Michela Telatin Ph.D., UNOPS Serbia Multi-country Office Director

Gender Equality As A Priority

UNOPS is a project-based UN agency that has the mission of supporting people in building better lives and supporting countries in achieving sustainable development. For the last 20 years, UNOPS has been active in Serbia as one of the most reliable partners of the government and the international community

We are proud to have contributed to a more equal society and we are thankful for the trust and collaboration of all our donors and local and international partners, with whom these results were achieved and shared,” says UNOPS Serbia Multi-Country Office Director Michela Telatin.

What have been the major achievements and the greatest recognition for you and your team?

UNOPS’ continuous presence in Serbia for over two decades is recognition of donors’ trust, of the high-quality implementation of projects that respond to the needs of the country, and of a successful methodological approach that is participatory, inclusive and transparent. UNOPS is a project-based United Nations agency that has the mission of supporting people in building better lives and supporting countries in achieving sustainable development.

UNOPS’ mandate in project management, procurement, infrastructure, human resources and financial management allows for the designing of context-specific projects that are also shaped by the UN values and private sector efficiency. We are accountable to people, to the government, to donors and their constituencies, and we see – with our headquarters in Copenhagen and operations in over 80 countries worldwide – that the relevance of having UNOPS’ expertise present is recognised across the world by countries with different levels of income and challenges.

In Serbia, we’ve been contributing to socio-economic development by supporting small businesses, good governance, social municipal infrastructure and the strengthening of social inclusion. We are at the forefront in helping the country during emergencies: rebuilding bridges and roads after the floods of 2014; and now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting public procurement and the healthcare system.

Our greatest achievement is the tangible impact that our projects and actions bring to people’s lives, while the greatest recognition for me and my team is the continuity and relevance of our work.

The UNOPS Serbia Office has become a multi-country office, providing support to North Macedonia, Montenegro and Ukraine. How do you see the path of countries working towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and EU accession?

UNOPS’ presence in a country is testimony to the United Nations’ support to governments in building their capacity to respond to the needs of their citizens. The projects implemented by UNOPS contribute to fulfilling regional and global frameworks, such as EU accession and the achieving of the Sustainable Development Goals.

We achieve this through collaborative partnerships with other members of the UN family, the European Union, bilateral donor governments and international financial institutions, but also local partners and the beneficiaries of our projects. This inclusive approach starts at the design stage of the project and represents the backbone of our modus operandi.

All of the projects that you’ve so far implemented in Serbia have sought to build a better life for citizens and achieve sustainable development. Could you divulge how UNOPS is fulfilling its mission in Serbia?

Over the course of the last 20 years, UNOPS in Serbia has implemented a vast array of projects in infrastructure, procurement, socio-economic development, good governance, health, disaster risk reduction and the environment. These projects were made possible thanks to trust and collaboration with the Government of Serbia and many donors, such as the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, the UK, Sweden, Italy, France and other members of the UN family.

UNOPS ensures that access to infrastructure is inclusive for all citizens and is not an obstacle to gender equality

For instance, hundreds of members of vulnerable groups gained access to social housing and employment opportunities, enabling them and their children to live in dignity. Hundreds of entrepreneurs were able to launch or strengthen their businesses, while municipalities were able to attract companies thanks to adequate infrastructure. Children gained access to better schools and transport infrastructure was restored following the flooding. UNOPS also ensures that access to infrastructure is inclusive for all citizens and is not an obstacle to gender equality.

Gender equality is one of the most important cross-cutting themes of UNOPS’ work globally. How does gender equality contribute to improving the overall well-being of that society?

Gender equality is at the heart of development efforts and a priority for UNOPS globally. This is because gender equality represents the backbone of a functional society in which women and men have equal rights and opportunities to achieve their potential and the potential of their families and society.

As UNOPS in Serbia, we have enabled the implementation of approximately 300 gender equality projects and supported the adoption of gender equality policies by over 50 local governments. For UNOPS, gender equality is not an addition to our field of work or a simple mainstreaming: there has been a strong and vocal corporate decision to ensure gender equality is integrated into our workforce, project implementations, analysis of needs and monitoring. This is not just a temporary focus; it is part of UNOPS’ identity and actions.

Many UNOPS implemented projects have enhanced women’s skills and enabled them to launch their own businesses. What are the key aspects of the economic empowerment of women?

Gender equality increases the economic output of a society exponentially and surpasses the investment made by governments to support it. Indeed, it is not only an issue of human rights and dignity, but rather has a huge economic dimension.

Strengthening the economic position of women has long been a part of UNOPS’ efforts in Serbia, and each woman-led enterprise has a unique history of individual commitment, resilience and hard work. One of the hundreds of these enterprises is the story of a woman who launched her own private dental practice after losing her job; another is about a creative mother who wanted to bring colours into her child’s life and now owns a renowned clothing brand.

There is also a social enterprise employing vulnerable women whose homemade products are now being exported as their operations continue to expand. These are not just localised examples. They are a reflection of the potential of Serbian society that needs to be supported and encouraged.

We are proud to have contributed to creating a more equal society and are thankful for the trust and collaboration of all our donors and the local and international partners with whom these results were achieved and shared.

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