Address by Ms Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki, the UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus, at the Meeting of the Council for Sustainable Development
Distinguished Mr Isachenko, Members of the Council, Members of the Parliamentary Group and the Partnership Group for Sustainable Development
I would like to greet everyone at the final session of the Council for Sustainable Development in 2020. I also welcome my colleagues who are present here: Alexandra Solovieva, the Resident Representative of the UNDP, Tanja Radochaj, the Representative of the UNICEF, as well as Olga Atroshchenko, the Assistant Representative of the UNFPA in Belarus.
This year has brought numerous challenges for us and has made us reconsider the priorities in our work many a time. On 3-4 December, the General Assembly held a special high-level session on COVID-19 where it was noted that the pandemic had reversed the progress towards sustainable development and the path is becoming increasingly steep, however, the 2030 Agenda remains the road map for recovery from the consequences of the pandemic.
Despite all challenges, it is important to note the following positive steps in achievement of SDGs in Belarus:
- The work to reduce the use of disposable plastic and ensure collection of waste;
- The adoption of the Law “On the rights of people with disabilities and their social integration” in the first reading;
- The development of a network of early intervention centres of the Ministry of Healthcare;
- Partial decriminalization of HIV transmission, which is important for 28,000 people living with HIV in the country.
I am glad to note that all the above-mentioned positive developments were the result of work done in partnership by state bodies, civil society organizations and the UN system.
Partnership is key to achieving SDGs. Working with the civil society, supporting the capacity of civil society organizations, using their experience and knowledge while maintaining open and respectful attitude to their stance is the basis for innovations in the area of sustainable development.
Unfortunately, today the atmosphere of this partnership is far from what it used to be last year. Here I would like to stress the position of the Partnership Group regarding the events in August, its rejection of violence against peaceful protesters, as well as concern about the situation with non-governmental organizations and activists many of whom are under pressure from law enforcement agencies.
As I have stated on numerous occasions, the work on sustainable development certainly should not be politicized. However, one needs to remember that development, which is not human-centered and is not respectful to human rights, cannot be sustainable. I hope that all members of this Council agree that human rights must be considered independently from politics. These issues are closely related to the 2030 Agenda and without discussing them, one cannot expect effective partnership and success in further achievement of SDGs. Discussions limited to results and technical issues will not be full and effective.
In 2020, some work has been done on strategic planning, as well as development of state programs and plans. Worth noting are the approval of the national strategy “Active longevity 2030”, the work on drafting of the 2035 Sustainable Development Strategy, the 2025 Migration Policy Concept, the National Plan to Ensure Gender Equality for 2021-2025.
The UN agencies have taken part in preparation of the interventions envisioned under state programmes in such areas as healthcare, education, social protection, social and economic development, and environmental protection.
Drafting of the Action Plan on development of green economy remains a priority.
I would like to once again direct the attention of the Council members to the fact that in order to achieve sustainable development one needs to ensure interconnection of interventions envisioned in plans, concepts, and strategies with interventions envisioned in state programmes as they require appropriate funding.
In Belarus, gradual progress is observed across the majority of SDGs.
- There is a need for additional efforts to prevent violence against women and children, as well as home violence against people with disabilities and older persons who have become more vulnerable during the pandemic.
- In education, there is a risk of growing inequality due to the digital divide; therefore there is a need to exert additional efforts to reduce it.
- It is expected that the COVID-19 pandemic will result in significant changes on the labour market, therefore retraining of personnel and support for SMEs are becoming especially important.
- The pandemic has also exposed the need to strengthen healthcare systems, in particular to develop online medical consulting.
At the same time, it is necessary to maintain the focus on SDGs financing. Thus the need to rationalize public expenses in the coming years will probably impact social expenses. Discussions are underway to reduce maternity leave as well as to cancel some taxation preferences for socially important goods.
Meanwhile it is important to remain committed to consistent implementation to the principle of leaving no one behind and the human rights-based approach.
I would like to avail myself of the opportunity to inform you that the UN Country Team working in cooperation with international partners and donors immediately responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by supporting the national response. During the first months of the pandemic, we provided more than 7.5 million USD for national response including the support of the healthcare system and addressing the social and economic consequences. We provided assistance through partners and non-governmental organizations working with those most affected. In the second half of the year, the UN Country Team focused its efforts on preparation of a complex of social and economic response measures aimed at addressing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in the medium and long term. According the results of the assessment done by the UN system, mobilization of another 50 million USD will be required for effective recovery until 2022.
2020 has been a difficult year for the whole world.
Belarus has also experienced the impact of global trends.
Institutes are key is all countries. The Council for Sustainable Development and the National Coordinator on Achievement of SDGs play a crucial role in ensuring intersectoral coordination and synergy. Equally important are partnerships established to achieve SDGs.
Being international partners of Belarus, the United Nations agencies present in the country will continue their work with special focus in these priorities and values.