Mrs. Prisca Koho Nlend, Minister of Social Affairs and Women’s Rights, Government of Gabon
Your Excellencies, Ministers from the Central African States
Votre Excellence, Monsieur l’Ambassadeur Gilberto Da Piedade VERISSIMO, Président de la Commission de la Communauté économique des Etats de l’Afrique centrale (CEEAC) Votre Excellence, Monsieur l’Ambassadeur François LOUNCENY FALL, Représentant spécial du Secrétaire général de l’ONU pour l’Afrique centrale et Chef du Bureau régional des Nations Unies pour l’Afrique centrale (UNOCA)
Ms Daniela Bas, Director, Division of Inclusive Social Development, UNDESA
Dr N’Dri Therese Assié-Lumumba, President of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Management of Social Transformations Programme
Representatives from the UN system, development banks, regional organisations and other institutions
Members of Civil Society,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this Forum of Ministers of Social Development organized by the Government of Gabon, jointly with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in cooperation with the Economic Commission for the Central African States.
Through the engagement of Her Excellency, Mrs Prisca Koho Nlend, this Ministerial Forum could take place, under the auspices of the President of Gabon, which I am immensely grateful for, allowing us to meet.
The Forum is organized in the framework of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme, which is focusing on evidence-based policy making to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and other development frameworks such as the African Unions’ Agenda 2063.
Due to COVID-19 this is the first Virtual MOST Ministerial Forum ever taken place, to address the pandemic’s social impacts showing the need for effective social policies that can reduce the vulnerabilities of our societies.
The Fora allow Ministers to share best practices, and through a dialogue with researchers, the UN system and civil society, addressing social policy challenges and adopting action -oriented Ministerial Declarations for follow-up by each Minister.
Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to see an additional 26 million people living below the international poverty line as a result of the pandemic.
COVID-19 is bringing threats to well-being, such as social capital and to people’s incomes and livelihoods.
This is true for Africa, in which 71 percent, according to a study by of the Economic Commission for Africa work in the informal sector and benefit from none or insufficient social protection.
Vulnerable persons such as these informal sector workers, people with disabilities, women and youths will be most affected. Youths, who constitute nearly 60% of the population of African countries, will require special attention.
Let us turn to focus on engaging on the responses, which will also be valid for the POST COVID-19:
That is why we are gathering you, counting on your leadership, to find solutions and act in solidarity.
The social protection of populations must be a KEY response as the rapport titled “UN Framework for immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19”, launched in April 2020, is confirming.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations proposed last week during the United Nations General Assembly a New Social Contract which is about building Inclusive and sustainable societies and ending all forms of exclusion and discrimination.
It means providing access to education for all and harnessing digital technology —the two great enablers and equalizers of our time, which are also at the core of UNESCO’s mandate.
Let us make a call for UNESCO, through its mandate in education, the sciences, culture and communication, to support you and your countries to address the challenges of the social impacts of COVID-19, especially through our programmes focusing on Education for All, Science and Technology and supporting digital transformations.
And last but not least, in my capacity as the Assistant Director-General for the Social and Human Sciences I would like to stress that I and my team stand ready to support you, using our competencies and expertise and existing normative instruments and programmes, such as the UNESCO Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers, on the basis of which we will implement strategic activities to strengthen science, technology and innovation in Africa, in collaboration with the Science Sector. Science embedded in ethics is also taking giant steps with ethics and Artificial intelligence, an ongoing UNESCO process that should culminate in a recommendation in 2021. Foresight, which is crucial for critical thinking and using the future, is integrated in our Management of Social Transformations Programme. Through our existing Inclusive Policy Lab, an interactive platform for dialogues on social inclusion, anti-discrimination actions and social programmes anchored in human rights can be designed together for national and regional implementation. Youth as a thematic and key target group, youth as agents of change, partners and beneficiaries of our services, have a key role to play if we engage with them in youth policies design, youth-led initiatives and capacity building.
The Social and Human Sciences Sector helps Member States achieve Agenda 2030 and related national priorities by applying policy-relevant and high quality social and human science research and knowledge, especially through the MOST Programme and its Ministerial Forums.
Now UNESCO is here with you, with so many other important members of the UN system and financial institutions and others, to listen to your challenges and together find policy solutions. UNESCO is ready to support you and wish you to give us a strong mandate!