05 April 2021
COVID recovery, an opportunity to build back better
The long-term implications of the epidemic and recommended social and economic innovations were the subject of an online technical briefing with the participation of UN agencies, Government experts, international donors and civil society organisations hosted by the UN Office in Belarus. The COVID-19 Socioeconomic Response Plan (SERP), the UN in Belarus system's comprehensive offer and menu of programmatic interventions seeks to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the short, medium- and long-term perspectives. The main areas of the UN response are health, social protection and cohesion as well as economic and macroeconomic response. The document was developed in consultation with national experts and was well received by the Government of Belarus. The UN was provided with a range of comments and specific suggestions, in particular by Ministries of Labour and Social Protection and Ministry of Economy, on how to further align the Programme with national priorities. “The recovery from COVID-19 requires a long-term approach and investments in the socio-economic sphere. In macro-terms, Belarus hasn't been severely affected by COVID-19 pandemic, so relatively small investments and innovations would give Belarus an advantage and opportunity to become more competitive. The UN looks at the recovery from Covid-19 pandemic from the sustainability perspective. The crisis is at the same time an opportunity to accelerate modernization. Looking at examples of other countries and regions which allocate unprecedented resources to invest, over time, in innovative development solutions, build new infrastructure and decisively expand digital, green and inclusive economies and solutions for people, the UN’s Socio-Economic Response to Covid-19 offers a menu of options and programmes that can be very useful in Belarus,” said Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Belarus. Substantive work and presentations on behalf of all UN agencies were delivered by Representatives and experts of WHO, UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and UN in Belarus Presenters and Government and CSO speakers focused on five pillars of the socio-economic response: of health and basic social services, economic recovery, macroeconomic response, multilateral collaboration, social cohesion and community resilience. Speakers from the Ministry of Health provided an update of the epidemiological aspects with COVID-19 in the country. Representatives of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy presented measures in such priority areas as employment policy, social support and small and medium enterprise development. The ministries’ representatives highlighted the areas of complementarity with UN efforts and priorities for future collaboration. Participating civil society partners and private sector firms presented their initiatives and underlined the need for partnerships, cooperation and coordination of Covid-19 recovery efforts. Representatives of the international community acknowledged the need to focus on socio-economic response to Covid-19 and invest in the needs of communities that may be left behind. In March 2020, the UN in Belarus, with support of its international partners, reacted quickly to complement the national response to COVID-19. In the first months of the pandemic, the UN system in Belarus in cooperation with international donors provided some $7.5 million to support the health system through the procurement of medicines and protective equipment, which helped the country weather the first wave of the pandemic. Soon after that, a number of inter-agency UN Task Forces were set up to address the broader socioeconomic impact of the pandemic. Their work resulted in the elaboration of the Socio-Economic Response Plan (SERP) to COVID-19. In the second half of the year 2020, the UN in Belarus worked to expand partnerships and mobilize additional funds to implement the SERP. Civil society organizations like the Belarusian Red Cross Society, Social Changes, MamaPro Help, among others, were involved in the delivery of UN projects on the ground in such areas as providing services for the elderly, migrants, pregnant women, and other vulnerable groups. Private companies especially from the ICT industry, such as SoftTeco, Rakuten Viber, Oyper and others, partnered with the UN and CSOs to develop digital solutions and provide fundamental infrastructure that was needed to provide services remotely and help organize the work of volunteers. The UN in Belarus also worked on mobilizing additional funds to implement the SERP. The implementation of the Plan will require about 64 million USD, of which 14 million have already been identified by UN agencies and international donors including the European Union, Global Environment Facility, Global Fund, Germany, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russia, Sweden, UK, USA. Funds were made available through ongoing and new programmes of resident and non-resident UN agencies. The UN in Belarus continues its collaboration with IFIs, including the World Bank, IFC, EBRD, to complement their work on supporting SMEs and improving the business environment. The Plan covers deliverables from March 2020 until January 2022. Some of the activities have been or are in the process of being implemented, while most activities will continue during 2021 and beyond.