BY Kotaro Takeda, Flutra Rexhaj
The UN Kosovo* team is on a mission: to bring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to Kosovo and to bring Kosovo to the SDGs. As we enter 2018, the Kosovo Assembly has just passed a Resolution endorsing the Sustainable Development Goals. Kosovo is a busy, complicated place, and its institutions are working simultaneously to achieve various development strategies (a Development Strategy, a Gender Strategy, the European Reform Agenda, etc., etc.), but they all contribute towards the creation of a more inclusive, sustainable future. We are pleased that Kosovo sees the value in adopting the SDGs and in using them to help power its own development agenda. The unanimous vote constitutes the natural conclusion of two years of “letting a thousand flowers bloom”. Given the unique political context in Kosovo, and other factors, the UN Kosovo Team has, from the beginning, taken a bottom-up approach to “seeding” the SDGs and preparing the ground for more formal activities to adapt and implement the SDGs. It all began five years ago with the participation of 9,000 Kosovars in the global survey “The World We Want” that helped to establish the goals. We are proud of the fact that there was Kosovar DNA in the Global Goals from the very start. Building on this initial level of public awareness, the UN Kosovo Team, with its partners, has been exploring multiple avenues for promoting and bring the SDGs to life in Kosovo. Here are just a few of the many stories behind our approach of “letting a thousand flowers bloom”. SDG1 No Poverty: The Journalism Poverty Prize Poverty rates in Kosovo remain amongst the highest in the region. According to the Statistical Agency of Kosovo and the World Bank (2015), the poverty rate (those living below 1.82 euro per adult equivalent per day) was more than 17 percent, while the extreme poverty rate (those living below 1.30 euro per adult equivalent per day) was 5 percent. While many activities of the UN agencies along with partners have contributed to reducing poverty, none have been as successful in terms of raising public awareness about the persistence of poverty and inclusion as the Annual Journalism Poverty Prize. For the twelfth year in a row, the UN Kosovo Team and the Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) have provided professional journalists the opportunity to showcase their stories about the reality of poverty in Kosovo. The best examples (print and online news, video, radio, and photography), as selected by a professional jury, win the Poverty Prize. PovertyPrize-15 In 2017 we were joined by the remarkable artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa, who created a public installation of black and white photographs portraying prize-winning stories of poverty and social exclusion in Kosovo. The timing was powerful: Alketa was calling for Kosovars to vote to end poverty just as politicians were finishing a final week of campaigning prior to local elections. We had over 30,000 Facebook and 15,000 Twitter impressions that day. “Vote to end the poverty”- Alketa’s powerful art installation was mounted on the walls of the “Termokiss” building, (an Alternative Community Centre for Youth), sending a powerful message. “It is not so much about charity as it is about justice”, said Alketa. SDG 5 Gender Equality: 16 Days Against Violence Against Women Although Kosovo’s legal framework guarantees full equality for men and women, discrimination against women continues, resulting in inadequate protection for some basic human rights guaranteed by law. The 16 Days campaign began in Kosovo in 2013 and, since then, it has become the centerpiece of our efforts to combat violence against women. Every year, more people get involved and we must scramble to manage an ever-increasing number of events without diluting the impact of this unique campaign. In 2017, we were as always led by UN WOMEN, in partnership the Kosovo Women’s Network, Care International, the Women’s Centre for Human Rights, the Assembly of Kosovo, and international organizations and missions, including OSCE, UNMIK, KFOR and EULEX, on more than 65 separate advocacy activities taking place across Kosovo to raise awareness of the need to eliminate all forms of violence against women. The highlight by far of this year’s events was the ballet performance “One Day”, performed by the Kosovo Theatre Ballet. This was a deeply personal story and a message of hope based on the experiences of a Kosovar survivor of domestic violence. This was another example of art and advocacy can mix in Kosovo, to powerful effect. It comes in the wake of the global success of the Bafta-winning short film HOME– a fantasy on the struggles of migrants, which was recognized as one of the most successful achievements in the region for 2017 by Al Jazeera. SDG 4 Quality Education: Podium, the UNICEF Innovation Lab approach to teaching the SDGs Creating environments where young Kosovars can learn about the Global Goals is another of our priorities since only the engagement and commitment of future generations will ensure long-term societal commitment and bring about lasting change. The Advocacy for Social Change initiative “Podium for the SDGs”, organized by the UNICEF Innovation Lab, UNV and the UN Development Coordinator’s Office, reached hundreds of young girls and boys from across Kosovo during its outreach phase. Later, over forty of them attended workshops where they learned to identify and link community needs to specific Global Goals, how to collaborate with peers, and how to advocate for their communities’ priorities. SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals: It’s Festival Time! The UN Kosovo Team continued to build on its long-standing partnership with the Dokufest, a world-class documentary film festival, in Prizren, Kosovo, to promote the SDGs. This year’s theme “Future My Love” was perfectly suited to Agenda 2030. We created a SDGs booth to allow participants at the festival to create a video recording of the future they want. And we helped to shed light on the boundless talent of young women filmmakers in Kosovo. UNV and the UN Development Coordinator’s Office also supported the 8th edition of Anibar, the annual animation Festival in Peja/Peć, where children were taught about the SDGs and were encouraged to produce their own animations around their favorite goals. In addition to working with these existing platforms for SDG advocacy and learning, we took the first steps in 2017 towards partnering with private sector around SDGs, with a focus on sustainability and partnership-building. More than 35 representatives from the private sector, UN Heads of Agencies, the American Chamber of Commerce, USAID EMPOWER programme and The Partnering Initiative contributed to discussions on leveraging partnerships for sustainable development. Setting SDG baselines 2017 also marked the first steps in setting up a robust data platform, to help inform the public and assist decision makers to monitor and report on the implementation of Agenda 2030. Gathering reliable data in Kosovo is always a challenge, but the SDGs represent a critical opportunity to promote synergies with existing efforts and to raise awareness of the need to further invest in improving capacities for data collection and analysis. What’s next? We’ve had a lot of fun so far, experimenting and piloting different ways to bring the SDG message to Kosovo. Now, with the Kosovo Assembly and leadership fully on board, it’s time to take stock and focus attention on nurturing those flowers that are blooming the most. In Kosovo, there is never a dull moment! * References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).
