Now more than ever: Reinventing the UN in the time of pandemic
14 May 2021
For the world to respond to international crises, it needs an effective international organization.
For the world to respond to international crises, it needs an effective international organization. You’ve probably heard the maxim: If the UN didn’t exist, we would have to invent it.
The UN family can be proud of the progress we had been making on reforming the UN system before the pandemic. Part of what UN reform did was strengthen the role of the Resident Coordinator (RC) and the RC’s Office (RCO) in each country. As a result of this, the RC is better able to coordinate the efforts of all UN entities in the country and best assist the government in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The immense challenge presented by COVID-19 has underlined how vital it is for UN agencies to have a coordinated response. Accordingly, the pace of reform has accelerated as the UN has risen to the challenge of the global crisis.
In my work as the RC in Moldova, I’ve seen how valuable such coordination is in ensuring that support reaches individuals and communities in need.
COVID-19 required the UN system to move swiftly and efficiently. It required fast, strong, and informed engagement with the government. And it pushed UN agencies and partners to plan and deliver simultaneously.
Moldova was one of the first countries to produce, with government, a costed COVID-19 response and recovery plan that included indicators on human rights and gender equity. This plan received high global visibility as it drew on the strengths of the 24 UN entities in our team; it was practical and was an agreed-upon roadmap for national action on the pandemic in Moldova.
With the UN reform process, RCs now have a direct reporting line to the UN Secretary-General. This supports the RCs’ strategic engagement with our government counterparts and our member state colleagues in the diplomatic corps and the development community. At the same time, here in Moldova — as in other countries — RCs also strive to stay closely connected to the people and communities we serve. That is a core principle of how we work. Close and effective relationships at all levels position the RC to achieve better results.
The UN is an international organization, but many of the benefits it confers are national. That is, our results happen within countries. We tailor our services to countries to support their needs and to build on their own strengths to grow more prosperous and equitable.
The UN is able to yield such benefits to individual nations precisely because it is an international organization — in support of government and working with all sectors of society.
Consultation is the key to both success and sustainable outcomes. By listening to everyone and facilitating dialogue, we can create an environment where collective solutions are agreed to solving long-lasting and complex problems.
I’m proud of the work the UN Country Team — all 24 UN entities — has done in Moldova. Our cooperation with government to understand complex policy solutions, through to recognizing how to address these needs by speaking to citizens to find common solutions and ensure that no one is left behind in the process.
I am particularly proud of how the UN system in Moldova has never hesitated in our support, even during the worst moments of the pandemic. The team stayed and delivered, never once suspending our operations. The UN Country Team worked effectively together during the pandemic, because that’s the only way we can deliver. The dedicated staff of the UN know that lives depend on their work.
The daily work of UNCTs is the fulfilment of UN reform. We carry it out. We discuss it. We debate it. We experiment. We innovate. We work hard.
We reform the UN every day.
I’ll return to the maxim from the beginning: If the UN didn’t exist, we would have to invent it.
Let’s look at this from another perspective.
The UN does exist, and we must reinvent it every day.
We remember our history, but we must always look afresh at our work. Always reform. Always improve. The people of the world demand no less and deserve no less.
Simon Springett is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Moldova. To learn more about the United Nations in Moldova please visit: Moldova.UN.org.