Geneva, 16 April 2020

Excellencies, Friends of UNITAR,

We, the Board of Trustees of UNITAR, are deeply concerned about the profound impacts and disruptions being caused by COVID-19. Our concern is first and foremost for the immediate human loss and suffering especially for those who face the most vulnerabilities in withstanding the shocks. But beyond this we know that the economic and social upheavals that the pandemic is generating will last for a long time. We endorse the UN Secretary-General’s urgent call for action and with this statement share the vision of UNITAR in helping to respond to the immediate crisis and contribute to shaping a better  more inclusive world.

Many challenges lie ahead for an organisation like UNITAR, many decisions need to be made but the basic mission of building capacity for benefitting the most vulnerable people and nations through knowledge and training remains as valid today as it did fifty seven years ago when the Institute was established. Decision-making based on evidence, knowledge and best practice must become part of the culture for countries, organisations and institutions. Creating this learning mindset and attitudinal change is the core of UNITAR’s mission.

Maintaining our Institute as world class for training and learning. The COVID-19 crisis has brought to the fore many issues, but we are struck by the mixed, inaccurate and false messaging which has spread through various media, especially social media. The influence such messaging has on policy makers and all stakeholders has been intense. UNITAR’s task in public awareness, education and learning is to establish the gold standard on knowledge applying standards and using the best expertise in the world whether in the government, academic, business or civil society space. UNITAR will continue to build knowledge platforms that support the main pillars of its work – Peace and Security, SDG learning, Satellite applications, Planet, Diplomatic training, People and Prosperity. Health will be one of the areas where future efforts will be intensified.

Today, the primary focus of the world is on public health and affordable and accessible public health systems that cater to the needs of everyone in society. To help plan better UNITAR will strengthen its partnership with the WHO, academic and medical schools to bring capacity building to the community level; closer to the frontline in addressing the current crisis. Our current portfolio of work on tackling Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and promoting better nutrition and safe surgery will be expanded to include infectious diseases, preparedness, and increasing availability and access to affordable and appropriate life changing assistive technology. The content of all our training will continue to be of the highest standards, with our methodological and pedagogical approaches to learning drawing on the frontiers of advancements in this domain. We will work to make the UNITAR brand an assurance of quality and topical knowledge.

Maintaining our expertise, networks and staffing. Over the decades UNITAR has established deep networks of expertise, knowledge resources and alumni. Many of the diplomats in New York, Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi as well as in diplomatic services have, at some time, benefitted from our multilateral and other diplomatic training. The portfolio of other issues on which we build capacity cover all the pillars of the UN’s work. Apart from headquarters in Geneva we have offices in Hiroshima, Port Harcourt and New York as well as affiliated training centres in 21 cities round the world to amplify our work. Since February this year, our Defeat-NCD Partnership has UNITAR technical experts on health financing and public health embedded within the NCD departments of the Ministry of Health in Myanmar and Rwanda, supporting these countries in developing their costed action plans to scale up action on NCDs. And we have a small and dedicated core staff. UNITAR needs to maintain these networks, expertise and staff. We need to look to expand the pool of expertise to continually ensure high quality content, build more partnerships and grow our networks for greater impact.

Seeking new pedagogical approaches and training methodologies. Technology, especially enhanced connectivity is making possible an exponential growth in the number of beneficiaries that UNITAR can reach. The world is getting used to online learning, virtual classrooms and meetings, as well as many other networking systems and tools. Leveraging its expertise and online platforms, UNITAR will switch to these forms of training and exchange wherever possible. There is the issue of reaching those without internet access and in bridging the digital divide. With a specific focus on sub-Sahara Africa, we would like to invest in building the capacity and comfort zones of distance-based engagement among our many partners in the region. Further, we would like to explore partnerships to amplify our reach through other media, for example through radio networks, especially to those most affected. What is clear is that we need to reach people in the millions rather than the tens of thousands if the derived changes are to take root. UNITAR will harness the existing and new technologies to grow its outreach and number of beneficiaries.

The current shock will bring in its wake several aftershocks not only in the area of health, but also in economic, social and environmental dimensions. As the world rethinks responses to protect everyone from these aftershocks and to build back better through the recovery process UNITAR will be part of the solution in bringing the knowledge and lessons learned for a better world.

We are thankful to our donors for their support and we count on your continued support and engagement as we pursue UNITAR’s mission and work.

Yours sincerely, on behalf of UNITAR’s Board of Trustees,


Ambassador Luis Gallegos

Chair, Board of Trustees, UNITAR

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