As the world continues to grapple with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday paid tribute to frontline public sector workers for their “remarkable acts of service to humankind”, marking Public Service Day.
Pointing to the nurses, doctors and paramedics who provide life-saving care; sanitation workers “who disinfect and clean public spaces”; transportation workers who have kept buses and trains running worldwide; teachers and the “public health officials, data managers and statisticians who provide vital and reliable information on the transmission and prevention of the disease”; the UN chief said selfless public servants had often operated “in dangerous conditions, with high human interaction and without access to personal protective equipment”.
“Some have lost their lives to COVID-19 in the process”, he added.
While honouring essential workers, the top UN official highlighted the importance of better protecting, recognizing and investing in their well-being.
“And I say directly to these inspiring public servants: We are all deeply indebted to you”.
Boost public service morale
General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande told the virtual gathering that the day offered “a rare opportunity to discuss how to reposition governments and the public service for effective containment of the current and future threats to public safety”.
“In discharging its responsibilities and fulfilling its mandates, the public sector must constantly be guided by the finest principles of public administration, notably, altruism, loyalty, dedication, excellence, integrity, responsiveness, and accountability”, he said.
To contain the spread of fallout from natural disasters, frontline workers need to be permanently ready with containment and mitigating scenarios, and above all, contact tracing and effective public communication should be the highpoints of pandemic control efforts.
“If we learnt any lesson from COVID-19, it is that, in a period of emergency, the proactive and morale-boosting role of the public service remains critical”, he added.
Commit to action: WHO chief
More than ever, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the necessity of robust, responsive and effective public service delivery.
“We have all become acutely aware of the capacity and resilience of public servants, especially the millions of essential workers who keep systems and services functioning”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) told the virtual celebration event.
And while acknowledging that it is right to applaud and celebrate public sector workers, he asked the question: “What is it that we are doing for others?”
The WHO chief stressed that the pandemic continues to grow and “the number of cases and deaths continues to rise”.
“We have a lot of work to do”, he said, elaborating, among other things, on the need to enhance the capacities of public services, protect them from stigma and harassment, and enable better and stronger regulations to support health workers to deliver safe care for the public.
“This is not just about survival. It is about building back better”, he concluded asking everyone to “commit to action…that empowers and enables health workers as the foundation of the healthier, safer, fairer world we all want”.