New solutions to manage uncertain times: how to prevent the collapse of the social fabric and recover together from COVID-19

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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been a proud partner of the Paris Peace Forum since its creation in 2018. As the leading UN agency for conflict prevention, democratic governance and environmental protection in the field, with boots on the ground in 170 countries and territories, we have a lot to offer when it comes to concrete development solutions to bounce back better from the COVID pandemic.

Undeniably, COVID-19 represents a litmus test for multilateralism. Yet, in the current struggle to come up with global collective action, the operational side of the UN is living up to this challenge. As the UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner explains, “the past six months have been an extraordinary moment of demonstrating how, with agility and resilience, we have actually been part of the backbone of the world’s response for those countries who rely on external support”.

In fact, to respond to the multi-dimensional complexity and scale of the crisis, we must innovate and promote a closer cooperation between all actors and segments of society, advocating for recovery paths that really put people at the centre of our efforts. This is what UNDP has been doing as the lead technical agency of the UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response. Working with UN Country Teams, UN sister agencies, International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank, Member States, the European Union, private sector and civil society, we have already carried out 117 socio-economic impact assessments and developed 106 integrated socio-economic response plans covering 122 countries and five regions to help governments identify and address impacts of the crisis on the most vulnerable in their societies.

But plans are not everything. A participatory, inclusive and “whole-of-society approach” is critical to make them happen. That’s why beyond the short-term impacts of the crisis, we are also working hand-in-hand with local communities and national and local decision-makers to design and implement policies that will promote long-term recovery. Because countries need to get back on track with the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, UNDP is helping lay the foundations for the future in the areas of governance, social protection, green economy and digital transformation.

In this context, the “Space for Solutions” of the 2020 edition of the Paris Peace Forum is a perfect place to highlight some of our new flagship initiatives:

Firstly, considering the limited human and financial resources available to address the impacts of Covid-19, it is vital that the international community supports common approaches for recovery with national governments in the lead. This is exactly what the COVID-19 Recovery Needs Assessment (CRNA) methodology does, promoting a shared understanding and platform to formulate a comprehensive recovery strategy to address the impacts of COVID. Designed through a unique partnership between the main global partners involved in crisis response programming — the UN, the World Bank and the European Union, with support from other multilateral development banks, bilateral donors and civil society -, the CRNA aims to ensure alignment of the development community behind one government-wide and government-led strategy which can then be converted to common planning and financing outcomes. For instance, in Ecuador, the CRNA was conducted under the leadership of the National Planning Office, with nearly 100 officials involved in assessing the economic effects and social and human impacts of COVID-19 on sectors such as industry, tourism, transport or healthcare and identifying crucial actions for vulnerable groups and to support SMEs.

Secondly, supporting better digital integration and use of data for decision-making is critical. Working with partners, UNDP has developed a new tool, the Digital Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) that allows rapid and evidence-based decision-making for governments on policy measures to assist vulnerable households and enterprises affected by the socio-economic impact of COVID-19. The digital technology enables the collection of data at scale on smart devices (phones and tablets). Data is then geo-referenced — with visualization dashboards and real-time maps — and can be tracked over time to adapt policy measures to the changing needs on the ground and to the local evolution of the pandemic. In use in 50+ countries, it can be used to inform government prioritization of resources for relief and recovery and to support sector and macro level assessments such as the CRNA.

Thirdly, beyond socio-economic impacts, COVID-19 also poses important threats to democracy, notably with the postponement/cancellation of elections and the impacts of strict lockdowns and state-of-emergency measures on the enjoyment of human and political rights. The UNDP-European Commission (EC) project on Early Warning Early Response systems therefore aims to support social cohesion and conflict prevention efforts, by setting up inclusive platforms to identify potential risks of violence, that may be compounded by the pandemic. Working with Electoral Management Bodies and Human Rights Commissions, in partnership with local civil society, this mechanism also uses digital innovation, with the introduction of new IT platforms for coordination that run from the local to the central level. The project is currently being implemented in Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Zambia, as part of UNDP-EC ongoing electoral assistance projects, with expansion planned for upcoming elections in Ethiopia and Central African Republic.

In these uncertain times, working together is critical to achieve improved coordination and greater coherence and to promote a shared vision to leave no-one behind and “recover forward better” from COVID-19. We look forward to engaging with all of you in November, in person or virtually, to ensure that the world emerges as a more resilient place in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.

A contribution from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in correlation with three UNDP-supported initiatives selected to participate in the 2020 Paris Peace Forum.

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Better #governance for a world at peace. Visit: www.parispeaceforum.org

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