Speech by Dafina Gercheva, UNDP Resident Representative in Ukraine, at the First International Investment Forum "Southern Development Strategy", 10 June 2021

June 10, 2021

Your Excellencies, distinguished partners, and participants of the forum:

It is my great pleasure to be here at the opening of the First International Investment Forum "Southern Development Strategy" and warmly welcome you on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme.

I would first like to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Ukraine and the heads of the Oblast State Administrations in Donetsk, Odesa, Mykolaiv, and Zaporizhzhia oblasts for our long-lasting cooperation in service to the people of Ukraine. I also would like to express my special gratitude to the Head of the Kherson Oblast State Administration, Mr. Serhii Kozyr, who is hosting this formidable forum.

Dear Partners, we are living in challenging times. While we are making progress worldwide in a number of important dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals, namely reduction of poverty and maternal and child mortality; improving basic education; expanding access to public services, and much more, we are facing complex and interrelated challenges.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which is more than just a health emergency, is a multidimensional crisis that is hitting hard on the fundamentals of human development: income, health and education, further exacerbating vulnerabilities and inequalities. This is a challenging moment in our collective history — yet, these unforeseen events present all of us with an opportunity — to respond and help prevent and prepare for future shocks with a new paradigm and business model that go beyond the status quo.

In September 2019 President Zelensky issued a decree “On Ukraine’s Sustainable Development Goals until 2030”, which gave a new impetus to country’s strong commitment to rally behind the SDGs as a way towards prosperity, resilience and peace. Last year, the first national SDGs voluntary review was presented to the UN High Level Political Forum in New York. The transformative changes that Ukraine has set out to achieve are very ambitious, as they include, among others, a significant reduction of poverty and an increase in the quality of life for the most vulnerable groups, a substantial growth in the production of renewable energy and a decrease in the energy intensity of the economy, as well as an increased transparency and accountability of government at all levels.

Crucially, as the Ukrainian government is charting strategic directions to recovery beyond the COVID-19 crisis, and is doing so in line with the 2030 Agenda, the financing of the ambitious objectives, spelled out in the National Economic Development Strategy 2030 (NEDS) will require significant and comprehensive efforts.

The private sector is a critical partner in all efforts to reduce poverty and improve the livelihoods so everyone can live with dignity and in shared prosperity. It does so through creating employment, generating incomes and paying taxes that are used to produce public goods and services. And, because of the competitive landscape inherent in the private sector, many innovations and technological improvements come from this sector as companies compete to produce better products at lower prices.

In Ukraine, small businesses dominate the economy in terms of the number of entities, employment and the value they add to products and services. They also represent the backbone of local economic development, which has been hardly hit by the COVID-19 emergency.

The pandemic increased the vulnerability of the least resilient and protected, i.e. micro and women led businesses, young people engaged in informal economy, and people with disabilities. The long-term competitiveness of small businesses will come from their capacity to employ sustainable business models and practices. However, small businesses are challenged by limited access to finance, knowledge, expertise, partnerships, and markets.

UNDP has launched a dynamic portfolio of initiatives that transforms these challenges into opportunities and concrete activities to support engines of growth and stimulate inclusive sustainable development, leaving no one behind. Agenda 2030 gives us a sense of direction and guides all our interventions.

We consider our cooperation with Kherson Oblast as an excellent example of how global thinking can lead to concrete local action. Last year, after completing a nation-wide assessment of the socio-economic impact of the pandemic on Ukrainian households and businesses, we launched a pilot initiative, through which we supported local communities of Kherson Oblast. The successful pilot was immediately followed by a new project funded by the Government of the United Kingdom, which has already resulted in improved access to critical public services and enhanced economic opportunities for thousands of people, including the most vulnerable and crisis affected.

I’m here to assure you that UNDP will continue to work with the Government and the People of Ukraine to build strong and transparent democratic institutions, support local and national socio-economic development, and improve energy efficiency throughout the country. We have many opportunities to focus on all these areas, including but not limited to the comprehensive UN Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, Early Recovery Programme of the European Investment Bank, and our portfolios of projects focused on Energy and Environment, Democratic Governance and Inclusive Development.

In closing, I would like to thank you for all that you do. I look forward to hearing more about how we can work together to accelerate Ukraine’s transformation into a modern and prosperous state that brings everyone forward – leaving no one behind.

I thank you!