Opening speech by Alessandro Fracassetti, UNDP Resident Representative at the Public Hearing ot the 3rd Voluntary National Review

April 16, 2021

Dear Mr. Ali Ahmadov, Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the National Coordination Council for Sustainable Development,

Distinguished Members of Parliament

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear partners,

It is a distinct honor to be here today – at this important public hearing of the Republic of Azerbaijan’s 3rd Voluntary National Review.

The aim of these reviews is to share experiences, successes and lessons learnt to help accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, encapsulated by five Ps - People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership - cover the most pressing issues of our time.

They express the world’s moral obligation to tackle its biggest challenges: to end hunger and extreme poverty, to ensure that every girl receives an education and to preserve our planet green and clean for the generations to come and many others.

The Goals are not just about doing more, they are about protecting what we have: protecting the environment, protecting heritage, protecting communities, protecting health and well-being and protecting the rights of vulnerable groups.

Parliaments play a key role in supporting and monitoring SDG implementation. Members of parliament are uniquely positioned to act as an interface between the people and state institutions – and to promote and adopt people-centered policies and legislation to ensure that no one is left behind.

And this is needed now, more than ever.

COVID-19 exposed the underlying weaknesses in our societies and emphasized the grave cost of continuing with traditional problem solving.

But It also showed we can change fast, if we have to.

This pandemic is forcing us to revisit our values and design a new area of development that truly balances economic, social and environmental progress as envisioned by the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

Integrated solutions are the only way in which we’ll be able to build a greener and more inclusive future to help countries meet the 2030 goals.

Now more than ever we need a holistic approach to human development – to create the space to address structural issues, support innovative policies that work for all, and build the institutional will for ongoing adaptation in a fast-changing world.

UNDP’s role as the Sustainable Development Goal integrator means we are uniquely position to support governmnents in the process.

We are helping governments and partners to adapt and be resilient in a complex and uncertain world – and we do so from a position of humility, knowing well that we don’t have all the answers.

Azerbaijan has made significant strides over the past years on its journey towards achieving the SDGs and has strong foundations on which to build.

As UNDP we have been proud to closely support these efforts – which have led to the nationalization of the SDGs goals and targets, the organization of an SDG regional forum, and the preparation of now three Voluntary National Reviews – two of them were already presented at the High Level Panel in New York in 2017 and 2019. This year, Azerbaijan will be one of few countries to have presented a third report.

Since the pandemic struck, the Government made timely efforts to contain and address immediate challenges – in a number of key sectors, including employment, healthcare and education.

To support the efforts of the Government, the United Nations undertook last summer a Socio-economic Assessment for Covid-19 in Azerbaijan to measure the effects and impacts of the crisis across key sectors and to provide the evidence base needed to formulate effective recovery policies and strategies.

Our findings suggest that unless policy measures and programmatic interventions are designed for the medium-term, the pandemic will have a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable populations.

This pandemic showed that the size of the informal economy is still large, with up to 20% of the working-age population having no job security. Reducing the size of the informal economy will yield substantial benefits down the road in the form of higher tax revenues.

It has also showed that it is important to invest now into building a stronger shock-responsive social protection system, ensuring food security for the most vulnerable households in each region, restoring livelihoods, advancing the use of digital technology, green recovery and of course on gender and social inclusion – as women have been hit harshest by this pandemic and so have people with disabilities.

Because the long-term development trajectory of Azerbaijan will be affected by the choices made today.

The Government of Azerbaijan has set ambitious strategic priorities for 2030. A growing competitive economy, a more inclusive society, investments into human capital, environmental protection and green growth.

And UNDP’s key new Country Programme for 2021-2025is closely aligned to these priorities.

Together, we can do more to further reduce vulnerability by supporting economic diversification and inclusive growth – and creating access to decent jobs, sustainable livelihoods and business opportunities for youth, women and people with disabilities.

We will focus on tourism, information technology and agro-industry as priority non-oil sectors for economic diversification and job creation. But also on other relevant interventions such as vocational education and social entrepreneurship.

Tapping into the UNDP innovation culture and its support for e-governance, UNDP will collaborate with the Government to make the delivery of public sector services more accessible, affordable and inclusive through digitalization, particularly for the vulnerable, by helping with the modernization of information and communication technology infrastructure and the expansion of e-communication and e-services.

We will also help further promote environmental protection and address climate change to reduce the vulnerability of the population, particularly in rural areas, and build resilience to natural disasters. A vision for green growth is required to help mitigate environmental risks, increase agricultural productivity and respond effectively to climate change – through the UNDP Climate Promise.

Meanwhile, we have started working together with the Government on recovery support for conflict-affected areas that will help address rehabilitation and reconstruction needs in the aftermath of the conflict in line with the Government’s priorities for medium and long-term recovery.

This support is centered on restoring and creating livelihoods and employment in conflict affected areas and regained territories -  through enterprise development, vocational training and green jobs, supporting private public partnerships and providing institutional support for local authorities to achieve inclusive economic recovery and to help the people of Azerbaijan build forward better and build forward greener.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A lot has been done. Much more remains to be done.

This is a critical time.  We have less than ten years to achieve all 17 SDGs by 2030. Speed is of the essence. By working together, we can fast-track the implementation of accelerated solutions.

UNDP remains very much committed to support you on this journey.

Thank you!