UNRC Talking Points - The World of 2022 Conference at the Parliament of Serbia
14 December 2021
Talking points by Francoise Jacob, UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia, at The World of 2022 Conference.
Good morning, I am happy to participate to the discussion today, on behalf of the UN family in SRB. I will focus on 5 key areas of action for the UN in 2022: Health, Work, Demography, Climate & Environment, Governance & the democratic space.
We learned one hard lesson from this pandemic, it is the need to collectively place health at the core of each country governance as an investment and not as a cost. While we will continue our efforts to support the COVID vaccination campaign, expand health treatment capacities and equitable access to all communities, we call for a greater focus on prevention by addressing critical environmental factors, investing in innovation and primary health care, promoting and supporting healthy lifestyles, and curtailing tobacco use, for a healthier society and a reduced burden on the economy. This will require the commitment of multiple stakeholders beyond the health sector, including families, food producers and distributors, schools and the private sector.
The Future of Work: between digitalization, digital nomads and alternative ways of working, in 2020-21 we have already started to experiment on building the workforce of the future. While the digitalization of workplace accelerates, we don’t want inequalities to widen through employment; most importantly, there are many economic and social sectors that require warm bodies, real people in their place of work, farmers, artisans, construction workers, plumbers, tourist service providers, and so much more, including, and not least, in the informal sector. These are not jobs from the past, they are also the jobs of the future. These jobs need to be valued or revalued, including through the formal and informal education system, and we must retain all such skills in country. In 2022, the UN will continue to advocate for a wider inclusion of workers under the decent job framework, the closing of the gender pay gap and more rights for informal workers. We will also focus on young people to be prepared for the challenges ahead and manage uncertainties.
Talking about youth, I turn now to an important subject that Serbia and the entire region is grappling with, the demographic transition. This should be seen as an opportunity to break down rigid categories of age, gender and social status and make full use of the immense, untapped potential concealed within our societies, aiming at greater wellbeing. Trust in the future, trust in institutions, in governance, equitable social systems that promote inter-generational solidarity, a good and inclusive education system, decent jobs, gender equality, in other words, a solid social contract, and good healthy living environment are the fundamentals pre-requisites to ensure a sustainable demography, as affirmed in the recently concluded High Level Ministerial Conference on Demographic Resilience held in Sofia Bulgaria. We call for a truly comprehensive response that addresses the multiple barriers faced by young people in shaping their future in country, and a system that places people in the centre of planning and action.
Climate change and our relationship with the planet: in 2021, Serbia planted the seeds of change, by expanding, adjusting and finalizing much of the legislation and plans to transform the economy and the environment. At the same time, the Green Agenda with EU support is coming into action in 2022, with massive investments, complemented by both public and private investments. Serbia has the right size to trailblaze the transformation. 7 million people, 20 years, and multiple sources of financing. Yet the commitments at COP26 were insufficient. 2022 is the time to shape the full vision of the green transformation, to build the capacities to implement the vision urgently, to make it happen and to communicate about it. This is a key priority for the UN family, we have tested methodologies on the just transition in coal regions with the social partners, we are already working on air pollution and energy efficiency, on energy poverty, on circular economy and sustainable food systems. This is the greatest opportunity to rally the people, the private sector, the state, the civil society. Let’s breath into that agenda, exhale out the fear of change, exhale out business as usual, shift the narrative on economic prosperity, as a pathway into the future. I call on all UN MS present in the room today to ensure that investments in trade and infrastructure, from their respective private sectors, also contribute to the green agenda.
My last point is on governance and the rule of law. This is such a wide area. Let me just say that we will continue our work on improving system efficiencies and capacities, at local level with municipalities, as well as at national level, and with SMEs. A critical area of focus for the UN team will be to addressthe “infodemic”by promoting a common, empirically backed consensus around facts, science and knowledge. We will continue to advocate for a strong, safe and fair civic and media space, and will fight hate and divisive speech.
To conclude, I would like to say that the common thread in these points is the desire of the UN to fight inequalities, leave no one behind, and strengthen the prevalence of human rights, democracy and equality, while embracing the value of the common good. We call for an expansion of inclusive and meaningful national listening consultations and dialogs, so all citizens have a say in envisioning their country’s future. And of course, we look forward to working with all of you in a most cooperative manner.