Statement by Walid Badawi at Council of Governors High-Level Conference on COVID-19

August 31, 2020

UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya, Walid Badawi, makes his statement during the opening session of the Council of Governors COVID-19 Conference while President Uhuru Kenyatta and other partners follow.


It is a pleasure to join you today, on behalf of UNDP, in this important and timely virtual conference as we reflect on the impact and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya.

Let me also express my sincere condolences to all those that have lost family and loved ones in the fight against COVID-19.

For the first time, since 1990, global human development is on track to decline this year due to COVID-19. This is happening in the same year that marked the beginning of a Decade of Action towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As evidenced across the world, and here in Kenya, COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the context of development – and what we face today is, as you have repeatedly called it, Your Excellency, indeed “a war”.

COVID-19 has amplified the long-standing structural deficiencies in health systems impacting on the most vulnerable.

Drawing on UNDP’s global experience with other outbreaks such as Ebola, HIV, SARS, TB and malaria, we are helping countries to respond to COVID-19. Working with Governments at the highest level, we are helping to mobilize resources and support the development of national systems for strengthening transparency and accountability in the response to this pandemic. For example, recently in Nigeria, UNDP supported the COVID-19 Presidential Committee to set up a Resource Tracking Dashboard to ensure greater transparency in the use of public financing for the COVID-19 response.

In Kenya, working within the wider UN family, under the leadership of the UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP is accompanying the Government and the people of Kenya in efforts towards eradicating poverty, reducing inequalities and building resilience to crises and shocks. On COVID 19, we are responding to the demands of our partners at both national and sub-national levels, including Ministries, the Council of Governors, county governments, the County Assemblies Forum, civil society organizations and engaging the private sector on initiatives that aim to prepare, respond and recover from COVID-19. This assistance is by no means exhaustive but has included the following:

1.     Resilience of health systems

  • Providing frontline health workers in hospitals and medical facilities to counties most in need through our Joint UN Devolution Programme
  • Supplying PPEs across various institutions
  • Providing medical waste disposal equipment to 13 health facilities

2.     Inclusive and multi-sectoral crisis management

  • Developing and communicating factual COVID-19 messages to Kenyan citizens
  • Promoting innovative digital solutions working with youth in the areas of health, food security and dignified work
  • Enhancing business continuity of government through digital solutions
  • Collaborating with civil society organizations to protect human rights, promote gender equality and access to justice
  • Working with the peace architecture in the country to mitigate potential conflict that could derail progress towards the SDGs

3.     Socio-economic impact and human rights

  • Supporting the national economic recovery strategy linked to Vision 2030, the Big Four Agenda, and the SDGs
  • Conducting socio-economic research to inform county level recovery strategies and integration into the CIDPs including financing instruments for implementation
  • Developing policy briefs on the impacts of the pandemic and elaborating the UN’s socio-economic response aimed at saving lives, protecting people, and rebuilding better

We have an opportunity to ‘Build-Forward-Better and Greener’, to restore balance between people and planet, designing and de-risking nature-based solutions as part of a new social contract for the world. Kenya can emerge stronger from this crisis with more robust, transparent, and accountable institutions in all sectors. UNDP stands ready to continue supporting your government and the people of Kenya. We have the collective expertise and the experience to look beyond recovery and towards 2030 together.

Let us be reminded that the young people of this country are its greatest asset as leaders, as change agents, and as innovators, we must make sure that we prioritize solutions that put youth at the center of everything we do, with them and for them, as we recover from this crisis. We commit to leveraging and working under the GenU platform that your Excellency launched earlier this month and for which you have been nominated as a global youth Champion.

As I conclude, let me summarize 4 key messages:

  • While I wish to congratulate the Government of Kenya for putting in place robust COVID-19 management strategies that have been critical in containing the spread of the virus and minimizing losses – both economic and human, we cannot be complacent, we must keep our foot on the pedal.
  • As the world seeks to “build forward better”, we must ensure that the SDGs and “leaving no one behind”, particularly our youth and women, remain our compass in divising our recovery strategies.
  • Let us be reminded that this is a moment for all humanity to rise above “business as usual” and deliver the most efficient response possible with the highest standards of integrity.
  • Together we will win this war, but only if we seize the opportunity to unite against a common enemy armed with the right strategy as we learn from the lessons of others.

In closing, I wish to acknowledge and thank the government of Kenya, our bilateral and multilateral development partners that continue to stand with the Government and people of Kenya in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and have entrusted UNDP to serve as an implementing partner for many of their programmes. Specifically, I thank the Government of Japan through the Ambassador, His Excellency Ryoichi Horie, for enabling UNDP to support this important Conference as well as other COVID-19 response and recovery measures being implemented through UNDP as part of our global partnership.

I wish this conference every success.