With up to 100 million more people at risk of being pushed back into extreme poverty around the globe in 2020, governments and societies face unprecedented policy, regulatory and fiscal choices as they act to save lives and set the course for a sustainable future. The choices made today, if made well, could be the tipping points that transform our societies and our planet for the better.
Immediately following the COVID-19 outbreak in China, UNDP worked to mobilize resources to support the procurement of emergency supplies and medical equipment, conduct socio-economic impact assessments, and analyze the impact on businesses. As the virus began to spread globally, the CO transitioned to assisting other countries in procuring supplies from China. Meanwhile, the continuation of our work to tackle existing vulnerabilities further exacerbated by -COVID-19 is now more critical than ever.
The current phase of UNDP’s COVID-19 crisis response is designed to help decision-makers look beyond recovery, towards 2030, making choices and managing complexity and uncertainty in four main areas: governance and agency, social protection, green economy, and digital disruption. It encompasses our role in technically leading the UN’s socioeconomic response.
A forward-looking global response to COVID-19 could end an era where one third of all food produced is wasted while 1 in 10 people goes hungry, where 10 times more is spent on fossil fuel subsidies than on renewable energy, and where more than two billion people live in fragility, conflict or violence. It could transform the lives of those who were out of school, out of work, offline and off the grid, even before the virus spread.
UNDP has identified seven such tipping points to offer a pathway beyond recovery, towards 2030 - to turn the greatest reversal of human development into an historic leap forward, with the Sustainable Development Goals as our compass.
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UNDP China is supporting our partners in making choices that build social capital, deliver inclusive services, open civic space to lay the foundations for the future, and promote international humanitarian action.
In the immediate response to COVID-19, the country office helped the Chinese government to procure urgent medical supplies worth approximately half a million USD. Critical medical equipment included patient monitoring systems, infusion pumps, non-invasive ventilators, and protective suits for health workers. As the virus spread to other countries around the world, we supported UNDP’s global procurement efforts connecting country offices around the world with suppliers in China.
Domestically, UNDP China has worked with the government and the UN system to undertake a socio-economic impact assessment, which provides insights on where targeted initiatives are needed and the kind of interventions required. We are building on the SDG Financing Taxonomy and COVID-19 Investment Map, to influence investors and policy makers to further align financing focused on sustainable recovery to build back better from the crisis and achieve the SDGs by 2030.
The CO, as part of its focus on global partnerships, is also working with China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) through the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund (SSCAF) to strengthen preparedness and response capacity in Asia-Pacific. Through technology transfer, capacity development and logistical support, UNDP is helping to improve healthcare waste management systems and increase local PPE production capacities to contain the pandemic and protect people and the environment.
In China, prior to the pandemic, 5.5 million people were still below the poverty line. Social protection, including access to basic services, will be central to uprooting the inequalities that permeated societies before COVID-19, and which have been laid bare by the crisis. This pandemic has transcended health and affected the vulnerable and disadvantaged the most.
UNDP China is rolling out a programme to bolster poverty reduction efforts in designated poverty counties. The programme addresses three areas: readiness to prevent a second wave; livelihoods and employment generation; and supporting local governments to build back better. We are also exploring innovative policy options, such as Universal Basic Income, which, in partnership with Beijing Normal University, we are analyzing as a means of response and recovery, and to strengthen resilience against future crises.
In addition, UNDP China recognizes that public-private solidarity and partnerships will be critical to build resilient social protection systems in the wake of COVID-19. In particular, we are analyzing how SMEs, which provide 80 percent of employment in China, are recovering from the pandemic and providing policy recommendations on how to increase businesses’ resilience to future shocks while enhancing their ability to contribute to SDG achievement. We have also been supporting aging entrepreneurs in China to increase digital literacy and increase their capacity to leverage digital solutions, making them more able to buffer against crises and disruptions.
UNDP together with other UN agencies will organize a UN Policy Dialogue series on key topics including Social Protection with participation from key Chinese thought leaders. The objective is to reimagine the post COVID-19 development paradigm, while preserving the 2030 Agenda and achieving the SDGs.
This is the moment to adopt a new normal that restores the balance between people and planet. New IRENA research sets out that the benefit of decarbonizing the global economy by 2050 would be eight times the cost, taking health and education gains into account. Cumulative global GDP would grow by USD 98 trillion above business-as-usual between now and 2050 and renewable energy jobs would quadruple to 42 million.
UNDP China’s work to reduce carbon emissions through the promotion of clean energy solutions is now more important than ever. For over a decade, the country office has been supporting the development and commercialization of fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) to transition to low carbon mobility and economy. UNDP recently concluded a 5-part hydrogen webinar series in partnership with the Netherlands to further this agenda.
With humanity’s encroachment into wildlife habitats increasing the likelihood of contracting viruses from animals, UNDP also remains committed to nature-based development solutions, strengthening biodiversity protection, and maintaining ecosystems in China.
Additionally, in the context of COVID-19, UNDP has worked to provide policy recommendations on ensuring that China’s overseas development assistance contributes to the formation of green economies globally through the adoption of low-carbon practices and sharing of renewable energy technologies.
Of course, establishing a green economy is not simply about reducing emissions. It must also be inclusive – one where vulnerabilities and inequalities are reduced. To this end, UNDP work to support municipalities in their integration of the SDGs in the post COVID-19 world will include the first city-level SDG progress report in China, and an analysis of the status of SDG implementation in more than 80 cities. Specifically, this will look at access to social services in addition to clean energy and sustainable infrastructure.
COVID-19 has made it clear how essential technology is in facilitating the adoption of a new normal. The surge in tele-schooling, tele-working, tele-medicine, and e-commerce during the COVID-19 crisis are just the tip of the iceberg in digital transformation. UNDP China has long been at the forefront of efforts to embrace technology and innovative solutions in addressing development challenges. Following the height of the pandemic in China, we have been using machine learning to map the impact of COVID-19 and integrated big data findings into our assessment of the affect of COVID-19 on Chinese businesses. We have also continued harnessing big data for urban sustainability measurements to supplement census data and provide policy advice and support.
While the adoption of innovative new technologies will help to facilitate the shift to green pathways as part of a new normal, they also have the potential to exacerbate inequalities and further marginalize already vulnerable communities. In the post COVID-19 world, great care must be taken to ensure that the digital divide does not widen.
At UNDP China, we are also working to mobilize the youth to leverage digital platforms and technological innovations to support vulnerable communities including the elderly. The theme for this year’s National Dialogue will be closing the digital divide and addressing the future of work in the post COVID-19 world. Through partnerships with private sector companies and educational institutions, we are also working to educate aspiring tech entrepreneurs on how to integrate the SDGs into A.I.-based development solutions.
In this way, UNDP is working to ensure that the next generation of leaders and changemakers are actively engaged in sustainable development and creating solutions to reduce inequalities and address the challenges of the 21st century.
UNDP has so far allocated $19.4 million across the four pillars of Governance, Social Protection, Green Economy and Digital Disruption.