COVID-19 and the world of work

IFAD statement for the August edition of the MPTF Informal Economies Recovery Project Monthly Newsletter

By Tawfiq El-Zabri, IFAD Country Director, Pacific Island States

Statement | 31 August 2021
Tawfiq El-Zabri
This is a moment of mixed, conflicting feelings for me: it is a pleasure to share with you a message from IFAD, in relation to the Inclusive Economic Recovery through Sustainable Enterprises in the Informal Economies project jointly implemented through an IFAD, ILO, UNESCO and UNDP partnership. This special project reflects the efforts of four UN agencies to bring their different competencies, resources and partnerships to bolster the response of key service providers, in Fiji, Palau, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, to the coronavirus pandemic.

It is also a moment in which my colleagues and I feel great sorrow and concern. The pandemic has uprooted lives and livelihoods in the Pacific and across the world. Not only has it changed the world in unforeseen ways, it also raises a number of uncertainties about the world we live in, and continues to challenge our outlooks for the future.

Perhaps more than ever before, this is a moment time that calls on the United Nations family to realise the idiom of leaving no one behind. More so, it requires that we leave no stone unturned in our commitment to protect Pacific Islands households, already threatened by alarming changes in the climate, from additional threats to their personal, social, and economic well-being.

A UN agency and international financing institution, IFAD is mandated by its member states to invest in rural people – in particular to help overcome rural poverty and achieve food security through remunerative, sustainable and resilient rural livelihoods. Making a positive and lasting impact on rural poverty requires the capacity both to implement tried and tested practices as well as to respond to new challenges and opportunities as they emerge. In this joint initiative with our partner UN agencies, IFAD is augmenting its support to rural communities by expanding and linking its assistance to business advisory services and to digital outreach solutions, ensuring such services reach vulnerable population segments in remote and rural areas, and supporting economic recovery through economic diversification and food and nutrition security.

Women and youth are provided with business and technical skills in agriculture as well as traditional arts, and improved access to productive resources. IFAD will train smallholder farmers, fishers and agribusinesses in COVID-safe post-harvest handling, and food preservation for longer shelf life. Market actors will be supported in safe food distribution through the introduction of COVID-19 safety protocols along the supply chains. The programme also aims to support agribusinesses through promotion of locally grown food, and by expanding the opportunities for them to engage with government purchasing programmes. The initiative will scale up tested digital solutions for market linkages, agricultural advice and nutrition awareness, and IFAD will support crowdsourcing of food production and consumption data, displaying these through easy data visualization products.

The recognition and the will for a more resilient and successful Pacific agriculture- as an economic backbone of rural households in the Pacific – now seems stronger than ever. This joint UN initiative offers a partnership platform for like-minded institutions and stakeholders to collaborate with a broad range of Pacific public and private actors to improve employment and income generation. These partnerships are of immense value to the UN and to IFAD’s mission, for enhancing the resilience and sustainable growth of domestic food systems. They offer an opportunity for the informal economy to be built back better; an opportunity we want to leverage towards delivering meaningful benefits to Pacific Island communities.