The United Nations Immediate Socio-economic Response Plan (ISERP) for Bangladesh aims to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic’s multidimensional impacts on the people of Bangladesh. It strives to ensure that the most vulnerable groups are protected, and the country can make a sound recovery and continue its progress towards its development goals, including Agenda 2030. In support of the economic stimulus and social protection packages issued by the Government of Bangladesh in response to the crisis, the interventions and policy recommendations in this One-UN plan seek to help Bangladesh build back better and seize opportunities to promote more inclusive, sustainable and evidencebased development pathways in the post-COVID landscape, including the ongoing existential threats posed to the country by climate change. The ISERP aims to help the Government and the people of Bangladesh maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of these response programmes while ensuring that they result in a significant net reduction in multidimensional vulnerabilities across all segments of the country and the population.
The plan will be embedded in the current United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2017-2020 which was extended for a year to 2021, and will be aligned with the Government of Bangladesh’s Eighth Five Year Plan and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ISERP is firmly anchored in a whole of the society approach, and the principles of leaving no one behind, and building back better.
Country-wide and pillar-specific situation analyses throughout this document examine the state of development processes and challenges in Bangladesh before the COVID-19 pandemic. They assess how the crisis has affected the people of Bangladesh, especially those most vulnerable; how it has shifted the development landscape and affected development priorities; and how it has affected and, in most cases, amplified systemic vulnerabilities and inequalities across gender, ethnic, geographic, economic, and social lines. The analyses describe the Government’s key response strategies and programmes under each pillar and identify opportunities to provide support in areas of comparative advantage for the United Nations Development System.
The document concludes that the effects of the COVID-19 crisis in Bangladesh threaten to undo hard-won development achievements from the past decade; to rob the next generation of the dividends of development; and to grievously delay investments in climate adaptation. Every effort must be made, it suggests, to ensure that the country is able to make the necessary investments in social welfare, education, health, high-quality jobs and addressing the climate crisis to seize its one-time, demographic-driven opportunity to accelerate economic and social development over the next decade.
Subsequently, Bangladesh needs to focus on transforming to a low-carbon, and climate and disaster resilient economy with a healthy tax base; accelerating social cohesion towards a non-sectarian society centred around human rights and dignity, and achieving far-reaching women’s social, economic and political empowerment. If successful, these and other development efforts will place Bangladesh within reach of achieving all the SDGs by 2030.
The Immediate Socio-economic Response Plan (ISERP)
The ISERP will be operationalized across five critical pillars outlined by the Secretary-General in his recent report “Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19”. Together with the ongoing public health response, Bangladesh Preparedness and Response Plan, and the complementary humanitarian response to the pandemic, this plan offers a multi-sectoral, data-driven and human rights-based approach covering five pillars, informed by the principle of leaving no one behind.
To implement the strategy, the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) is switching to an emergency mode to focus its efforts on maintaining essential lifesaving health services, and scaling-up and expanding resilient and climate-responsive social protection systems.
These include including essential food and nutrition, water and sanitation, education and protection services, with a focus on infants, children, women, the ultra-poor, informal settlement dwellers, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, climate and disaster victims, and other vulnerable populations. A strong emphasis on datagathering and information systems in the Plan is intended to support social expenditure monitoring, promote well informed decision making, and permit the rapid adjustment of interventions to ensure maximum impact and efficiency.
Addressing the impacts of COVID-19 and building back better require a commitment to integrated, multisectoral responses to produce holistic interventions encompassing all the five pillars of the ISERP. As the pandemic has highlighted, vulnerability in one set of areas – for example in the limited access to water, sanitation and hygiene services and low access to social protection schemes among the country’s urban poor – directly increases vulnerability in others areas – for example, the higher exposure of these same populations to infectious diseases and deeper economic shocks have cause so many to fall back into poverty. Similarly, COVID-19 has exacerbated the vulnerability of people to climate change and disasters, not only because several disaster events occurred during the pandemic, but also because of the erosion of people’s ability to absorb shocks and manage multiple disruptions at the same time. The objective of the five-pillar approach is thus to ensure a more coherent, coordinated and effective response by mobilizing United Nations agencies, funds and programmes to respond strategically across all critical sectors.
Guidance and oversight for the formulation and implementation of the plan will be provided by the UNDAF Joint Steering Committee, co-chaired by the Secretary,
Economics Relations Division (ERD), Government of Bangladesh and the United Nations Resident Coordinator, and supported by the UNDP Resident Representative serving as the overall Technical Lead. The same Joint Steering Committee will provide oversight and guidance on the formulation of the new United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework