SDGs and Sustainable Social Development: An Effective Recovery from COVID-19

On 21 July 2020, the Second Global Discussion was held on-line in Tashkent on the theme "SDGs and Sustainable Social Development: An Effective Recovery from COVID-19".  It was organized by the Chambers of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, the National Human Rights Center of Uzbekistan, and the United Nations Country Team in Uzbekistan.

It was the second event of the Global Discussion Cycle "The 75th Anniversary of the United Nations: A Look into the Future", organized by Uzbekistan as part of the UN-75 international initiative, proclaimed by the United Nations during the year of its anniversary. The first event, held on 26 June 2020, was dedicated to the partnership between Uzbekistan and the UN in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The second Discussion was divided into four sessions which focused on issues related to social development, culture, health and labour in the context of achieving the SDGs.

The event was attended by representatives of the United Nations specialized agencies, including ILO, UNDP, UNESCO and WHO.

The Uzbek side was represented by Mr Nurdindjon Ismailov, Speaker of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan; Mr Akmal Saidov, First Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan; Ms Tanzila Narbayeva, Chairperson of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan; Mr Akmalkhon Artikov, First Deputy Minister of Economy and Poverty Reduction of Uzbekistan; Mr Ozodbek Nazarbekov, Minister of Culture of Uzbekistan; Ms Elmira Basitkhanova, Deputy Minister of Health of Uzbekistan; Mr Nozim Khusanov, Minister of Employment and Labour Relations of Uzbekistan and, Mr Mirzatillo Tillabaev, First Deputy Director of the National Human Rights Center of Uzbekistan.

UNESCO was represented by Mr Edouard Firmin Matoko, Assistant Director-General for Priority Africa and External Relations, who delivered a live welcome address on behalf of the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Audrey Azoulay, and Mr Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, Assistant Director-General for Culture, who delivered a specific video message on “Tangible and intangible cultural heritage and creativity as a driving force in achieving the SDGs - and the consequences of COVID”.

Mr Matoko expressed gratitude to the Uzbek Government for holding the Global Discussions and stated the following:

"The crisis is not only affecting people’s lives and health; it also negatively impacts the social fabric of our society. UNESCO has immediately responded to the pandemic through a number of activities in all areas of its competence with the aim to help the Member States in creating stronger and more resilient communities while implementing SDGs".

The special session of the Discussion was focused on the preservation of the cultural sector and its contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals after the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has hit very hard the cultural sector. The majority of World heritage properties remains closed and many living heritage practices have had to be adapted or put on hold," said Mr Ernesto Ottone Ramírez, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, in his video message.

"A recent report by UNESCO founded 90% of the world museums had to close as the result of COVID-19. Maybe 30% may never reopen. When many festivals and cultural events cancelled, artists and cultural professionals are struggling to make ends meet"…."In this context UNESCO has launched the "ResilArt" movement for artist and cultural professionals, which has resulted in hundreds of debates across the globe on measures needed to support culture and creators," noted Mr Ramírez.

According to him, culture must be at the heart of the policies of recovery and resilience.

"Cultural heritage and creativity play a critical role in reducing poverty by creating jobs and nurturing well-being. Culture is crucial for development and will be fundamental to post COVID-19 recovery efforts," he stressed.

Minister of Culture of Uzbekistan Mr Ozodbek Nazarbekov spoke about Uzbekistan's actions in the field of culture. In particular, he raised the issues of gender equality, copyright protection, the inclusion of Uzbek tangible and intangible properties in the World Heritage List and the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and also covered the preservation of traditional music "Maqom" and "Bakhshi" art.

"The need for culture is felt even more in the days of the pandemic, which restricted access to museums and travel. This poses new challenges for us to address these issues," the Minister stressed. He informed about the development of virtual tours of museums in Uzbekistan and noted that more than 1 million artefacts have been digitized for inclusion in virtual tours, as well as more than 20 performances have been converted for online transmission.

Director-General of the WHO Mr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized in his video message that health is the foundation of economic, social and political stability. "The challenges we face now cannot be an excuse to abandon hope; on the contrary, they must serve as motivation to redouble our efforts and to work together for the healthier safer fairer world we all want," said the WHO Director-General.

"The international cooperation is the only sure way to overcome global challenges and crisis," said in his video message Dr Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Special Advisor to UNDP Administrator.

In his opinion, to ensure that the pandemic does not erode the hard-won development gains of the past decades, "we must rethink development strategies taking into account the pressing issues this crisis has highlighted namely inequality and unsustainable growth but also the related challenges of governance, climate change and the opportunity of the fourth industrial revolution".

He encouraged investment in a more equitable, digital, "green" and inclusive future, and focus on massive investments in social protection.

At the end of the Discussion, Mr Akmal Saidov, First Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan, noted that to date no one has been able to find a universal approach to resolving the pandemic. International organizations and countries are in search of solutions. And here it is very important to make joint efforts to overcome the crisis.

Two more thematic Discussions will be held in August and September 2020 as part of the cycle of events and will focus on the most vulnerable groups - women, children, people with disabilities and migrants.