Image: UNDP Uzbekistan

Good day distinguished guests, dear participants of the Annual meeting!

I congratulate to the Islamic Development Bank for the success of the Annual meeting and particularly for such rich discussions. It was impressive to see so strong participation with top-level panelists, and the relevance of the discussions around the theme of post COVID Resilience and Prosperity for all.

From UNDP perspective, it was a pleasure to note that the topics of sustainable, human development, poverty reduction and inequalities featured high in all deliberations. I will be speaking from that perspective and about UNDP’s approach and experience particularly in Uzbekistan. And that is rather rich, as is our cooperation with ISDB on number of critical topics.

First, about COVID crisis implications on the Global Value Chains and major policies to enhance regional cooperation, particularly in this region.

UNDP recently produced a policy brief on the topic of “The post COVID-19 future for Global Value Chains”, which looked into the policy implications and came with several key recommendations. I will refer to two of those:

The first point is that while the Global Value Chains may have experienced a setback during the early phases of the pandemic, as a predominant model of production and trade proved resilient and remains key for economic rebound.

The second it that - the pandemic has brought to the forefront a number of issues that have already been identified within the GVC model. That we must diversify and future-proof the supply chains based on the disruptions experienced during the pandemic. That means to build: a) resilience to shocks and b) to build on the benefits of rapid technological progress, digitalization, increasing services trade.

The third point is that more so, the crisis created an opportunity for greater global and regional cooperation to (i) contain and suppress COVID-19, strengthen the global supply chains but also to (ii) make the world safer by investing in projects with high social impact and economic returns.

These shall inform the major policies needed to enhance regional cooperation, connectivity and thus competitiveness of the Central Asian exports:

The post Covid-19 situation makes it imperative that the economy of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries be: a) further diversified, b) production capacities of the private sector be expanded, c) new markets be accessed, while aiming for sustainable and inclusive growth.

If Central Asian countries are to navigate better in the future they will need to build ‘forward-looking’ productive capacities that produce high value-added and differentiated products, foster stronger linkages of private sector with global and regional value chains, make supply chains more resilient and minimize cross-border disruption.

The guiding principles should be streamline, harmonize and digitalize, address cross-border problems.

The policies should aim at lowering trade costs through improved logistics and connectivity and keeping trade and transport open while protecting vulnerable groups. The major policy should focus on:

Accelerate digitalization – pursuing a coordinated regional strategy for strengthening digital connectivity and preparing the labour force.

Invest in digital connectivity infrastructure and strengthening regulations that enable digital transformation and stepping up e-government services.

Fast-track e-trade – facilitating digital, paperless and contactless trade, especially for SMEs.

Build digitalized multimodal transport chains – switching to rail, short sea and inland waterways and combining these modes into sustainable transport chains.

Ensure no one is left behind – allowing all countries and vulnerable groups to embrace and benefit from e-commerce and the digital transformation. This means investing both in ICT infrastructure and in human capital while also addressing regulatory barriers to cross-border flows.

Decarbonize production and transport – towards more sustainable freight and standardized definitions for environmental goods and services.

Support youth, women and small businesses – foster their greater participation through an enabling environment. For example, free trade agreements should incorporate provisions related to gender, SMEs.

Support businesses in preparing for and anticipating changes in value chains, in identifying future directions, new economic sectors and circular approaches.

About role that UNDP can play to support landlocked countries to achieve this

In line with these, and in the backdrop of COVID-19, UNDP has renewed its support to the countries by focusing on building ‘forward-looking’ productive/export capacities and increased competitiveness through: a) ‘green’ value chains and b) introduction of advanced IT solutions, innovative practices.

UNDP is actively supporting the following areas:

Digitalizing Trade

Revenues from digital platforms reached an estimated $3.8 trillion globally in 2019 (equivalent to 4.4 per cent of global GDP).

E-commerce is emerging as a major opportunity for the region: the challenge is to seize it while limiting its drawbacks trough public policy and initiatives.

UNDP supports governments with harmonization of both regulatory and technical standards for e-commerce platforms. Or developing common regional legislation for e-commerce and related cross-border trade.

Boosting the cross-border data economy

Cross-border data and data-intensive technologies are vital for driving the regional digital economy, and digital platforms. But preconditions include trust between countries and common understanding of how to support the data economy.

Technology transfer and technical interoperability are key incentives for cross-border cooperation. This requires information to be harmonized, standardized and stored in databases.

UNDP therefore supports the countries to strengthen data infrastructure and ensure transparency, by sharing public data and encouraging citizens and businesses to share data across borders.

Emphasizing environmental and social dimensions of trade

We actively promote measures to manage the environmental footprint of regional trade.

A key priority that UNDP advocates for is greater support for SMEs, which still remain outside global value chains, struggle to retain workers and remain less productive. UNDP promotes that regional cooperation lends greater support to SMEs.

To facilitate inclusiveness of trade, UNDP is building its support around women-owned enterprises that remain particularly constrained. The pandemic was an opportunity to urgently renew gender-sensitive and gender-targeted support in the areas of trade so that the economic recovery can be more inclusive.

Encouraging SDG-aligned investments

Harnessing capital markets to finance sustainable development is a critical area. Sustainable finance and investments are set to grow and play a large role in post-COVID-19 recovery. Private investors and fund managers are increasingly adopting the SDGs as a framework for environmental, social and governance investments.

UNDP therefore works with governments to steer and incentivize capital towards sustainable, green investments and regional cooperation. Green, social, sustainability, and COVID-19 bond issuances grew considerably in 2020.

UNDP supports efforts to further develop and standardize sustainability focused financing instruments and build on the private sector’s willingness to use the SDGs as a framework for linking investments to sustainable development impact.

However, structuring of sustainable development investments and issuances could benefit from greater regional cooperation and engagement with regional investors.

Closing remarks:

Hope that this discussion will continue as a platform to exchange on policies, regulations and negotiation between governments, private sector and international organizations.

UNDP is ready to work on concrete steps as well as sub-regional activities along these areas.

I close with congratulating to the people of Uzbekistan with the Independence Day and wish the country to meet its ambitious goals to build a “New Uzbekistan”.

E’tiboringiz uchun katta rahmat! (thank you for your attention).

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