As prepared and delivered on July 29, 2020

HE Mr. Kung Phoak, Dpty Sec Gen ASEAN, Amb Wang, Mme Su Guo Xia from LGOP, IPRCC colleagues, Excellencies representatives of ASEAN countries.

COVID has shaken the world to the core, laying bare entrenched vulnerabilities, eroding many improvements achieved so far.

We have already been provided with some concerning data points underpinning this. Let me give you two more.

Two thirds of the SDGs globally are now unlikely to be met[1].

UNDP forecasts human development in 2020 to decline for the first time in 30 years due to the triple blow to incomes, health and education.  On some dimensions, conditions today are equivalent to levels of deprivation last seen in the mid-1980s.

The ability of many Asian countries in responding is hampered by weak social security systems. Existing systems often omit large sections of societies, such as the informal workers which account for nearly 60 percent of nonfarm employment in Asia Pacific. (In Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia and Lao PDR up to 80 percent.)[2]

Also, at less than average 1% of GDP across the region current investments into social protection are not sufficient to counter the devastating effects on livelihoods.[3]

What is UNDP doing to help address these challenges?

UNDP’s COVID offer rapidly evolved as the UN development system switched into emergency mode.

To better understand the implications of the pandemic beyond its health dimensions and help inform comprehensive government responses, UNDP produced over 70 country specific socio-economic assessments worldwide. In China, we facilitated a joint UN assessment of the socio-economic impact at the household level in five poverty counties to support the relevant local governments in designing targeted COVID recovery responses.

In Asia Pacific, we published an assessment of the social & economic impact on the region as a whole followed by a position note that puts forward recommendations for dedicated social protection measures to buffer the effects of the pandemic on the region’s poor.

To galvanise UN wide action on the findings coming through from various assessments, the UN Secretary General, in April, launched the UN Framework for the Immediate Socio-Economic Response to COVID-19, designating UNDP as the technical lead.

  • The Framework extends the horizon beyond the immediate recovery to establish the conditions for ending poverty and accelerating achievement towards the SDGs.
  • It includes 5 pillars ranging from strengthening health systems, to enhancing social protection, to protecting employment and strengthening social cohesion while looking at ways to create the fiscal space needed to fund recovery measures.

As part of the efforts to operationalise the UN Framework, UNDP put forward our new COVID-19 Offer 2.0, targeting four main areas: governance, social protection, green economy, and digital disruption. To fund interventions in these areas, USD 100m in UNDP core funding have been repurposed and are currently being programmed.

  • In China, we are working for example, to leverage digital platforms and technological innovations to support vulnerable communities and groups. We are supporting aging entrepreneurs to increase their digital literacy to leverage digital solutions for business continuity and create new business opportunities in the post COVID world.

Globally, we are also proposing the immediate introduction of a Temporary Basic Income to protect 2.7 billion people living below or just above the poverty line. The estimated costs of USD 199 bln per month could be funded from the deferral of debt payments for developing countries amounting to USD 3.1trln in 2020 alone[4].

COVID-19 is an opportunity for a paradigm shift to address the inequalities and unsustainable development pathways that made the pandemic possible in the first place.

Country responses need to focus on building a more sustainable and inclusive future, with the SDGs as our compass.

Regional and global cooperation, solidarity and policy coordination is critical to effectively counter the impact of the pandemic. Individual country-level approaches cannot provide lasting solutions given the many trade-offs and intertwined effects on different populations, as well as the cross-border impacts of global and regional trade and value chains, migration, environmental implications etc.

This is why it is important for forums like ASEAN to address these challenges jointly. As the UN & UNDP we stand ready to build back better together with you.









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