New Year Address by the UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki

On the eve of 2021 New Year celebrations across the world, I want to share a few reflections from the UN Belarus perspective.

As the New Year brings hope and light of tomorrow, I want to focus on the positive and share with you a few great lessons we learnt in 2020.

In January 2020, together with the National SDG Coordinator, we launched Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs. Although we knew back then that the world was not on track to achieving the global Goals, in Belarus, SDG discussion was lively and it engaged many partners including journalists, NGOs, Government officials, international partners of Belarus and the independent experts.  It gave us confidence that Agenda 2030 is relevant and that it creates a platform for innovative, cross-sectoral partnerships in Belarus. 

The same confidence in Agenda 2030 was palpable in the General Assembly just a few weeks ago when Member States met on 3-4 December 2020 to discuss recovery from Covid-19. In the face of such global pandemic, Agenda 2030 remains the main roadmap to recovery and sustainable development. The urgent need to stop climate change, to end exclusion, violence and deprivation is now more visible than ever and we all know what needs to be done. The time for action is now.

In February we launched a series of events celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the UN. Together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we looked at the role that Belarusians played in the history of our organization. The text of the UN Charter signed in 1945, on behalf of Belarus by Kuzma Kiselev, was released this year in Belarusian language, in a new publication accompanied by the selection of historical photos from the 1945 conference in San Francisco.  Focusing on the Future We Want, we launched a series of discussions with students across Belarus, led by the State Pedagogical University and the Association “Education for Sustainable Development”.

As the UN marked its 75th Birthday, Belarus commemorated the same anniversary of the end of the Second World War.  This shared history and the fact that after the War all nations were able to come together and overcome so many differences and obstacles and worked out a compromise for a new world order is a great lesson in collaboration and perseverance.  

In March, enter COVID-19. It became a gamechanger and it upended our individual and institutional plans across the world.  It showed us the force of nature and becabe a call for more cooperation across borders to tackle the crisis. The phenomenal pace of development of the new vaccine is a testament to human ingenuity.  Whether we can adapt to the new world with such epidemics in the future is now an open question and will be a great test of our global shared responsibility for people and planet.  Nobody is safe until everyone is safe from COVID-19.

Responding to the crisis, the UN agencies in Belarus together with the Government and local partners supported projects and initiatives to address epidemiological, social and economic consequences of the pandemic. With financial support of the EU, USAID, other bilateral and private sector donors we provided over US$ 7.5 million worth of supplies for the health and social assistance system across the country. 

We worked also to tackle the socio-economic implications by helping small and medium-sized enterprises to strengthen their entrepreneurial capacity. We assisted volunteer organisations and our partners and NGOs that work with the most affected people. Later in the year, we developed a UN Strategy for a Socio-Economic Response to the COVID-19 pandemic and mobilised additional funds for its implementation. COVID-19 taught us closer cooperation and brought colleagues together as we jointly experienced this invisible threat and often mourned the loss or suffering of so many COVID-19 victims.

The summer of 2020 was marked by unprecedented action for human rights in Belarus.  We stood by the peaceful and strong Belarusian people who continue to claim their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and the right to freedom from torture and other inhuman treatment in the hands of law enforcement. From the highest level, the UN called upon the Belarusian Government to respect these universal values and we will continue to do so, in the spirit of constructive engagement and with our open offer of expert support and assistance in tackling these complex and sensitive issues.

The protest movement is an amazing lesson in human resilience, and it shows yet again that civil and political rights, the social and economic wellbeing are closely intertwined, as it was presented by the UN Secretary-General in his Call for Action on Human Rights launched also earlier this year.

We could never reach this far without our partners and donors. Our joint efforts show that even during hard times (and especially during hard times!) together we are stronger, and that solidarity is the fuel that helps to move forward, grow and face any obstacle. I would like to thank everyone who was part of our big UN family and worked together with us on the numerous initiatives and programmes.

As 2021 is ready to unfold, I am grateful for these lessons in confidence, perseverance, cooperation, resilience, and solidarity.  I hope such trying times will build a strong foundation for close in the future.

Whether you celebrated Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year, or Kwanzaa, I wish you all and your families and loved ones a happy New Year, in good health, with positive energy and the necessary ambition in tackling new challenges that 2021 will bring. 

Happy Holidays!

UN entities involved in this initiative
IOM
International Organization for Migration
RCO
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
UNAIDS
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
UNDP
United Nations Development Programme
UNFPA
United Nations Population Fund
UNHCR
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNICEF
United Nations Children’s Fund
WHO
World Health Organization