The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge the global society is facing in today’s fast changing world. The growing health crisis threatens to disproportionately hit developing countries, not only as a health crisis in the short term but as a severe social and economic crisis over the months and years to come. Like climate change, it is testing resilience of the countries in all sectors of the economy and all areas of development - from public health, social protection, and governance to effective crisis communications and economic policies.
In Kazakhstan, the COVID-19 outbreak coincided with a sharp fall in oil prices, exposing the country to a dual shock, and putting the achieved development gains at risk due to an array of negative consequences to people, businesses, and economy. The Government of Kazakhstan promptly responded to the situation with a package of urgent targeted measures to protect population, stabilize macroeconomic situation, mitigate the COVID-19 impact on small and medium-sized enterprises, pledge more support for healthcare workers, and help the most disadvantaged to survive the crisis.
UNDP’s response in the country: socio-economic impact assessment, digitalization, employment and “green” initiatives
As a part of the UN COVID response, UNDP is helping the countries prepare for, respond to and recover from the pandemic, focusing on the most vulnerable groups of population. As an immediate response, UNDP is building on the support it has been providing to China and other Asian countries to help strengthen their health systems.
In Kazakhstan, UNDP promotes a whole-of-government and whole-of-society response to complement efforts in the health sector and assist the government in addressing the needs of the most disadvantaged. The UN team has been responding to the COVID-19 through several streams of work. UNDP is leading the UN work on socioeconomic response, including through assessing the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and its spill over effects on the most vulnerable groups of population with the view to support post-crisis recovery actions.
UNDP’s response in Kazakhstan is also focused on employment generation for at-risk youth most hit by the crisis. For this, UNDP is redesigning a youth apprenticeship scheme to turn into a complete employment solutions toolkit, to include psycho-social support, mentoring, and orientation. The scheme has already been successfully piloted within a regional initiative aimed at preventing violent extremism to overcome socio-economic isolation of 500 vulnerable youth in remote localities of Karaganda and Aktobe oblasts.
To strengthen the government capacity to deliver services while working mostly remotely (e.g. through telecommuting) due to COVID-19, UNDP is harnessing the power of digital technology by helping Kazakhstan ensure the business continuity of the state bodies under the lockdown circumstances. Civil Service Agency, Academy of Public Administration, and UNDP agreed to jointly work on upgrading digital, telecommuting, and other critical skills of 1,000 civil servants, also making psychological counselling available to them. Top-notch experts are being deployed to design innovative training content tailored to the real training needs of the civil servants.
Recognizing that the impacts of climate change will not stop during the pandemic, UNDP supports countries in introducing “recovering better by recovering greener” approaches through environmental innovation and climate solutions. In Kazakhstan, together with its development partners, UNDP is supporting the government in safe collection and disposal of the infected medical waste by introducing environmentally friendly, non-incineration waste management technologies in the hospitals dealing with the COVID cases. UNDP also continues its joint initiative with the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development and the “DAMU” “Entrepreneurship Development Fund” to incentivise small and medium-sized enterprises to invest into low-carbon urban infrastructure projects by subsidizing commercial bank loan interest, partial loan principal guarantees for improving the profitability, reduction of the green projects payback periods, and reducing risks for the lenders.