Opening Remarks by Ms. Elaine Conkievich

Resident Representative, UNDP Mongolia

7 December 2020


Honored Guests, Dear Colleagues, and Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you all to the second Sounding Board meeting of UNDP Mongolia’s transformational journey.

Since we started exploring how UNDP could assist Mongolia’s future development more proactively early in 2020, our goals and objectives are now more important and urgent as we all face the challenging times and diverse impacts of in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic. Taking a systems approach we decided to ask ourselves what does a post-pandemic Mongolia look like? But you may be asking why do we want to do this?

And here I would like to refer to a study UNDP has just released last week, conducted with the Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver, which maps out three different ‘futures’ to assess potential COVID-19 recovery trajectories. Under a ‘COVID Baseline’ scenario, 44 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 as a result of the pandemic. Uncertainties are manifold and a ‘High Damage’ scenario could push an additional 207 million people into extreme poverty, or 251 million people in total, taking into account the ‘COVID Baseline’ trajectory.

UNDP’s research shows that an ambitious but feasible set of integrated investments in governance, social protection, green economy, and digitalization has the potential to exceed the development trajectory the world was on before the pandemic, even when taking COVID-19 impacts into account.

With these investments under the ‘SDG Push’ scenario, we can reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty by 146 million in 2030 relative to the ‘COVID Baseline’ scenario – and narrow the gender gap, as 74 million women and girls would be lifted out of poverty.

So in order to accompany Mongolia to achieve the SDGs and “build forward better” and “leave no one behind”, our first step in the process was to develop a strategic argument for pursuing a different kind of change in which we focused on at our first Sounding Board meeting by focusing the following 3 points:

1. Many critical systems and value chains have been challenged and some have been exposed as very fragile similar to what is occurring in other countries. Thus, simply trying to restore what was before would not be advisable in some circumstances nor sufficient in others.

2. Thus, there is a need for the future to rethink and redevelop systems so that they are both robust and resilient.

3. For Mongolia, these rethought system transformations must underpin the resolution of what seem to be intractable and difficult issues.

UNDP is taking a proactive approach to address this. We are framing an emerging strategic intent for our work which will define a set of objectives to accompany the numerous responsive projects we are currently engaged in.

Paying attention to specific difficult and complex problem spaces will inform what we are calling a ‘portfolio of development options’ which you will hear about more in a few minutes.

These options, unlike traditional portfolios, will focus on exploring key areas of system transformation in a deliberate and structured way in partnership with the Mongolian community.

We intend that these options will stimulate different kinds of conversations and contribute to development of new kinds of blueprint solutions. Some of our early thinking about these options will be shared with you today.

As UNDP learns more about working within this new approach and makes it a part of a broader approach to innovation, we hope to be constantly developing and refreshing the portfolio.

Covid19 has changed our lives significantly through placing a stress test on the current systems and nudging us to accelerate emerging changes. It has put us in a strange transition space where most of what we were comfortable with and accustomed to must now be put behind us and we need to look for a new, different way forward.

The new future is still uncertain and emerging. Nevertheless, the solutions and answers we facilitate for Mongolia should further strengthen dignified lives, rebalance the economy and overall support the resilience of Mongolia’s people and environment, guiding Mongolia on its path to build forward better for the benefit of all women, men, girls and boys in the country.

None of this can happen without committed partners, you, who have joined us in our Sounding Board today to support Mongolia in this journey. This is why are sharing this work with you today to extend an invitation to you to join the journey. It is often the thought leaders who help shape and inform the options for the future and I believe that today we are here just to do that.

Lastly, I would like to thank our colleagues at UNDP and members of the reference group for your hard work and determination towards mapping this uncharted territory and problem spaces for Mongolia.

Thank you for joining us, and I looking forward to your active engagement in our fruitful discussions today.

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