Numerous friends and colleagues have told me over the years what a wonderful city Barcelona is. And for me, the prospect of visiting the Catalan capital was made even more exciting by the fact that I was going to receive the UN Public Service First Place Award for “Improving the Delivery of Services” in the Asia Pacific Region. The city and the event did not disappoint me.
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is to be congratulated for the breadth and the richness of the program. Each of the winners had the opportunity to describe their programs in the context of the Millennium Development Goals. These presentations were supported by some very provocative and thoughtful papers by experts in the field of public service excellence. The Award ceremony itself was a moving affair which was followed by a ministerial round table on issues to do with continuing innovation in the delivery of Public Services globally. My presentation was very well received, not least of all because BRIDGE was one of the few winners with a global focus. BRIDGE has always been about the people who develop it and whom it serves. For that reason I focused on the transformative nature of the curriculum and on those whom it has transformed in a way that has helped them to become pivotal developers and implementers of BRIDGE in their countries and regions. People like Arpineh Galfayan from Armenia, Shalva Tskhakaia and Natia Kashakashvili from Georgia, Augusto Pereira from Timor-Leste and Emad Yousef from Jordan are all proof that BRIDGE builds capacity precisely because it encourages ownership of the curriculum and because it provides ongoing support to and encouragement of new BRIDGE practitioners. Numerous participants in Barcelona were interested to learn more about BRIDGE, particularly our approach to partnership building – another of BRIDGE’s great strengths.
I was proud to receive the award as an AEC officer, the manager of the BRIDGE office and on behalf of the four other BRIDGE partner organizations – the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division (UNEAD).
I concluded my presentation with the following thank yous. Firstly, to numerous members of the AEC’s senior management, who over the years have provided unflagging support and drive for BRIDGE. I thank them for their friendship and for their wise counsel. Next to the BRIDGE partners, who have worked so harmoniously to make BRIDGE what it has become. Here, I would particularly like to single out my dear friend Paul Guerin from International IDEA, who worked with me right at the beginning of the project in Timor-Leste and who has been a key player in expressing International IDEA’s support for the partnership. Next I would like to thank the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) for its continued support for the development of both Election and Democracy and Governance BRIDGE. Next, I need to thank the hundreds of curriculum writers and facilitators from around the globe who have helped to shape BRIDGE and to give it its richness of content and its contextual relevance. You have become not only my respected colleagues, but my dear friends. And finally to my wonderful colleagues in the BRIDGE office, Yvonne Goudie our curriculum expert, Ben Murray our webmaster and Melanie Chan, Alan Green and Maureen Green who have offered world class administrative support to the project. I am proud to call you colleagues and friends.
As a postscript, I also need to thank my dear friends, Jacques Carrio, Antonio Spinelli and Paul Guerin who all came to share in the celebrations. They gave up their time and came at their own expense and it made the experience all the more wonderful for me. It is a measure of the depth of our friendship that you would make such an effort. I also need to thank IDEA for sending Stina Larserud – another very dear friend – to represent them at the workshops and the Award Ceremony. I really appreciated the gesture from an organisation I have great fondness for. I must also thank Zorica McCarthy, Australian Ambassador to Spain, who graciously agreed to attend the Award Ceremony and who hosted a wonderful celebratory dinner for myself and the other Australian Award recipients. And last, and by no means least, I would like to thank the Australian Electoral Commissioner, Ed Killesteyn for allowing me to make the journey to Barcelona. BRIDGE has transformed my life in the last 10 year, possibly more than the lives it has been developed to transform. It was extremely important to me to be able to accept this award on behalf of all of those who have made BRIDGE the truly remarkable learning tool it has become.