Architecture of Government Conference 5, 6 & 7 July 2022

In a world first, some of the brightest minds in statecraft and public policy gathered for an online global conference hosted by the Government and Public Policy (GAPP), in partnership with Financial Mail. The Architecture of Government Conference attracted a global audience, and the record of the conversations that took place during the three days of discussion already adds up to nearly 13,000 views on YouTube.

The conference considered the experiences of countries in the global south and explored potential configurations of the state that might help improve the capacity and functioning of the South African government.

The event covered a range of topics, united by a common thread: how to strengthen the institutional foundations on which South Africa’s public administration functions today, based on international experiences and the country’s own learning curve after almost 30 years of democracy.

The thoughts shared by our guests were profound and insightful.

In his keynote address, Indian academic Pratap Bhanu Mehta argued that efforts to reform and modernise the machinery of the state do not take place in an epistemic vacuum – and that there is an intellectual challenge that has become fundamental throughout the world, particularly in countries of the global south: to formulate new normative horizons, from which reforms should be based

Architecture of Government Conference #shorts | Pratap Bhanu Mehta

A key message throughout the conference was that reforms are not an exclusively technical process, but that political leadership and civic involvement are key to success.

Chinese scholar Yang Yao made the point that political meritocracy provides one, powerful set of positive incentives for good performance within a broader civic culture and public institutional framework which emphasises such positive incentives.

Architecture of Government Conference #shorts | Yao Yang

Community-led initiatives can compensate for some of the failures of the public service, Nigerian development specialist Taibat Lawanson explained. Governments can amplify and scale-up successful community-led initiatives, and local governance capacities will be strengthened by partnerships and co-production.

Architecture of Government Conference #shorts | Taibat Lawanson

The Peruvian model shows how the quality of subnational service delivery can be improved with the right combination of capacity building, incentives, and data and accountability routines. The former Minister of Economy and Finance in Peru María Antonieta Alva Luperdi said evidence and even “off-the-shelf” interventions are readily available – there is no need to reinvent the wheel in policymaking.

Architecture of Government Conference #shorts | Maria Antonieta Alva

This is why peer-to-peer learning is so relevant. In the South African case, there is an urgent need to digest the external “other” (the international experiences of reform) and the internal “other” (the historical legacy of colonisation and transition) to create something totally new and genuinely South African.

The conference was publicised by a global network of partners, including the prestigious magazine Global Government Forum, the Spanish magazine Especial Directivos, which featured an interview with GAPP executive director Ivor Chipkin, and institutions around the world: the spanish Association for Professional Executive Service, the Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration (EROPA), which brings together a network of Asia-Pacific researchers, the newsletter This week in Africa by Swedish professor Jeffrey Paller, the Decentralisation and Localisation research network, the African intergovernmental organisation CAFRAD (Centre Africain de Formation et de Recherche Administrative pour Développement), based in Marocco, the Argentine think tank Espacios Políticos, among many others.

The conference proceedings will soon be published on the GAPP website. The video record of the conference, however, is already available online on our YouTube channel.

Organising the Conference enabled GAPP to extend the reach of its network of contacts and partners, as well as to present new ideas on the challenges of reforming the Architecture of Government in the Global South to the South African public debate.

In the coming months, our mission is to build on this project to deepen discussions and elaborate proposals that can contribute to winning arguments in favour of building autonomous public administrations in South Africa.

Follow GAPP’s work on our website and social networks. We have lots of news to share.

For those who were able to follow the conference, we kindly ask you to participate in a feedback survey about the conference, as well as to suggest themes and ideas for future events or activities to be developed by GAPP.

Best wishes,

Ivor Chipkin

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