Attendees share views and experience on poverty relief at the International Forum on Reform and Opening Up and Poverty Reduction in Beijing on November 2 (LU YAN)
The International Forum on Reform and Opening Up and Poverty Reduction in China was held in Beijing on November 1-2. The event's theme was International Cooperation on Poverty Reduction: Building a Community With a Shared Future for Humanity. Attended by more than 400 representatives of governments, business, and academia from 51 countries and 11 international organizations, the forum served as a platform for participants to exchange ideas on various issues. Topics discussed included the role of China's reform and opening up in poverty alleviation, innovative practices in poverty relief in the new era, and world poverty reduction and development. Following is an edited version of attendees' comments:
Liu Yongfu, Director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development
Over the past 40 years, more than 800 million people in China have worked their way out of poverty and made a major contribution to global poverty alleviation. The number of people living in poverty in China is expected to be reduced by a further 80 percent by the end of the year. China aims to eliminate rural poverty by 2020, 10 years ahead of the reduction goals set by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
China's efforts can be attributed to strong leadership, a clear poverty alleviation target, precise basic strategies, and strict policy implementation.
Despite China's success, there are still challenges ahead. Over 30 million people still live precarious lives. We are fully aware that our development is unbalanced and inadequate. Also, winning the war against absolute poverty doesn't erase the fact that relative poverty will still exist for a long time.
To continuously make progress, China is willing to learn from its sister countries and conduct international exchanges and cooperation with them, in order to jointly push forward the poverty reduction package.
Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program
One of the defining features of China's success in eradicating extreme poverty is its multi-dimensional approach. China tackles the issue not just from a per-capita income perspective but also from the risk of falling back into poverty, human capital, public services, and social infrastructure which creates a safety net to prevent regression.
This is one of the distinguishing hallmarks in China's journey. It's not just based on a developmental design in a technical sense, but based on a deeper commitment to a balanced approach to progress.
In China, leaving no one behind—one of the powerful commitments of the sustainable development goals—has been one of the driving principles over the past 40 years. The rural economy, geography, generational divides and investment in education were all significant contributors to lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty while maintaining accelerated economic growth. China also transformed from a nation from what was originally a country in the lowest category of the UN human development index to rising to the highest.
It's also remarkable to see China's increasing engagement in the context of global development by being a prominent actor in helping countries dealing with their development challenges. They are sharing lessons of their own journey and supporting countries in seeking their own pathway, principally through the Belt and Road Initiative.
K. V. Kamath, President of the New Development Bank
Today around 700 million people still live in extreme poverty and the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target to eliminate poverty in all its forms by 2030 is a challenge which lies ahead. In order to make further progress in achieving poverty reduction, as well as delivering a better life for the world's poorest citizens, several areas need to be addressed. One of the most critical is a provision of quality infrastructure across all sectors. There is also an urgent need to maintain and renovate existing infrastructure in many countries.
Infrastructure drives economic growth during the investment phase and has a multiplier effect thereafter. It creates long-term productivity gains and facilitates poverty alleviation and job creation. If we want to pursue a poverty reduction agenda where gains are shared by all, it needs to begin with access to quality infrastructure for all.
However, the future landscape for infrastructure is changing rapidly. We stand today at the dawn of a new industrial revolution where technology-led innovation is transforming the way we perceive products, services, and our physical space. These developments will have a material impact on how we perceive and think about poverty alleviation.
The infrastructure that we need to build today, for use over the next several decades, is fundamentally different from what we have built in the past. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that the impact of technology will completely revolutionize approaches to economic development and service delivery and therefore has the potential to achieve exponential gains in poverty reduction.
Here again, there are several examples from China. The Ping An Good Doctor, China's largest online healthcare platform provides artificial intelligence-based medical services to nearly 200 million users, is revolutionizing healthcare provision. The contribution of the Alipay and WeChat Pay platforms to financial transactions and the financial inclusion has also been colossal.
These, and more innovations like these, will continue to transform the world at an ever-accelerating pace and make huge contributions to poverty reduction going forward. What we will need to do is ensure that a comprehensive ecosystem, including infrastructure, is in place to enable these innovations to happen, just as China has done.
Jin Liqun, President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
Our late leader Deng Xiaoping paved the way for China's continued upward movement on the global production chain through the reform and opening up of China. Once the national agenda was set, the entire nation never compromised on its single-minded commitment to economic development and unwavering adherence to broad-based economic and social development.
At the very outset, China attached great importance to the experience of many other countries—developed or developing—by applying these experiences to the Chinese context in a creative and innovative style.
These initiatives bore fruit because of a Chinese traditional virtue: self-reliance. This quality has always been close to the Chinese. And with the new era of reform and opening up, this virtue took on a new relevance.
While depending on its own labors, China continued to actively engage development partners for financial and technical support. China's success story is a tale of balance between national efforts and international cooperation. Reform and opening up are implicit to national ownership and the elusive answer to what seems to be the myth of China's success.
A country should never allow itself to be left with only one model, with no options or new approaches to explore. Rather, the country should move with the times. It should reform and open up. It should restructure its economy to adapt to the global situation. It should adjust its position against global financial trends as the permanent backdrop.
Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
China's progress in poverty eradication has been truly extraordinary. Looking at China today—as the world's second-largest economy—and its dramatic progress in all areas of human development, it is hard to imagine that as recently as 1981, 88 percent of the population lived below the international poverty line. It was China's outstanding progress in poverty reduction between 1990 and 2005 that allowed the world to reach the second-millennium development goal of halving extreme poverty.
Much of this progress came from improvements in agriculture following the reforms of the 1980s. This is a significant achievement and one that confirms the importance of governments having the wisdom and vision to implement policies and direct investments.
Even as China works toward overcoming poverty in rural areas, it has been helping other countries around the world. I note that China's foreign aid rose from $631 million to almost $3 billion between 2003 and 2015. With respect to agricultural development, China has provided substantial aid and investment, especially in Africa, including technical cooperation.
IFAD's partnership with China dates to 1981 when China became an IFAD Member State. We know that, in partnership, China and IFAD can be extremely effective in reducing rural poverty. Earlier this year, for example, China and IFAD set up a South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) Facility at IFAD. The Facility aims to be a resource for expertise, knowledge, and resources that can promote business-to-business links and investments across developing countries.
I invite China to support traditional and new international financial institutions alike. In this way, we can strengthen partnership among multilateral development organizations for improving food security and nutrition as well as fighting poverty. This, in turn, will move us closer to achieving a key element of the SDGs.