What are governments’ top priorities in 2024?

By on 07/02/2024 | Updated on 07/02/2024
A graphic showing pictures form a number of Global Government Forum events
Government trends 2024 graphic

Public services around the world are dealing with what many government leaders are calling the age of polycrisis. With conflicts still raging in Ukraine and Gaza, the economic and social impacts of the Covid pandemic still being felt, shifting geopolitics, changing demographics, growing climate change impacts – the context for public service delivery is challenging.

In a Global Government Forum webinar, GGF executive editor Richard Johnstone and GGF event moderator Siobhan Benita set out some of the key areas that will affect the work of government in 2024 – and beyond.

This report highlights the key areas discussed in the session – and how GGF is going to cover these topics in the year ahead.

Economy and public finances

Last year, the lights on the global economic dashboard were red. Economic forecasts had been cut, inflation was high, and interest rates were going up across the globe.

In the end, the global economy had a softer landing in 2023 than had initially been projected, and the risk of a global recession has receded. But the World Bank highlights that the global economy is set for its weakest half-decade in 30 years as growth is projected to fall from 2.6% last year to 2.4% in 2024.

This slow growth is having an effect on government finances around the world and we have seen governments taking action to tighten spending. In New Zealand, both the then-Labour government and the opposition National party set out plans to reduce public spending – and the new National-led coalition government has set out plans for NZ$7.47bn (US$4.53bn) in cost savings, including at least 6.5% in departmental budgets.

Read more: US senators bid to smooth presidential transitions; New Zealand public service union hits back at planned cuts: news in brief

In Canada, the government announced C$500m (then US$362m) of in-year budget cuts in the first step of efforts to save up to C$15.4bn (then US$11.5bn) over five years, while in the UK, chancellor Jeremy Hunt has capped the size of the UK civil service as part of a renewed effort to reduce the number of officials to pre-pandemic levels.

Many governments around the world will be undertaking similar cost-reduction programmes in the weeks and months ahead, which presents its own quandaries. Michael Wernick, the Jarislowsky chair of public sector management at the University of Ottawa and Canada’s former cabinet secretary, has told Global Government Forum that many governments are “now in a period of tapping the brakes and fiscal correction”.

As well as reductions in headline spending numbers, governments are also looking to increase efficiency. The UK has launched a new efficiency drive, with Jeremy Hunt aiming to increase public sector productivity by 0.5% a year in order to match government capacity to increasing spending demands, including net zero funding.

Read more: UK public sector faces productivity review

Register now
Making green the colour of government money: how to fund net zero (27 February webinar)
How to cut public spending in a way that protects services (14 March webinar)

Boosting public service innovation

This belt-tightening in government is coming at a time when the challenges they face – from revolutionising services for the digital age to delivering on challenges like net zero and preparing for ageing populations – have never been greater.  

Officials around the world are having to change the way they operate to meet these challenges, including embracing new technology, working across departmental and other siloes to reduce inefficiencies, taking managed risks to test creative approaches and embracing flexible and hybrid ways of working. 

GGF can help governments and officials meet these challenges. One noteworthy way we do so is through the annual Innovation conference, this year being held on 19-20 March at ExCeL in London.

Co-hosted by the UK Government, UK Civil Service and the Cabinet Office, Innovation is a unique exhibition and conference that brings together government leaders from across the globe responsible for the transformation of their public sector organisations and services.

The key topics being covered at the event this year are:

  • Innovation in government delivery
  • Innovation in skills
  • Innovation in artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Innovation in sustainability
  • Innovation in digital and data
  • Innovation in relocation
  • Innovation in cyber

The conference will take place over two days, and sessions covering each of these topics will see government leaders from around the world taking the stage to share their insights and best practice. 

Register here: Innovation 2024, 19-20 March – ExCeL, London, UK

Sustainability and resilience

We have seen in recent years the importance of resilience in government in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic impact of higher inflation.

These crises have meant that governments around the world have had to boost resilience, and many have reviewed how they work to learn the lessons from recent years.

