Creating Professional Civil Service to Serve the Citizen

Shola Akbarova
Young women are among the beneficiaries of the new recruitment system

Azerbaijan experienced high rates of economic growth in 2003-2008, notably due to significant hydrocarbon revenues. While the influx of new investments into Azerbaijan’s young economy bore a promise for improved infrastructural services and social policies, it also heightened the pressure for good governance and civil service reform in country, critical for sustaining the economic development and translating the economic gains into reducing the poverty. Thus, one of the country’s main challenges was to ensure that its civil service was composed of competent, professional staff capable of managing increased resources and providing adequate services to the people of Azerbaijan.

UNDP has been providing support to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) since its establishment in 2005 to pursue reforms and improve the overall delivery and quality of public services. With support of UNDP the Civil Service Commission achieved significant results in formulation of unified state policy in the area of civil service, in the introduction of a competitive and transparent centralized recruitment system for the civil service, in re-training and professional development of civil servants. Specifically, the project worked towards:

  • Supporting key civil service reforms
  • Strengthening the Commission’s operational capacities, and the capacities of civil servants


  • Current recruitment policy implemented by the Civil Service Commission is based on a modern and transparent process for the selection of civil servants in Azerbaijan. This process has significantly increased public confidence in the fairness and objectivity of the public administration system.
  • A total of 28,070 applicants applied and 1,585 were appointed to the positions in different government institutions through the competitive recruitment process
  • 1,300 civil servants from national and local executive authorities have attended training events both in country and abroad;
  • Collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated statistics on women participation in civil service has become routine practice.

The major breakthrough in implementation of the civil service reforms was introduction of the competitive, transparent and merit-based entry examinations into civil service centrally managed by the Commission on Civil Service. For the first time, vacancies were publicly advertised and accompanied by clear job descriptions. Testing system is fully computerized to minimize human interference and ensure transparency. With support from the project, the Commission has designed a comprehensive portal providing easy access to information including legal acts, recruitments, tender notices, annual reports and other. The Commission also provides a number of e-services to the citizens via SMS and emails including receipt of application for vacant posts, invitation to the test, results of the test and others.

Within the joint project of UNDP and the Commission, about 1300 civil servants from national and local executive authorities have benefited from training events both in country and abroad, on subjects varying from human resources management in public sector to international best practices in civil service management. The CSC representatives had official visits to South Korea, Canada, France, Ireland, and other countries to develop professional linkages with respective public administration agencies. In a comprehensive study on Civil Service in Azerbaijan, UNDP and the CSC took stock of the progress in civil service reform, analyzed its effectiveness and efficiency for the achievement of national development goals, and identified areas for improvement. In order to boost greater transparency and accountability in the civil service, newly adopted regulations on performance appraisal of civil servants are being implemented across all government agencies.

UNDP and the CSC have also prioritised ensuring gender equality in civil service recruitment and extending the opportunity of employment in civil service to a greater number of women. The number of women applicants has risen from 584 in 2009 (or 24.7% of all applicants) to 1,496 in 2011 (or 28.32%), with the majority (74.4% of women applicants in 2011) applying for higher level vacancies in public offices.

When Shola Akbarova was a starting young lawyer at the OSCE office in Baku, the reforms were just rolling out. She recalls: “As the recruitment process to civil service changed, I applied for a head consultant vacancy in the Human Resources department of the State Committee for Securities.” Today, Shola is the Head of that Department, and her story tell-tales many other successful young careers affected by civil service reforms.

During the past years, in partnership with UNDP, the Civil Service Commission has grown from a fledgling government structure into a strong institution steering the nationwide civil service reforms. It has achieved significant results in formulating civil service policies, streamlining competitive, transparent and meritocratic recruitment process, and in re-training and professional development of civil servants. Today, the Commission continues the momentum to improve the accountability and ethical behaviour in service delivery. The increasing number of young applicants for civil service bears a testimony for the improved trust and interest of citizens in public services in general.

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