The topic of this congress, Administrative Futures: Leadership and Professionalism, is a very important one, especially but not solely for the Middle East region. The Middle East region witnessed dramatic changes in the last couple of years. Protests, civil war, revolutions, known under the label of ‘Arab spring’ have had a severe impact on the quality of life of citizens. Time has come in some countries to rebuild the nation-state, to strive for good governance, and there is no doubt that one of the crucial actors in this process is the public administration. Whether these processes will be successful depends to a large extent on its professionalism. The public administrators have to prepare and implement new policies; they have to ensure that schools are open, that garbage is collected, and that the health service is properly functioning.
Within the discipline of Public Administration, politico-administrative relations belong to the core themes. Many famous and classic scholars in Public Administration have addressed this topic. The crucial questions are whether the classic distinction between politicians and public administrators are still visible; whether politicians as well as public administrators are up to their tasks; whether they need one another, whether the relations between them have changed; and what happens in different countries and parts of the world if leadership suddenly disappears.
At the same time this conference is also important for our association. The joint IIAS/IASIA Congress, which is held every three years points to the close and stable ties between IIAS and IASIA. At the start of its 60th decade of existence, IASIA is in the process of rethinking its strategy for the years to come. IASIA is in a process to become an international organization that better understands the needs of its members and to assist its members in improving their schools and institutes by intensifying the exchange of experiences. This involves issues like how to invest in human capital and how to promote adequate training, schooling and education for future leaders in the public sector. The Standards of Excellence developed by the Joint UN/IASIA Task Force in 2008 is a major achievement towards this end. I am convinced that the newly-created Commission on the International Accreditation of Public Administration Programs (CIAPA), under the inspiring leadership of Allan Rosenbaum, will constitute a solid support for the schools and institutes worldwide.
This will no doubt become a most interesting conference, because of the venue in a part of the world which is in turmoil, because of the politicians, scholars, practitioners coming from all over the world, because of the contributions that will be presented on a core theme of Public Administration and because of the fruitful discussions this conference will enable on the theme of leadership and professionalism. Together, let us build the future of public administration!
We warmly thank the Bahrain Institute of Public Administration for hosting the event and we look forward to welcoming many of you in Manama
Michiel S de Vries president of IASIA
Professor and chair of the department of Public Administration
Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands