Skopje, North Macedonia
– Humanity’s accelerating progress over the past two decades has brough with it an increase in the speed, dynamics, and complexity of today’s development challenges, resulting in a gap between existing development practice and the pace of change.

In 2019, UNDP decided to bridge this gap by creating the 60 Accelerator Labs at once. One year later, and thanks to the support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany, the Qatar Fund for Development and UNDP Core partners, UNDP is opening 32 new Accelerator Labs. The largest and fastest learning network on development challenges now covers 116 countries.

One of the latest additions to the network is the Accelerator Lab at UNDP’s office in Skopje, North Macedonia. The new Accelerator Lab team will support UNDP’s efforts to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals by creating actionable intelligence, mapping solutions, and developing a portfolio of experiments that will help tackle the country’s development challenges in new and creative ways.

“The work of our 92 Accelerator Labs embedded in UNDP offices and their local innovation ecosystem is critical. The Lab members are exploring, experimenting, and growing portfolios of mutually reinforcing solutions to tackle today’s challenges such as air pollution, waste management, the devasting socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable, and much more. This includes everything from helping to roll-out robots in COVID-19 treatment centers in Rwanda, to supporting a ‘3D Community’ in Tanzania to design, produce and distribute personal protective equipment to health workers,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.

In 2021, the North Macedonia UNDP Accelerator Lab will focus on initiatives designed to catalyze system transformation and accelerate reforms in the public sector advancing good governance practices based on a “whole of society” approach. The Lab will also be supporting the country to tackle the issue of the future (of) jobs and working with the City of Skopje, the country’s capitol, to develop a portfolio of interventions to address its core development challenges.

In his opening remarks at the AccLab launch, Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev stressed the importance of UNDP’s innovation practice in the country. “Accelerating the pace at which we solve the challenges on the way to the sustainable development goals is key to achieving them by 2030. That is why it is my great pleasure that UNDP, as our permanent partner, is investing in this process of learning and innovating in the development practice – a process which will also benefit our country. The new Accelerator Lab will open up new opportunities for partnering on innovative development projects and for learning from the most successful development approaches from around the world,” said Zoran Zaev, Prime Minister of North Macedonia.

The North Macedonia UNDP Accelerator Lab launch event, titled “Transforming Systems – Creating the Future”, also hosted three renowned keynote speakers who provided insights from their own experiences with transforming systems. Mr. Saul Singer, the co-author of bestseller “Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle” gave a fascinating overview of the phenomena that is the entrepreneurship-driven Israeli economy. Mr. Taavi Kotka, an IT visionary renowned for being the brainpower behind many Estonian e-government initiatives, gave his perspective on digital transformation at a time when many countries are working to catch up to the frontrunners in the field. Mr. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, the UN Special Coordinator for development in the Sahel, share the story of how the UNDP transformed its global offer to support the countries in responding to COVID-19 and the Building Forward Better towards a greener and more resilient future.

The event concluded with a panel on system transformation within the national context where local champions shared their personal experiences with affecting transformative change in the country, through a variety of approaches and in different contexts. Director of North Macedonia’s Fund for Innovation and Technological Development (FITD) Kosta Petrov talked about the country’s vision and experience with transformation through innovation catalyzed by public sector support.

Former Minister of Finance of North Macedonia and current President of North Macedonia’s Association of e-Commerce Nina Angelovska and Deputy CIO of the Green Climate Fund Nebi Bekiri discussed their vision and experience in transformation through digitalization. Developer of AirCare air pollution tracking app Gorjan Jovanovski shared his perspective on channeling grassroots activism through startup development to catalyze progress on environmental issues.

The event was followed online by over 320 people from 58 countries and attended by 50 people at a venue in Skopje.

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