Mr. Tomáš Szunyog, EU Special Representative
Mr. Hekuran Murati, Minister of Finance, Labour and Transfers
Mr. Dashamir Berxulli, Dean of Prishtina University,
Partners, Friends & Colleagues
Thank you for being here with us today!
While the COVID pandemic began as a health emergency, it soon turned into a multi-dimensional crisis with far-reaching socio-economic implications. The disruption in people’s lives has been dramatic. At the same time, gaps in institutional set-up, effectiveness and capacities have been exposed. We are seeing inequalities growing.
With an estimated 55 per cent of the global population having no access to social protection, the consequences of the crisis will be felt across societies - impacting education, human rights and, in the most severe cases - food security and nutrition.
Kosovo and its people have not been spared from the effects of the pandemic. The crisis has hit particularly hard those already struggling to make ends meet.
It was at the height of crisis that UNDP, the EU Office in Kosovo and the Ministry came together to plan how to provide immediate support to the hardest-hit groups. This joint initiative will provide targeted support to people living in poverty or those struggling in the margins of society; women-headed households, non-majority communities, victims of gender-based violence; people living in remote rural areas with limited access to social services.
This is at the heart of UNDP’s COVID recovery efforts – and the UN as a whole. Leave no one behind principle means focusing on the most vulnerable, with special attention to women’s and girls’ specific needs.
We have a unique opportunity now, with EU’s support, to provide some relief to those in most vulnerable situations – both in terms of providing temporary assistance as well as in strengthening the capacities of the Centers of Social Work. We will be working closely with the Ministry of Finance, Labor and Transfers, our UN colleagues and other partners in implementing this action.
I would like to extend our heart-felt thanks to the EU Kosovo Office for trusting UNDP to deliver this support.
Today, we are launching two key activities as part of this EU-funded Action.
1. A NEW GENERATION OF CERTIFIED SOCIAL WORKERS
This will allow us to get onboard a new generation of social workers that can seamlessly engage in the system, and will help provide services to those in need.
40 UN Community Volunteers have just started their 12 months assignments at the Centers of Social Work throughout Kosovo. The scheme’s innovative approach provides dual benefits.
It will secure additional capacities for the Centers for them to be able to continue providing services, and, on the other hand, this is an opportunity for the Community Volunteers to gain valuable professional experience. After 12 months, they will be certified as social workers.
· Out of the 40 selected Community Volunteers
o 90% are young women (36 volunteers)
o 18% are from non-majority communities (7 volunteers)
2. TEMPORARY SUPPORT FOR FAMILIES LIVING IN EXTREME POVERTY
Secondly, we will be providing temporary support for 7,500 vulnerable families living in extreme poverty, through monthly vouchers for food, hygiene, and other essential items, for the period of six months, as of 1 May.
The voucher scheme is a new, more flexible approach to providing support for families, allowing them to make the choices - while protecting their dignity.
While this joint initiative will provide much needed relief, the key is to continue with the efforts to reform the social protection system. We commend Minister Murati on the planned restructuring of social assistance and pension schemes in order to reduce poverty and increase activity in the labour market. UNDP stands ready to support this process.
Together with Kosovo Institutions and other partners, we will continue our efforts towards sustainable COVID recovery — with a special emphasis on promoting Building Forward Better. It is important to see the recovery as an opportunity for a green transition and advancing sustainable development for all.
Dear partners and distinguished participants, thank you for being with us today! We look forward to working together under this joint initiative!