Opening remarks by Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Belarus at the Sub-regional Innovation Policy Outlook event
UNECE SUB-REGIONAL INNOVATION POLICY OUTLOOK 2020: EASTERN EUROPE AND THE SOUTH CAUCASUS LOCAL LAUNCH WEBINAR IN BELARUS
Ladies and Gentlemen, dear Colleagues,
I am pleased to welcome you to this important event.
I commend the UN Economic Commission for Europe for presenting today this Sub-regional Innovation Policy Outlook, -- a study which aims to assess the scope and quality of innovation policies, institutions, and processes across six countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. This group of countries share a common history and policy legacies, and therefore are facing now similar economic and institutional challenges.
I thank the Government of Belarus for active promotion of such knowledge sharing and research.
Innovation policy is crucial for the sustainable development of Belarus and I know that the longstanding cooperation between the UNECE, the State Committee on Science and Technology and development partners active in the innovation field has been very fruitful. It led to flagship publications like Innovation Policy for Sustainable Development Reviews and numerous capacity building activities over recent years.
I hope the Outlook’s findings can better inform open policy dialogues that could impact on ongoing reforms, technical cooperation and resource mobilization around innovation policy agendas.
In the case of Belarus, this report can help identify strengths and weaknesses of the state and private sector ‘ecosystem’ for innovation.
We know that enhancing innovation is at the core of the global Agenda 2030, which includes specific targets: promoting technology upgrade, entrepreneurship and innovation (SDG8); and developing smart, green, healthy and inclusive cities (SDG11). Several UN and international initiatives have also emphasized the need of innovation policies to deliver on the SDGs in line with the principle of leaving no one behind (most notably the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Sustainable Development, but also the COP26, Decade of Action for SDGs, and the European Green Deal).
The usefulness of innovation has become apparent this year with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw innovations in terms of new and or improved products, processes, marketing, logistical and organizational methods that expanded quickly in business practices and public institutions alike, in workplace organization, external relations and international cooperation. This quick evolution of how we communicate, cooperate, or access the goods and services on the market, triggered by Covid-19, is changing the way we approach innovation. Every day we see innovative solutions. Openness to change and such innovation mindset is already helping to reverse the direct health, social and economic impact of the pandemic.
One relevant example of innovation needed in Belarus is telemedicine and tele-counseling. New digital solutions could not only reduce the spread of infections by promoting "contactless" interactions by healthcare workers and patients. They could also improve the welfare of vulnerable people who would otherwise find it difficult to access the best health and psycho-social services (e.g. older persons, persons with disabilities, children and youth, residents of rural areas).
Many UN agencies are already joining forces with stakeholders in government, civil society and the private sector to provide such type of innovative solutions. Innovation is a key element of the UN COVID19 Socioeconomic Response Plan which aims, among others, at protecting jobs, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and looking at the needs of informal sector workers.
In the long-term, for the UN system in Belarus, innovation is one of four pillars of the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for 2021-2025 which identifies digital transformation and social innovation as accelerators for SDG achievement in the country.
In conclusion let me confirm that the UN system is ready to partner with government and other stakeholders in Belarus to deliver innovations for the people: smart cities and smart villages; e-services for individuals and businesses; e-participation and engagement of civil society; digitalization of key sectors of the economy; the development of intelligent transport systems; and the upgrading of digital skills through training and re-training for digital economy. Tele-medicine and bridging digital divide in education and health -- these are the areas where you can count on UN support as you introduce innovations in Belarus.
In close coordination with UNECE, I look forward to our continued cooperation with the Government, with private sector and civil society partners in promoting innovations for sustainable development in Belarus. Once again, congratulations on today’s presentation and thank you very much for your attention.