns, attracting more than 660,000 followers, Chamberlain pointed out.
In 2012, as part of a global consultation to seek input for the priorities for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, the UN office in Vietnam supported a consultation with over 1,300 Vietnamese people on the kind of future they want – and even more voted on the issues most important to them on the ‘My World’ website.
A total of seven million people were consulted and this has helped governments around the world to shape a development agenda for the future, focusing on 17 universal development goals, the official said.
Vietnam remains very active in shaping the sustainable development goals, which are to be approved by the United Nations General Assembly in September this year, she added.
She also said, “Some good principles for governments to follow are to involve people in making decisions that affect their lives, to hear what people have to say, and to respond transparently through action and dialogue.”