COVID response: Governance

 

The COVID-19 crisis has shown the critical importance of effective and responsive governance systems and institutions.

In a time when human rights and access to justice could be compromised due to increasing quarantines and clamp downs, UNDP works to ensure civil rights are protected. We’re working with governments and civil society to reassure citizens that the strict measures in place for the duration of the crisis will not remain a new status quo.

Many countries have increased state control and scrutiny of citizens’ lives through digital surveillance technologies and tracking devices. In the absence of strong data protection and privacy laws, and in light of pre-existing trends of law enforcement surveillance, there is concern that such measures may pose significant future risks to the privacy of individuals, and to freedom of expression and assembly. 

We’ve seen the need for significant support and investments in effective digital governance across all countries in the region, particularly to bridge digital divide, enhance literacy and ensure the continuity and delivery of core government functions. But this digital transformation must go hand-in-hand with strengthening of organizational structure, training and leadership.

COVID-19 has also threatened social cohesion, with increased polarization, hate speech, and incidents of violence observed within communities. In a region with a legacy of conflict, pandemic responses need to transcend domestic or international mistrust and build confidence and relationships between governments and their citizens.

Like many other crises, the pandemic provides fertile ground for corruption to flourish. This is especially prevalent in countries with weak governance institutions, lack of transparency accountability, and oversight, low levels of social capital and compliance, and lack of trust in government institutions. 

At the same time, crises like this are an opportunity for the public and private sector to raise their commitments in addressing corruption and building a culture of integrity and accountability. There is an opportunity for increased collaboration and solidarity between governments and within communities to preserve and rebuild societies. 

COVID-19 has shown how young men and women can provide active solutions and dynamism to support response and recovery.  We need to encourage their activism and ensure youth-specific needs are met in government recovery plans.

This area of work is more important than ever as governments come under pressure to navigate crisis and uncertainty, deliver digitalized services, enable access to information and social protection, and function in transparent, accountable and effective ways. Governments and civil society will need to work together to advance social cohesion and gender equality while upholding human rights and the rule of law.

 

Here's what we're doing

 

- In Armenia, UNDP brought women who participated in its leadership schools and trainings together in an online community, training them on disaster preparedness and response and creating a new resource cadre for their villages and towns. They are seen as the driving force to help tackle COVID-19-related consequences in local communities, for which UNDP will help provide ‘new-demand’ (digital) services to support them.

- In Azerbaijan, UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Transport, Communications and High Technologies launched an online one-stop platform for all e-services available to citizens quarantined.

- The joint UN programme Dialogue for the Future moved its activities online to help maintain social cohesion work in the sub-region through the COVID-19 crisis and recovery period. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNDP awarded grants to civil society organizations, public institutions and schools to support projects that engage citizens, youth and women especially, around cultural diversity, tolerance and environmental and civic engagement.

- UNDP is helping public agencies in Georgia strengthen people-centred public service delivery and expand access to digital tools. This work is creating a “new normal” with benefits for Georgia’s citizens that will outlast the crisis.

- UNDP is assisting the Government of Kazakhstan in developing a recovery financing strategy.

It also supported the National Preventive Mechanism against torture with development of digital tools to monitor closed institutions. A digital platform allows them to conduct on-line interviews with people in detention places, store the collected data and evidences of torture and cruel treatment, and generate statistics analysis and reporting on monitoring visits.

- UNDP supported the establishment of the Crisis Coordination Management Unit within the Vice Prime Minister’s Office in Ukraine. The CO is finalizing a sub-national vulnerability dashboard to support decision-makers in both government and the international community to prioritize and better allocate resources.

Conflict-affected communities in eastern Ukraine received mobile Administrative Service Centres (ASCs) – vehicles providing administrative and social services - to ensure hard-to-reach people living in rural areas and areas close to the conflict’s “contact line”, and vulnerable groups have access to legal services, especially in a time of restricted movement. UNDP also worked on a set of regulations for the mobile ASCs operation in eastern Ukraine.

It also designed the COVID-19: Ukraine Compounded Vulnerability Index Dashboard, which helps analysis of the impact of coronavirus pandemic on the oblasts and helps identify the most affected regions and inform evidence-based decision-making for UNDP and Government of Ukraine.

- In Uzbekistan, upon government request, UNDP will introduce an anti-corruption management system in the Ministry of Health and the overall health care system (for compliance around core business processes, including procurement, storing and distribution of medical supplies, disaster and emergency preparedness).

In addition, the COVID-19 Recovery and Response offer of UN Uzbekistan will support Parliamentary, government oversight bodies, and civil society organizations to expand their capacities, monitor and assess impact of the national response on vulnerable groups and reduce corruption in social service delivery.

 

New mobile Administrative Service Centres in eastern Ukraine will help support legal and social services to those restricted by the pandemic. Photo: UNDP Ukraine

 

 

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