Islamabad, Pakistan, June 24, 2020 – United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) together with Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) organized the webinar “COVID-19 and the Private Sector: A Call to Action” that opened up the discussion on the challenges faced by the private sector in Pakistan, as well as sharing activities and actions taken by companies globally to fight COVID-19.

The private sector has a pivotal role in COVID-19 response in Pakistan with its critical know-how of the national environment, community outreach and its resources. UNDP Pakistan is working closely with the private sector for its involvement in the national COVID response strategy, acting as a platform for mutual dialogue, exchange of ideas, and establishing intersections for collaboration in various sectors.

Shah Muhammad Azhar, moderating the session “COVID-19 and the Private Sector: A Call to Action”, opened the webinar by emphasizing the uncertainty of the times of pandemic, drawbacks it caused on economies and businesses globally and the essentiality of a global response, highlighting the private sectors fundamental role to achieve a global response and particularly the Sustainable Development Goals. He then welcomed, the speakers, IICPSD Director Sahba Sobhani and UNDP Pakistan Policy Analyst Umer Akhlaq Malik.

Umer Akhlaq Malik spoke on UNDP’s close cooperation with Pakistan government in COVID-19 response and SDG Initiatives, providing capacity support in crisis management and provision of digital solutions to enable business continuity. He stressed how the pandemic effected countries in variety of aspects including basic health services, social protection, employment, supply chain disruptions and macroeconomic aspects and private sector. He quoted example of local surveys in Pakistan identifying the impact of COVID-19 on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). 48% of the respondent enterprises reported laying off employees, 95% reported reduction in operations due to the disruptions of the supply chain, while 73% completely shut down their operations, 23% reported up to a 100% loss of their export orders.

Mr. Sahba Sobhani explained that each country is and will be affected differently from COVID-19 and a customized approach is essential. He pointed out that the pandemic creates a multidimensional crisis, becoming a socio-economic crisis as well as a critical public health danger: “This is the first time that a combined decision-making is expected from ministry of Health, Trade, Economics, Interior, Foreign Affairs…”

Mr. Sobhani also stated that opportunities emerged for local players of the private sector as the international trade stopped due to local lockdowns especially regarding food security and supply chains. Local lockdowns also bolstered digitalization, in addition to telecommuting, Mr. Sobhani touched upon input transparency and data sharing globally to understand and fight with the spread of the virus.

UNDP is leading UN’s socio-economic response to COVID-19 crisis in collaboration with WHO, created a comprehensive response mechanism, ensuring an SDG aligned, low-carbon and green recovery for the globe. New initiatives are integrated to its existing portfolio to provide comprehensive private sector engagement support across 3 response priorities: Health Systems, Inclusive and Integrated Crisis Management and Social and Economic Impact Needs Assessment.

UNDP works to keep all people, households and businesses afloat in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. 

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