Helen Clark: Speech on the Ebola Recovery Assessment at the High Level Ebola ConferenceMar 3, 2015
Today is an important day for international co-operation with the countries affected by Ebola. Now is the time to lay the foundations for sustained economic and social recovery from the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The Governments of the three countries have made that very clear, and are in the process of developing their recovery strategies, while also being determined to drive towards zero cases of Ebola as soon as possible.
In December, the UN Secretary General visited the three Ebola-affected countries and discussed with the governments the prospects for stopping the outbreak, and the need to lay the groundwork for recovery. He subsequently asked UNDP to lead the UN’s support to national recovery efforts.
An assessment team from the UN, the EU, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank then visited the three countries. The impressions gained, the analysis of the socio-economic impact of Ebola gathered over time, and possible ways forward have been being discussed with the three Governments and other development partners.
Our purpose has been to offer support to the Governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as they work on their plans for recovery. Regional and sub-regional organizations were also consulted on the broader dimensions of the Ebola crisis and on achieving complementarity between national and regional recovery efforts.
Liberia’s Agenda for Transformation, Sierra Leone’s Agenda for Prosperity, and Guinea’s Poverty Reduction Strategy set out the respective countries’ development aspirations. Getting traction on medium and long term development, however, will require determined efforts to build and strengthen the institutions and systems which failed to prevent the Ebola outbreak plunging the countries into crisis. It is indeed sobering to reflect on the fact that the three countries’ economic growth was severely reduced not by an external economic shock, but by failures in basic institutions, systems, and services. We see, therefore, a need for reprioritsation within existing national development plans to build greater resilience to development setbacks.
The three Governments are all working very hard on their strategies and priorities for recovery and resumed development. The immediate needs are significant, given the scale of the crisis. Agriculture, construction, mining, and the service sectors have been badly disrupted. The informal sector and SMEs have suffered from the downturn. Private investment and trade, not least the cross-border trade traditionally dominated by women, have been severely depressed. There has been widespread loss of jobs and livelihoods.
On the social side, many non-Ebola health services stopped functioning and schools closed for months, and there are many more vulnerable people – including orphans, survivors, and widow-headed households. Recovery needs are therefore diverse and complex, and there will be competing priorities.
Governments and the different partners looking to support Ebola recovery efforts have identified a number of potential areas of partnership, including:
• Building robust health systems which provide safe and equitable access to health care and can cope with future public health shocks where they arise. The expertise gained in disease surveillance and crisis response needs to be institutionalized. The human capacity in the health sector which tragically has been lost to Ebola must be replaced quickly through accelerated training and filling capacity gaps on a temporary basis. The help of governments and other partners, including NGOs, in and beyond the region, which have contributed health workers will continue to be invaluable.
• Restoring and creating livelihoods and jobs, especially for women and youth. Cash transfer schemes and access to finance can help revive agriculture and other micro enterprise and SMEs.
• Strengthening the education, water, and sanitation sectors, and providing support for vulnerable groups, including Ebola survivors and orphans.
• The most dramatic successes in halting the epidemic occurred when local communities took matters into their own hands. Traditional and community leaders were empowered, and people, young and old, stepped forward to play their part in the response. This empowerment should be built on through renewed efforts to decentralize governance and build community dialogue and participation as critical elements of development. This will be vital in addressing the remaining peacebuilding and reconciliation challenges which undermine social cohesion.
• Strengthening national and international public outreach and advocacy to fight stigma at all levels. Re-opening borders, resuming international flights and other means of transportation to the three countries, and the return of investors will all be essential in accelerating recovery.
• Recovery will also require sustained support from financial institutions and other partners who are critical to arrangements around fiscal space and budget support.
• Adopting a sub-regional approach to recovery will be crucial, given the need for cross-border collaboration among the three countries and their neighbours in key areas like trade and security. While focusing on country recovery interventions, all three governments recognize the need to strengthen regional integration, through the Mano River Union, ECOWAS, and the African Union.
• Partnerships for recovery and resumed development will need to be based on mutual accountability and transparency, including on the New Deal principles as appropriate.
The four organizations – the UN, EU, World Bank and African Development Bank – which came together to offer input into national recovery planning look forward to partnering closely with the Governments of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in support of sustainable recovery from the Ebola crisis.
We will continue to work with the governments as they translate their recovery strategies into costed programmes, consistent with their national development plans ahead of discussions at the World Bank and IMF Spring meetings next month, and before a planned Secretary-General’s pledging conference. As I indicated this morning, national plans will need to address critical human and development needs and the strengthening of the institutions, systems, and services which are so necessary to resilient development. We hope that the Brussels Conference will have contributed to building the bridge which leads from the emergency response to Ebola to longer term development.