- The planned interventions repurposed to better contribute to Covid-19 response actions
The global COVID-19 outbreak is putting an immense strain on societies and economies around the globe. Major disruptions are being felt in an already fragile world economy. Albania’s social and economic sectors are not an exclusion and being severely stricken by the pandemic. Although on June 1st, Albania removed all domestic restriction to travel and most businesses are now reopen, the containment measures have already started impacting the country’s economy through decreased manufacturing production, trade volumes and investment flows. Moreover, after the reopening, new infections have spiked, with the number of active cases and victims more than doubling.
Accordingly, structural shifts are urgently required to combat the aftermath of this socio-economic crisis. In this context, based on the request of the Government of Albania, UNIDO formulated a Country Programme (CP) for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development (ISID) in Albania for the years 2020-2024. The overall objective of the UNIDO CP for Albania is to strengthen the Government’s effort towards sustainable and inclusive growth through dedicated projects in three selected thematic areas / components: 1) Industrial competitiveness and market access; 2) Productive employment and entrepreneurship development and 3) Sustainable energy for productive use and environmental management.
Based on the extensive discussions, UNIDO experts and national ministerial counterparts have developed 20 prospective project proposals that have a potential to change the industrial future of Albania. The Programme was officially signed in Vienna in March 2020. Despite the fact that the CP launching event in Tirana was postponed, in connection with the COVID-19 crisis and prevailing travel restrictions, the CP has entered its inception phase whereas priority projects will be identified by the Government and development partners for further fine-tuning, fund mobilization and adaptation to the national socio-economic situation challenged by the COVID-19 outbreak.
At the same time, the current state of emergency stimulates the humanity to reconsider how we conduct ourselves as a global community and provides a unique chance to experiment with cooperation approaches to establish new partnerships that could lead to a safer and more sustainable future.
Against this backdrop, UNIDO joins the response efforts of the G20 and the United Nations system in particular. The Organization is actively refocusing and repurposing its functions, in order to better contribute to common crisis response actions and to help its Member States to build back better. UNIDO has been regularly publishing analytical materials on a wide range of topics around the COVID-19 and industrial development, such as the COVID-19 Industrial Recovery Programme Brochure, Guidance for micro, small and medium enterprises business recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, or a comprehensive publication on Digital Transformation and Industrial Recovery.
In April 2020, UNIDO released a position paper containing the Organization’s response framework and titled “Responding to the crisis: Building a Better Future”. The paper presents a new approach to combating the crisis that includes three integrated packages called “Prepare and Contain”, “Respond and Adapt” and “Recover and Transform”.
As UNIDO’s position paper outlines, an integrated service package “Prepare and Contain” will include measures to diversify the manufacturing capacity of Member States and to protect their productive sectors and workers, particularly the most vulnerable ones. Concrete actions under this service package will include assessment of the impact of the outbreak on national industrial trajectories, assistance with industrial risk management and emergency plans formulation, market assessments for automotive, agro-food, textile & apparel, electronics and other sectors, investment analysis and provision of information on innovative business sector initiatives, facilitation of partnerships to address pandemic impacts on critical sectors and many more.
Further, the paper indicates that the “Respond and Adapt” service package will allow Member States to assess possibilities of re-purposing manufacturing capacities towards production of soft medical equipment, while promoting targeted inclusive and environmentally sustainable solutions. Concrete actions under this service package will include promotion of business innovation through adoption of digital solutions on MSMEs, diversification of supply and distribution chains through new tools and e-learning modules, provision of adequate quality infrastructure services, assistance with medical waste management equipment installation and assistance in production of generic medicines through increased access to technology and investment.
Looking beyond the crisis, the paper outlines that UNIDO’s service package “Recover and Transform” will help Member States recover and transform in an inclusive and sustainable manner. Since the actual scale of the economic downturn is still unknown and a quick rebound from the crisis appears unlikely, UNIDO’s holistic service package will include such actions for sustainable economic recovery, as support with socio-economic diagnostics and execution of structural transformation plans, assistance to private sector to revitalize activities and generate jobs for women and youth, forging partnerships in innovation and Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), accelerated development of products/treatment protocols in the biopharma and medical sectors, and use of AI/Big data for product performance prediction.
In the Albanian context, UNIDO is ready to provide assistance based on the Republic’s needs to enable the country to adjust to the “new normal”, which could be characterized by structural shifts towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), clean energy and low carbon solutions, and circular economy.