Director General’s message to Member States on the UNIDO response to COVID-19

Director General’s message to Member States on the UNIDO response to COVID-19

VIENNA, 7 April 2020 - The COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis that is unprecedented in the history of UNIDO and the 75 years of the United Nations. It is confronting each of us with unprecedented challenges. Every country is feeling its impact on health care systems, the economy and society as a whole. In the global fight to overcome this virus together, UNIDO joins with the entire United Nations family to help our Member States overcome this global crisis. In view of an exceptional economic downturn, UNIDO also stands ready to provide medium- and long-term support in the aftermath of the pandemic.

What started as a health emergency, which needs to be contained at all costs to save human lives, has rapidly turned into an economic and social crisis.

Inclusive and sustainable industrial development plays a critical part in all phases of this global crisis, as adaptations in manufacturing can help address shortages of urgently required goods, as a sudden reduction in manufacturing can cause disruptions in global value chains and the supply of products, and as the industrial sector is highly affected by the crisis and needs to be part of the response to solve extraordinary levels of unemployment and recession. As the economic consequences unfold in different regions and countries, it will be important to address the specific needs of women business owners, entrepreneurs and workers. 

The UNIDO response to the COVID-19 crisis is structured in three phases. In the short-term, UNIDO is helping its Member States in promptly responding to the health emergency. In the mid-term, it provides advice on how to mitigate the impact of the disruption of productive activities and on reactivating production and supply chains. In the aftermath of the crisis and the long-term, UNIDO provides development support to Member States in the recovery phase.

As an immediate response to the health emergency, UNIDO is seeking partnerships to galvanize support to increase the response capacity of developing countries and those in the most fragile contexts. In the course of the recent few weeks, the Organization supported several Member States who requested support in the procurement of urgently needed goods and personal protective equipment. 

In a joint initiative with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa, UNIDO is also preparing to contribute technical expertise in the production of personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns, masks and hydro-alcoholic gel. We will also work together on supply chain management, quality assurance, training, eco-friendly disposal of waste and other areas where our know-how in industrial production complements the WHO’s know-how in public health issues.

At the firm level, contributions to the fight against COVID-19 include efforts to retool factories to switch from traditional production lines and diversify into the manufacture of products that are critical to address the health crisis.

An early example of UNIDO support was in March when our field office in Yerevan addressed the increased demand for face masks in Armenia by linking three apparel manufacturers that have diversified into mask production with the national health authorities. This is one example of how we are helping manufacturers to pivot with the speed and efficiency required. UNIDO projects in other countries are also contributing to alleviate the most urgent requirements of people in danger and need.

The current situation also requires analysis and advice on preemptive, mitigative and corrective actions to be taken by governments around the world. The UNIDO Department of Policy Research and Statistics is developing a series of analytical papers and policy briefs on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on manufacturing and informing about the latest thinking and best practices on policy measures, both in response to the disruption of economic activities, but also in support of inclusive and sustainable economic recovery in the medium- and long-term.

Importantly, the current crisis is also having a positive effect: it has brought to light a renewed sense of solidarity and unity across the globe. Just like climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic is a global issue that can best be addressed by multilateral cooperation.

In a teleconference meeting hosted by the Secretary-General for the heads of United Nations agencies, we agreed to join forces and support our Member States in a coordinated manner. The Secretary-General highlighted that we must see countries not only united to beat the virus but also to tackle its profound consequences. In his words, everything we do during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are more resilient in the face of pandemics, climate change, and the many other global challenges that adversely impact the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As we respond to the emergency, and as we address its socio-economic consequences, we must work together to ensure that no one is left behind and that the continued participation of women and youth in the labour force is ensured. The crisis and its impact on the manufacturing and export sectors are likely to have differentiated effect on men and women’s participation in these sectors, not only during the crisis period but also during the recovery phase. UNIDO is preparing to deploy its expertise and integrated support for an inclusive and sustainable economic recovery in the aftermath of the emergency, in close collaboration with its partners. Support to small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries, the creation of jobs and generation of income, and the strengthening of exports and trade will be particularly important.

Lastly, I would like to express my solidarity with people around the globe, especially the most vulnerable, including women and young persons, in least developed and developing countries and in areas of conflict. Furthermore, I would like to convey our sincere gratitude to the representatives who are away from their home countries. I share your concern for your families and friends back home, and about the effect this crisis is having on your communities and nations. I also share the growing sense of solidarity and mutual support coming to the fore in these difficult times.

I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to the hard-working staff of UNIDO and our sister organizations, who continue to demonstrate great commitment to continue ongoing operations while finding innovative solutions to the new challenges we face.

In this time of crisis and as we work on the difficult recovery ahead, rest assured that we at UNIDO and the entire United Nations system stand with you today and tomorrow, and in the years to come. Together, we can build a global economy strong, resilient and flexible enough to counter future challenges, and strong enough to leave no one behind.