United Nations Public Service Day 2021: History, Theme and Significance during COVID-19

·2-min read

Every year on June 23, the United Nations Public Service Day recognises the value and virtue of public service to the community. This day emphasizes the importance of public service in the advancement phase, recognises the work of public servants and inspires young people to undertake careers in the public sector.

The previous decade saw a digital revolution that altered how we live, work, and govern. Technological and information driven innovations have accelerated the speed of our everyday lives, expanded access to information, raised the voices of civil society, and altered how we solve issues, develop policies, and provide services. Simultaneously, governments face resource constraints and rising public expectations, forcing them to accomplish more with less.


The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic accelerated these tendencies, ushering in remote employment in government, digital service delivery, virtual service teams, and even new portfolios. As we approach the third decade of the twenty-first century, every country in the world must reconsider the form and operation of its civil service.

The way public workers are hired, taught, and retained will alter dramatically in the next period. More technology will be used to make better choices, monitor performance, and provide services. The private sector and wider society will be called upon to take a larger part in all aspects of producing public value.


The theme this year is “Innovating the Future Public Service: New Government Models for a New Era to Reach the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]”. On June 23, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) will conduct a 1.5-hour digital event in conjunction with the state of the United Arab Emirates to celebrate the 2021 United Nations Public Service Day.


By passing Resolution 57/277 on December 20, 2002, the General Assembly declared June 23 to be Public Service Day. It acknowledges and promotes young people to seek professions in the public sector by celebrating the value and virtue of public service to the community, highlighting the importance of public service in the developmental processes, and recognising the work of public servants.

To increase awareness of the Day and the importance of public service, the United Nations launched the UN Public Service Awards (UNPSA) programme in 2003, which was updated in 2016 to accord with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The UNPSA promotes and rewards innovation and quality in public services by recognising the innovative accomplishments and services of public entities that contribute to more efficient and adaptive public administration in nations throughout the world in favour of sustainable development.

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