Investment, insurance and innovation: Three “I”s for a sustainable future

May 8, 2023

By putting into practice this integrated approach, UNDP Belarus is opening a pathway to a more sustainable future.

Photo: UNDP Belarus

Investment, insurance and innovation. These three “I’s” are critical for moving our societies forward towards resilient futures, sustainable communities and healthy environments.

The past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises have had a devastating impact on billions of people worldwide. For the first time, human development has declined for 9 out of 10 countries around the world. Interacting challenges create new threats and hit people and communities at the same time, making them feel insecure, unsafe and uncertain about the future. 

To break this impasse, we need to double down on investments in human development - leveraging human, financial and natural resources; approaching problems more innovatively; and building stronger capabilities that allow our societies to be resilient and navigate successfully through uncertain times. Because these times are indeed uncertain, the three I’s can tap into people’s creative and cooperative potential to move us forward.

A worker prepares blueberry plants, grown using biotechnology, for sale. This small rural enterprise harnesses the benefits of biotech farming to breed quality berry plants to support the local farming industry.

Photo: UNDP Belarus

Investment is all about partnerships. For our work to have impact, UNDP needs both the public and private sector to invest in our goals. Here in Belarus, together with national partners and international experts, we’re analyzing the ways to increase the efficiency of the national investments into sustainable development. By assessing 24 national programmes in public health, demographic and social security, agriculture, energy efficiency and forestry, we can see the impact they have for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and identify the best ways to support them.

With this assessment, we can offer national partners to establish an Integrated National Financing Framework – a supportive tool for the national financial systems to channel critical resources to the SDGs. 

This means everything from integrating climate adaptation and green growth into national development policies and plans (and the budget that supports them) for our climate change emissions goal to supporting local businesses in a changing environment.

For example, we developed a new approach towards partnership and investment-driven development of Belarus’ regions recovering after the Chernobyl disaster with the Chernobyl Investment Platform - a tool for spurring innovation and economic growth. With support from the National Academy of Science of Belarus, UNDP assessed human and territorial potential of 21 affected districts to identify local development opportunities.A new digital platform serves as a catalogue of technologies and innovations that can be used by businesses to increase their efficiency and chances to attract investments.

UNDP’s concerted investment and systemic support to 129 local initiatives unites public, private and educational partners in the regions who come together to help local businesses and vulnerable communities to adapt to new economic challenges, explore and embrace emerging opportunities.

A public-private initiative improves urban mobility of people with disabilities.

Photo: UNDP Belarus / Siarhiej Leskiec

Insurance is an essential tool to help guarantee protection for people in the face of uncertainty. It empowers them with the necessary capacity to cope with the context of instability, regain control over the course of their lives, and come up with innovative solutions.

While it’s more traditionally seen as a safety net to help people recover after difficulties or crises, in this case, we see it as making people more prepared and resilient to both shocks and the unknowns of the future. Making the landscapes of economy, environment and health stronger hopefully will lead to less need for recovery.

The COVID-19 pandemic put national health systems under immense pressure. To ensure the national health system’s resilience and its ability to deliver quality medical services to people in need, UNDP and the Ministry of Health worked together to deliver modern medical equipment and materials to each fourth hospital and clinic.

Access to financial services and knowledge on how to apply for them can help people navigate through a changing and uncertain economic landscape. Almost 4000 women attended our workshops and trainings for new business and financial literacy knowledge, and a microfinance outreach program for small and medium-sized enterprises launched by UNDP and the Ministry of Economy supported 168 businesses and provided almost 2000 consultations on access to finance.

Helping youth in developing an environmental mindset is critical for a green future. With UNDP’s support, the national network of “Green Schools” has grown from 40 to over 400, helping young people understand and address key environmental challenges.

Using a digital tree counting app youth volunteers are monitoring the condition of green areas in the town of Korma.

Photo: UNDP Belarus

Innovation sparks learning and creativity within communities and industries, making them more open and responsive towards transformation and change. In 2021, we launched here in Belarus UNDP’s Accelerator Lab (AccLab), a unit that designs and pilots innovative solutions for development. 

For example, urban communities constitute 78 percent of Belarus’ population. AccLab is running a portfolio of experiments to test smart solutions for sustainable cities, building on the already existing “Belarus’ Smart Cities” national initiative, including green transportation models and more efficient and sustainable use of water and electricity resources.

When it comes to digital transformation, Belarus is well-positioned with 87 percent of its population being internet savvy. In 2021-2022, UNDP supported 72 people-focused digital solutions for local economic development and entrepreneurship, smart and green urban development, ecotourism and nature protection. 

Advanced technologies such as micropropagation of plants and precise farming increase the efficiency of local agricultural producers. Augmented reality for surgery, new approaches for early diagnosis of children’s developmental disorders, and treatment of gynecological diseases with radiowave surgery increase quality and accessibility of medical services. Virtual reality tours bring people to specially protected natural areasOnline platforms connect entrepreneurs with business incubators and business support centers across the country.

These innovations reduce disparities by ensuring access to products and services, promote local unique value propositions to attract customers and investors and enlarge local business communities in the regions.

Together with citizens, the government and the business sector, UNDP is using the three “I’s” as a guide to co-create and invest in integrated local development solutions that speak to communities’ needs and opportunities, and help prepare Belarus for the future.