The UN Socio-economic response plan to COVID-19 in Montenegro

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Executive Summary The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting unprecedented challenges to Montenegro. It is first and foremost a human crisis, adding stress to the health systems and stymying economic development, and creating further challenges in achieving the SDGs. Montenegro will need to carefully consider its priorities to recover from the impacts of the health, social and economic shocks.

The UN’s Socio-Economic Response Plan to COVID19 for Montenegro has been prepared by a core team of UN staff and approved by the UN Country Team (UNCT) of Montenegro. The plan sets out the context, needs and recommended approach and follows the UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19. By no means it aims to replace the UNDAF 2017-2021, but rather complement it considering newly emerged needs triggered by COVID-19.

There are five key pillars to the UN’s offer of support to Montenegro to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis and support the recovery sustainably in the medium- to long-term. The narrative sections of the document outline the challenges faced by Montenegro and what the UN proposes as its approach to tackle them. These narrative sections provide the UN’s offer on:

  1. Ensuring that essential health services are available and protecting health systems;

  2. Enabling people to cope with the challenges created and vulnerability, through social protection and basic services;

  3. Protecting jobs, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and the most vulnerable workers in the informal sector through economic recovery programmes;

  4. Guiding the fiscal stimulus and macroeconomic policies to support the most vulnerable and strengthening multilateral and regional responses; and 5. Promoting social cohesion and investing in community-led resilience and response systems.

Montenegro is facing a multitude of challenges that are testing Government’s ability to support the most vulnerable persons and elements of society. COVID-19 is creating new vulnerabilities whilst exacerbating pressures on existing social and economic systems at global, regional and the national level. The socio-economic response plan has drawn heavily on evidence and analyses from a variety of sources including impact assessments conducted by the UN.

The pandemic is placing great strain on Montenegro’s health system, the ability to adequately provide social protection, stymying economic progress and challenging social cohesion. Montenegro successfully achieved zero cases by 24th May following the first period of infections. However, by 14th June, similar to other countries in the Western Balkans, Montenegro began experiencing a second wave of infections. The second wave highlights the scale of the task to ensure that Montenegro can deal with the challenges that COVID-19 presents to health systems, society and the wider economy.

The UNCT has approved the proposed support to a comprehensive, effective and timely response, with an emphasis on the needs of the most vulnerable groups at risk of being left behind and new groups of vulnerable people, which the COVID-19 pandemic is creating. The plan outlines priority actions to support Montenegro’s response to COVID-19 in both the immediate-term (the coming 6 months) to mitigate the current impact of the crisis, and the medium-term (the following 6-12 months) to ensure that Montenegro puts stronger structures, systems and building blocks in place to recover better.

The Secretary General outlined that the COVID-19 pandemic is a human crisis and so the focus on the response will need to be on people. Box 1 summarises the priority areas of intervention that the UN proposes to take forward in the immediate term and medium- to long-term. The UN can offer support in the form of analysis and advocacy, technical assistance and project-based support through its extensive knowledge, convening power and expertise under the five pillars. The framework is designed with the intention of supporting countries respond and recover for a period of 12-18 months.