Foreword by Resident Coordinator
The United Nations welcomed the year 2020, as the beginning of the “Decade of Action” on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The purpose is to deepen momentum for accelerating development, leaving poverty behind, taking action to stop the devastating effects of the climate crisis and supporting countries and communities living in conflict to transition to a peaceful world in line with the aspiration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In 2020, the UN Country Team (UNCT) worked collaboratively with all stakeholders to journey with Malawi through elections and the fight against COVID-19. Malawi transitioned peacefully to a new Government overcoming a year of protests and political impasse since May 2019. The Economist declared Malawi Country of the Year due to her achievements. The COVID-19 pandemic hit Malawi in March 2020, seriously undermining the country’s prospects for development and exacerbating the already strained social and economic situation.
Malawi presented its first Voluntary National Review report for the implementation of the SDGs in June 2020. The report highlights progress after five years of SDGs implementation.
Malawi has made significant progress on 29 of the 169 targets (17%), moderate progress with performance gaps on 59 of the targets (35%), and shows insufficient progress on 81 of the targets (48%). The report raised the need to overcome present challenges to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs in the decade of action.
The annual report presents UN Malawi’s results under adverse circumstances, showing tangible progress on how lives were not just saved but bolstered; hunger was not just fought but diminished; jobs were not just safeguarded but more were created; the marginalised were not just counted but empowered, and Malawi’s democracy was not just strengthened but transitioned towards palpable maturity.
By July 2020, the UNCT had repurposed USD 50 million to strengthen institutions at the national and local level to prevent and address the socioeconomic impact and treat those infected by COVID-19. The UNCT mobilized additional resources to establish an oxygen plant with the capacity to generate one million litres of oxygen per day; provide cash transfers under the social protection schemes reaching 2.6 million Malawians in the rural areas and for the first time in the cities, and regularly reach over 14 million people with preventive messages across Malawi.
Sadly, one of the visible effects of the pandemic in Malawi was a spike in child pregnancies, unveiling the extent of sexual and genderbased violence (SGBV), which resulted in 40,000 reported child pregnancies and 13,000 child marriages. The UN used the Spotlight Initiative to expand and work with the national institutions, NGOs and other partners in nationally-led efforts to eliminate SGBV and child abuse. Over 40,000 cases of child rights violation were reported for action through UN-supported channels while 50 centres providing critical support to survivors of gender-based violence were supported. The UN is moving closer to our goal of ensuring that no woman or girl suffers any form of violence and is committed to the gender equality agenda that looks into women’s education, participation and economic empowerment as one of the most powerful accelerators of the SDG agenda.
UN Malawi is fully committed to the mandate of the General Assembly; to reposition the development system (A/RES/72/279) to a betterdefined collective identity as a trusted, reliable, cohesive, accountable and effective partner in the 2030 Agenda in 2020, and is working towards:
1) Greater impact; placing the ‘leave no one behind’ agenda at the centre of our interventions by systematically enhancing SDG data, focusing on work at the district level (the last mile) in a coordinated way, coupled with a dynamic context analysis and the systematic application of the rights-based approach.
2) Greater cohesion by leveraging on the capacities of all agencies, funds and programmes to address complex development issues: girls’ education, strengthening health systems, resilience building at the community level, eliminating violence against women and girls, social protection, integrating financing for SDGs, maternal wards connected to the COVID-19 centres and blended capital for agribusiness. Pool funding, from New York or locally-based through the Malawi SDG Acceleration Fund, ensured that over two years we increased from two joint programmes to the current eight involving most of the UNCT members.
3) Greater transparency guided the UN communications team to focus on SDGs, intensifying efforts during the COVID-19 period. A weekly situation report and numerous stories from the field helps in decision-making at the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT). The UN75 initiative provided a “whole of society” dialogue platform that was used for the national visioning 2063 exercise.
4) Visible shared results as we invest in a new way of working based on the co-leadership of Heads of Agencies and the Resident Coordinator.
5) Greater ownership of the Joint Annual Workplan per UNSDCF’ pillars by national authorities, thanks to the results-based dialogues.
With gratitude to the Government of Malawi for their leadership and the partnership of the international community present in Malawi, I invite you to read our report of activities in 2020 that presents some of the most salient results, successes and lessons learned.
Our success is counted in meaningful improvements in the lives of the people of Malawi. We will spare no effort to achieve this.
UN Resident Coordinator,
Ms. Maria Jose Torres