China has overall contributed achieving 76 percent of global poverty reduction to date. Many developing countries see China as an inspiration for achieving development results, said Agi Veres, Country Director of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in China, during an exclusive interview with Chinagate.cn. Excerpts as follow:
Chinagate.cn: What are UNDP's evaluations to China's poverty reduction efforts?
Agi Veres: The progress made by China in its development-oriented poverty reduction effort has had a major impact on the global poverty reduction process.
In particular, and according to China's Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a report prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China and the UN Country Team in China, China managed to achieve MDG1--the goal focused on poverty reduction--well ahead of time, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. China has also met others goals, such as those relating to universal primary education, safe drinking water and sanitation, and maternal mortality.
While several other developing countries also met such goals--for example 20 countries as different as Bangladesh, Malawi and Brazil met MDG1, of course they met them to a far smaller absolute scale compared to China. It is estimated that China has overall contributed overall achieving 76 percent of global poverty reduction to date.
This happened because China was focused on it.
For instance, from the 1990s onwards, the Chinese Government began to develop national poverty reduction strategies. In 1994, the first-ever poverty relief action plan in China's history was released, with clearly defined objectives, targets, measures and a deadline to help lift 80 million people out of poverty. This was followed by two further China Rural Poverty Reduction and Development Programs from 2001-2010 and 2011-2020.
Similarly, the State Council Leading Group of Poverty Alleviation and Development and its Office (LGOP) is a very special and important government mechanism for consolidating efforts for effective poverty reduction. Few countries have this sort of agency, and we believe it demonstrates just how much China prioritizes reducing poverty. Indeed, the funding allocated to poverty reduction has continued to increase, and more favorable policies are being adopted constantly to provide a more enabling environment to strengthen people’s self-resilience.
Over the past 30 years, UNDP including with and through the International Poverty Reduction Center in China, has been assisting in this process through comprehensive and innovative approaches aimed at addressing the root causes of poverty. For example, UNDP established microfinance pilots in 49 counties across 17 provinces and autonomous regions as early as 1994. We continue to support poor and low-income farmers and entrepreneurs in remote rural areas even today, with more innovative approaches being piloted, such as credit cooperatives, agent banking and mobile banking, often targeted specifically at ethnic minority women.
What are UNDP's comments on China's promises to fulfill the post-2015 sustainable development goals?
In May this year, China became one of the first countries--even before the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed at the UN Summit this September--to commit to integrating the SDGs in its national development plan. This commitment was a major first step, and UNDP strongly welcomed President Xi's address to the UN General Assembly as it was very positive in this regard.
The year 2016 in particular will be critical for making this integration happen. Indeed, now is when the work really begins. And there are three activities that are critical.
First, in each country including China the global goals now need to be prioritized and adapted to national priorities. Here in China, that means linking the global goals and China's next Five-Year Plan, which will run from 2016 to 2020. It is already clear that China's next Five-Year Plan will emphasize stable economic growth, structural economic shifts, and priority areas such as green growth, ensuring well-being and poverty eradication. There may therefore be a smaller number of the global goals that are extremely pertinent for China to prioritize. China can use those prioritized global goals as a means to examine the plan, attract new ideas and policy suggestions in particular areas. The UN can support this process, and share such ideas.
Second, the global goals now need to be tracked. For this, data will be critical. From collecting household data to inform poverty reduction strategies, to collecting industry data to support economic and environmental management, to using data to create and manage smart cities, China is a leader on the data front. Creating the right systems to track progress of all the global goals in China, especially where there still remain gaps such as on the extent of major illnesses such as HIV and AIDs, will be critical. China can count on the UN to support this process, as we did during the millennium goals era.
And last but not least, the global goals will now need to be implemented. For this, in China, the actions by provincial and local governments as well as businesses and non-governmental organisations will be critical. All of these actors need to be fully aware of the global goals, the specific priority goals for China, and commit themselves to implementing them at the same time as they also commit to delivering the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). That is why forums like the Global Poverty Forum, convened by LGOP, which bring together a range of partners--from the very high level to the grassroots level--are critical. A key lesson from the millennium development goals era is that we cannot make global goals a reality unless we all know them well and we join hands together.
UNDP and the Chinese Government have joined hands together for over 30 years. We have worked together to eliminate poverty, to address environmental challenges, and more recently partnered to share China's unique development experiences with the world, while also supporting China to strengthen its approach to South-South and Global Cooperation. In the global goals era, we will remain steadfast development partners.
What is China's role to realize global poverty reduction goals?
When UNDP first set up office in China over 30 years ago, we were focused on supporting China to eliminate poverty, to address environmental challenges, and address many more domestic challenges. However, more recently over the last 5 years we have been also partnering with China to share its unique development experiences with the world, while also supporting China to strengthen its approach to South-South and Global Cooperation.
This is very important. Many developing countries see China as an inspiration for achieving development results, as its development experiences are recent and very relevant--many developing countries have similar institutions and challenges that China faced 30 years ago. At the same time, China is also signaling that it wants to have a positive impact on the achievement of the global goals by other countries.
Thus, China's announcements at the UN Summit and U.S. visit related to increasing South-South Cooperation are very welcome indeed. Specifically, China earmarked new pledges to a number of UN agencies, and announced new or larger funds, as well as new institutions for managing scholarships and training provided to other developing countries, debt cancellation for several developing countries, and new contributions to peacekeeping forces. While details are yet to be released on how the funds and institutions will be managed and linked to existing Chinese bilateral commitments, they are nevertheless welcome as a much needed and unique contribution to supporting other developing countries to meet the SDGs.
Globally, UNDP has 469 projects across 133 countries that have integrated South-South Cooperation as a modality to deliver sustainable development results, and we also host the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, which helps coordinate the work in this area across all the UN agencies. Furthermore, China and UNDP have recently completed the first-ever triangular pilot cooperation with Cambodia, targeting 200,000 cassava farmers, processors and exporters to enhance exports from Cambodia and thereby improve their livelihoods sustainably. With Bangladesh and Nepal, China and UNDP have established a strong disaster risk reduction network spanning 2,000 community volunteers, and in Zambia and Ghana, China and UNDP are sharing best-practices in renewable energy transfer. UNDP has also supported China's South-South Cooperation policy, for example through input to China's Second White Paper on Foreign Aid which was published in 2014. UNDP therefore looks forward to continued and increasing collaboration with the Chinese Government in this area.
What are the biggest difficulties for China to implement its further poverty reduction process?
The final MDG report for China released in July 2015 by the UN and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows that there are three key remaining domestic challenges for China in meeting all the eight MDGs. The first is in terms of environment, especially preserving biodiversity. This has major effects not just in China but also beyond its borders, and the government is now taking very seriously. The second in terms of health--especially with regard to tackling HIV and AIDS and other major diseases--which will be important. And the third is in terms of ensuring affordable housing and amenities for the poorest people in urban areas, which will become even more critical as urbanization continues in China.
Looking beyond the MDGs to the SDGs, the goal relating to managing rising inequality is also likely to be a challenge. Last but not least, China has already announced a stretching goal of eradicating remaining poverty by 2020, which will also be key, especially in terms of actually ensuring people do not fall back into poverty due to natural disasters and climate change.
China's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) is likely to emphasize stable economic growth combined with a human development agenda, including priority areas such as environmental issues, people's livelihoods and well-being and poverty eradication, and all of these are well in line with the objectives envisaged under the SDGs.
(Chinagate.cn October 15, 2015)