On 6 November 2020, mayors and deputy mayors of 35 mid-sized cities in Uzbekistan completed an online training on transforming cities by developing business and enhancing the service sector, supported by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), under its Cities Project framework.
Service sectors have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, since the outbreak of the pandemic, the world has registered the largest decline on record in international tourism flows. Disruptions in services supply are having a devastating socio-economic impact, such as unemployment and poverty. Support to these service sectors will be key to the recovery from the economic slowdown and ensuring that no one is left behind.
This one-week online training workshop was initiated by the Uzbekistan Republican Graduate School of Business and Management (GSBE), under the Ministry of the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction of the Republic of Uzbekistan, to transform these cities to become service-oriented for all population by supporting entrepreneurship and enhancing their service sector, for the mayors and their deputies in mid-size Uzbek cities. The program focused on innovative solutions in the areas of digitalization, e-commerce, public-private partnership (PPP), and entrepreneurship.
As a co-organizing partner, United Nations Development Programme in Uzbekistan (UNDP) invited the UNOSSC Cities Project team to join hands in this initiative. The project team, therefore, mobilized eight trainers from China Academy of Social Science, Southeast University of China, Nanjing University, and Nanjing Academy of Social Science of China. Moreover, the project team mobilized funding support from the China Association for Trade in Services (CATIS).
UNOSSC Deputy Director Dr. Xiaojun Grace Wang shared a video message at the opening of the workshop. “Knowledge comes from our day-to-day reality facing development challenges. That day-to-day reality of the world today is about the cities and towns where you are from,” stated Dr. Wang. Further, she shared that, in cities and towns, policymakers are consistently seeking solutions to enable better livelihood, better equality and opportunities, as well as sustainable growth pathways, which is why local authorities and stakeholders are important to South-South and triangular cooperation.
According to post-training survey results collected on 10 November, 94 per cent of survey participants considered that the workshop had delivered the information they expected on public services development and innovation. 9 per cent of participants indicated willingness to engage with the UNOSSC Cities Project in development needs assessment and project collaboration. Speaking of cities to engage in and collaborate with, 71 per cent of the participants chose cities in China.
Following this workshop, the project team will follow up with participants who expressed demands for support in establishing city-to-city partnerships with Chinese cities as well as cities in other developing countries, and develop a booklet capitalizing on the knowledge and good practices showcased in the workshop as a kind of project service to benefit more cities in the global South.