The UK government, for example, updated its resilience framework late last year to reflect what deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden called “dangerous and volatile times”.

Governments are taking a “whole of society” approach to resilience, where they bring together a wide range of actors from across society to form a national resilience community. These groups also then help develop national risk registers. In the UK, the UK Resilience Forum brings together groups ranging from emergency responders to businesses and charities to discuss what actions are needed to respond to the current risk landscape.

The UK has also recently updated its cross-government emergency management responsibilities, designating lead departments to respond to many different kind of crisis.

Lead departments are named for the areas of human, animal and plant health, natural and environmental hazards; international, including conflict and instability and emergencies overseas; national security and terrorism; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks, accidents and systems failures; and other domestic accidents and societal risks.

The need for this capacity is particularly important when it comes to meeting the threat of climate change. The scale of the action required means the load needs to be shared across government, but this means there is a need for coordination and collaboration between the different actors.

The COP28 conference in December marked the conclusion of the first ‘global stocktake’ of the world’s efforts to address climate change under the Paris Agreement. This revealed that global progress is too slow across all areas of climate action – from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to strengthening resilience to a changing climate, to getting the financial and technological support to vulnerable nations. To meet the vital target to keep global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels and as part of the conclusions of the conference, countries vowed to accelerate action across all areas by 2030 – including a pledge to begin to end the fossil fuel era.

In the short-term, countries are encouraged to come forward with ambitious, economy-wide emission reduction targets, covering all greenhouse gases, sectors and categories and aligned with the 1.5°C limit in their next round of climate action plans (known as nationally determined contributions) by early 2025.

The COP also urged governments to take action on adaptation to improve resilience to the impacts of a changing climate and to assess countries’ efforts.

The Global Goal on Adaptation framework aims to provide a guide to adaptation planning and strategies for all countries, and to align the finance, technology and capacity-building support needed to achieve these.

Register now:
How to boost state capacity (29 February webinar)
Global Government Finance Summit (5-6 June, Dublin)
An equitable path to net zero: economic transformations and just transitions (27 June webinar)

Digital transformation and AI

Barely a conversation with government goes by nowadays without some mention of the potential of artificial intelligence.

AI has developed at speed, and governments around the world are looking at how to deploy the technology. Public service leaders are keen to embrace the use of artificial intelligence, with many calling it a “game changer” in the delivery of public services – but, as one public service leader we talked to said, “most of us are behind the curve” on deploying it.

So governments need to better develop their plans to do so, through training officials as well as explaining and reassuring the public about its potential use.

And this is just one area where governments are focusing on digital transformation. As well as at the Innovation conference, GGF conferences throughout 2024 will share insights on digital transformation across the globe.

GovernmentDX, which will be held in Washington DC in April, will focus on the current challenges the US federal government is facing in its attempts to improve the use of data to drive innovation and deliver high-quality services to its citizens. Leaders from across the federal government will benefit from the sharing of intelligence and the first-hand experiences of their peers, as well as discover solution-based products and services from our private sector partners. ​

Public Service Data Live in London in September will bring together public servants in the UK and beyond to focus on data-driven innovations. Through interactive content sessions, roundtable discussions and focused networking, attendees will benefit from cross-departmental insights, lessons learnt from real-life case studies and shared experiences of peers facing similar challenges. ​We had fantastic speakers and excellent feedback from this event last year.

AccelerateGOV in Ottawa in Canada this autumn attracts some of the most influential digital leaders from both the public and private sectors, globally. Creating an unparalleled networking experience, the event unites all those within the public sector with the common goal of improving the use of data to better serve their customers. ​

All these events bring together public servants around the world who are at the cutting edge of transformation. Find out more information on the event websites.

Register now
How to deploy AI in the public sector
Digital ID: Can governments get citizens on board?

To learn all this and more, you can watch the full Find out governments’ top priorities in 2024 webinar on our dedicated events page. The webinar, hosted by Global Government Forum, was held on 6 February 2024.

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