BY Sandra Cavallo, Anastas Boiko | 07 March 2018
Times have never been easy for small businesses in Ukraine. Since the conflict broke out in east Ukraine, the Ukrainian GDP plunged by over 10 percent in 2015 alone. Since then, welfare, livelihoods and social cohesion have been directly affected by the consequences of the conflict. Many entrepreneurs have moved away from the conflict zones due to the disruption of basic services and the risk of shelling. Thankfully, things are starting to get on better footing. As the country’s economy steadily began to recover in 2016 and 2017, with a GDP growth slightly above 2 percent, new opportunities for Ukrainian businesses began to emerge. This included the introduction of a free-trade zone with the European Union. This is good news, but success stories of local businesses making their way to EU markets are still scarce. Small local businesses, we hear you The UN’s operations in Ukraine have grown since the events of 2014 and the subsequent armed conflict. More UN projects mean more procurement needs, and it is no secret that some businesses stand to gain from an increased international presence in conflict-affected areas. At the UN, we deal with mostly medium and small-sized Ukrainian businesses on a daily basis. When we issue procurement notices, we know from experience how difficult it can be for a local company to successfully fulfill the criteria of a transparent, international tender. In some cases, we have to reject up to 30 percent of tender proposals due to errors in their submissions. To become a provider for a UN agency, businesses need to meet high standards, including accountability and transparency. Is there something we can do to turn this situation into a stable positive effect for local businesses? A new way of doing business: Increased transparency The local companies that we work with get the message: to seize new opportunities, they need to step up their organizational standards and increase transparency, no matter how big or small the business. Transparency is on the rise in Ulkraine, and in some ways is even seen as a way to attract customers. For example, a searchable e-declarations database, launched among international fanfare in 2016, is now where all Ukrainian public servants declare their assets. Also, some anti-corruption organizations are developing tools to verify conflict of interests and cross-check public contract award decisions with a list of companies owned by city council representatives and their family members. And Ukraine’s ProZorro system won international awards for making all public tendering transparent and verifiable by any citizen online. A core principle for the UN, transparency, is essential for high-quality public procurement. An open and transparent procurement process improves competition, increases efficiency and reduces the threat of unfairness or corruption. With this core principle in mind, we asked ourselves: How can we be more transparent? Demystifying UN procurement Our solution to this big question was: let’s take the streets! And we (kind of) literally did… Instead of using the usual communication channels to disseminate our tenders, we adopted a more proactive approach and reached out to the wider private sector with a series of public meetings where we talked about the ins and outs of procurement as practiced in the UN. We talked about how all bidders are evaluated equally from the solicitation stage, throughout the evaluation process and until the contract is signed. Apart from making the organization more transparent, our second goal was to support local bidders to improve their working practices and be able to meet the high demands of our tenders. The hope is that this will increase competition helping to ensure that the we, the UN, receive best value for money in our procurement processes. In our effort to take procurement out on the road, we went beyond the capital city of Kiev and travelled to key cities across the country: Lviv, Kharkiv and Odessa in the west, east and south of Ukraine. We made special efforts to connect with those companies that were internally displaced by the ongoing conflict. In one year, we met face-to-face with over 400 representatives of local businesses from many different industries: food production, construction, pharmaceuticals and advertising. This gave us the opportunity to engage with local businesses, hear their concerns, and answer their questions. At these public meetings, companies that previously worked for the UN spoke about their experiences sharing why they had failed several times before succeeding. They talked about the importance of needing to rely on quality, transparency and demonstrated results, instead of personal contacts, unofficial payments, or other non-transparent practices, were some of the issues highlighted. This is still a mindset change from the still widespread practices of the old times! And we got ambitious… All these interactions with local vendors raised another question: can our initiative have a ripple effect so local businesses will be prepare to compete beyond the UN market? It may still be too early to tell but we are eager to see the results. We can always hope that this will be only the first step on a thousand-mile journey: the journey towards conquering world markets, rephrasing the idea of the Chinese philosopher Laozi. Meanwhile, we are getting great signs of success: one of the agencies working in Ukraine, UNDP, is already seeing an ever-growing number of new bidders. Having more companies to choose from will always help us ensuring best value for money, a sacred principle in our procurement processes. The end result: helping the organization spending taxpayers’ money in the most effective way. Come back to learn how we are doing!