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Public Service Day: Advocating for the Essential Role of Public Services

Public Service Day: Advocating for the Essential Role of Public Services

The Significance of Public Service Day

Public Service Day, observed annually on 23 June, was designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2002 to celebrate the value of public service, highlight its role in development and recognise the work of public servants. In the face of ongoing global challenges such as increasing privatisation and austerity measures, robust public services are crucial for social protection, good governance and addressing global challenges like poverty and climate change. Public Service Day serves as a critical reminder of their importance in building a fairer and more sustainable society, and reinforces the necessity of protecting these services from private sector encroachment.


Mid-Year Check-In: Advocating for Public Services Through Our Publications


Public services are the bedrock of a just and equitable society, ensuring that essential needs like education, healthcare and social protection are accessible to all, regardless of income or background. However, the increasing trend towards privatisation threatens to undermine these foundations by prioritising profit over public welfare. Robust public services stand as a crucial counterbalance to inequality and exclusion, promoting social justice and human rights. Recognising their importance, GI-ESCR has created several publications that dive deep into the current state of public services and make proposals to enhance their effectiveness and accessibility.

'Build Us More Schools! - The Quest for Quality Free Education in Mabatini and Ngei Wards of Mathare, Nairobi', our latest publication, reveals that despite the presence of private and low-cost schools, the quality and accessibility of education remain inadequate for many children, especially in informal settlements. The proliferation of private schools has led to significant disparities in education quality, with many children unable to afford school fees and related costs. This publication highlights the urgent need for government intervention to address these inequities and fulfil its constitutional mandate to provide free and compulsory basic education for every child.

'Access to Healthcare in Côte d'Ivoire: A Participatory-Action Research' reveals that public healthcare provision plays a vital role in ensuring that the right to health is accessible to all, especially the most marginalised groups. Unlike private healthcare, which often remains fragmented, expensive and inaccessible to low-income individuals, public healthcare facilities offer more affordable and specialised care. However, the research also underscores that public healthcare services in Côte d'Ivoire are severely underfunded and understaffed, necessitating urgent investment and support. This reinforces the importance of robust public services in realising fundamental human rights and reducing inequalities in healthcare access.

'Transformative Policies to Realise Universal Access to Medicines', which GI-ESCR published early in the year, underscores the crucial need for public services in the realm of healthcare. This policy brief highlights the limitations of commercial approaches to pharmaceutical innovation, which often prioritise profit over public health, leading to high medication prices and neglect of diseases that require treatments that are not lucrative. Instead, the brief advocates for policies such as knowledge commons and public options for pharmaceuticals, demonstrating that public ownership and open science can effectively address global health inequalities. By ensuring that essential medicines are accessible to all, without discrimination, these public options uphold the fundamental right to health.

'The Commons and Public Services: A New Way Forward or an Alternative to Human Rights?' underscores that the commercialisation of these services has led to a loss of democratic control, particularly harming the most disadvantaged. When these services are privatised, the focus shifts from public welfare to profit, often resulting in adverse outcomes for vulnerable populations. GI-ESCR's exploration of the Commons model suggests that enabling local communities to manage resources collectively can offer a more equitable and inclusive approach, challenging the profit-driven models and promoting a fairer distribution of resources.

'A Care-led Transition to a Sustainable Future', our first publication of the year touching upon the topic, emphasises the critical necessity for public services to address the intertwined crises of care and climate. Public services are essential to ensure equitable access to care, mitigate the impacts of climate change and uphold human rights. The publication argues that the privatisation of care services exacerbates inequalities, as only wealthier households can afford private care, leaving low-income families and marginalised groups without essential support. Public investment in care services, regulated and funded by the state, ensures that care is a collective responsibility and not an individual burden. This approach supports caregivers, predominantly women, and promotes gender equality and social justice, making societies more resilient and sustainable in the face of climate change and other global challenges.


Insights into the Perception of Public Services


GI-ESCR has commissioned a series of studies on the perception of public services, taking place in India, Nigeria and Latin America. These studies, conducted by the market research and public opinion agency 'Lexia', aim to shed light on the critical state of public services, focusing primarily on education and healthcare. The studies reveal a complex landscape of perceptions across different regions, emphasising the urgent need for policy interventions to address disparities and improve service quality.

In Latin America, the studies highlighted significant disparities in the access to and quality of public services, particularly for vulnerable groups such as those facing multidimensional poverty and gender-based inequalities. The data emphasised the urgent need for policies that address these disparities to ensure that public services fulfil their role in promoting social justice and human rights. Click here to read more.

In Nigeria, the research underscored the severe challenges faced by the public sector, particularly in education and healthcare. The public's perception was marked by a lack of trust in the quality and reliability of government services, with many preferring private alternatives despite the higher costs. This situation was compounded by systemic issues such as corruption and inadequate infrastructure, which severely undermined the effectiveness of public services. Click here to read more.

In India, the study revealed a nuanced view of public services. While there was recognition of the improvements made in recent years, particularly in healthcare, significant challenges remained. The public sector was seen as essential for providing affordable services, but it struggled with issues of quality and efficiency. The ambivalent perception of public services in India reflected the trade-offs that citizens had to make between cost, quality and accessibility. Click here to read more.

Commissioning these studies is an academic exercise as well as a vital part of our advocacy work. By gathering data directly from diverse communities, we can paint an accurate picture of the challenges faced by people in accessing quality public services. This evidence is necessary for formulating effective policies and advocacy strategies to ensure that public services meet the needs of all individuals, especially the most vulnerable. The reports provide the necessary data to understand public sentiment and the real-world impacts of service privatisation.



GI-ESCR remains committed to advocating for robust public services that uphold human rights and promote social justice. Our ongoing research and publications serve as critical tools in highlighting the disparities and challenges faced by communities worldwide, reinforcing the necessity of government intervention and public investment. By drawing attention to these issues, we aim to inspire action and policy changes that will ensure equitable access to essential services for all.

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