Both innovation and Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are essential drivers of economic development, environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness.
The UNECE region was hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, not only because of the health crisis itself but also, even as the threat recedes substantially, for the economic difficulties resulting from necessary restrictions on mobility and economic and social activity. It is the most vulnerable countries, economic sectors, and segments of society that suffered the most. In this context, and given rapid increase in fiscal spending, renewed focus to speed up progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs), including the circular economy, is now more important than ever.
Innovation – experimenting with new ideas for creating value – is essential to this process. In fact, COVID-19 restrictions have spurred a range of new activities to provide services that respect restrictions and social distancing – in particular through the rapid growth in digital platform-based services for anything from tool and car sharing to remote work. Sharing resources and turning products into on-demand services through platforms is also the main vehicle through which we can progress towards a circular economy while at the same time increasing opportunities for consumption, entrepreneurship, and poverty reduction. Governments need to put in place the right policies, institutions, and regulations to enable innovation and boost entrepreneurship – reacting flexibly to emerging opportunities and unexpected events such as pandemics.
The private sector also has great potential to bring in innovation, efficiency and financing to improve infrastructure and public services. COVID-19 has brought to light several critical social challenges and the infrastructure and public services needed to tackle them come at a high cost. Examples include access to healthcare, access to water supply and sanitation, access to waste management, and access to education. People-first PPPs for the SDGs are needed now more than ever, they can help governments with rather limited resources fill this gap. They can help harness the skills, technology and expertise as well as finance of the private sector to develop infrastructure – both economic and social.
The UNECE Committee on Innovation, Competitiveness and Public-Private Partnerships met on its 14th session on 2-4 June 2021 to discuss, among others, how innovation policy and PPPs can facilitate the recovery post COVID-19 and the transition to the circular economy. As part of the substantive segment, several speakers shared their countries’ experiences on ensuring that the post-COVID recovery is a sustainable one, fostering a transition to a more circular economy, and how to best harness the potential of innovation and financing in this regard.
In addition, members of the Committee welcomed and discussed UNECE polica advisory tools, notably the Sub-regional Innovation Policy Outlook (IPO) for Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus (EESC) and the ongoing National Innovation for Sustainable Development Review of Uzbekistan and Moldova. Those publications benchmark the scope and quality of innovation policies, institutions, and processes across a group of countries with similar legacies, opportunities, and challenges. The Committee welcomed the proposal to carry out full-fledged IPO assessments in EESC countries at regular intervals and to apply the methodology of the IPO to other sub-regions.
The Committee also discussed the improvement, use and testing of the first version of the UNECE People-first PPP Evaluation Methodology for the SDGs, which provides a mechanism for Governments and other stakeholders to see the extent of which their infrastructure projects are aligned with the SDGs. The Methodology, which is available as a Self-Assessment Tool, can also help design and improve infrastructure projects so that they are better aligned with the SDGs. Once revised and approved, the methodology, will be rolled out more broadly.
UNECE will continue supporting the implementation of its numerous tools for a sustainable, resilient and inclusive post-Covid19 recovery and a transition to a more circular economy, through targeted demand-driven capacity building programmes.