Opening Remarks at the UN-Government of China Launching Workshop On UNSDCF 2021-2025 by Mr. Nicholas Rosellini, United Nations Resident Coordinator

15 October 2019

 

Dear Mr. Zhang Shaogang, Director General, Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs, Ministry of Commerce,

Dear colleagues from our government counterpart ministries and departments, and the UN Country Team in China,

 

Good morning.

 

On behalf of the United Nations system in China, I would like to start by thanking MOFCOM and the Department of International Trade and Economic Affairs for convening the first government-wide consultation with the UN in China to prepare for the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2021 to 2025. 

 

China is one of the first roll-out countries for the UNSDCF. Since May, when we gathered at MOFCOM for the UNDAF Mid-Term-Review, we have organized a series of consultation meetings with government counterparts, including the State Council Leading Group on Poverty Reduction and Development, the National Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and most recently, China International Development Cooperation Agency – most of which are present here today. These meetings helped us, both our government counterparts, and the UN in China, to better understandeach other’s priorities; and more importantly, how to align these priorities and forge a common ground.

 

All our efforts are centered on supporting countries’ efforts to  achieve the SDGs. The level of ambition of the 2030 Agenda is unprecedented. The needs on the ground are immense and urgent, and the 2030 Agenda represents a historic challenge and opportunity for multilateralism. For these reasons, the UN has embarked on an ambitious series of reforms that recognize that the UN must renew itself to better support countries in achieving the 2030 Agenda. 

 

The UNSDCF is a core component of the UN Reform at the country level. It is a framework based on the national development landscape and the UN’s collective offer to provide quality support to countries in achieving the 2030 Agenda. The cycle of the UNSDCF for China coincides with that of the 14thFive Year Plan, which is intended to ensure the UNSDCF priorities are aligned with China’s development priorities. 

 

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a common framework for identifying such priorities. Its focus on sustainability – economic, social and environmental – and on leaving no one behind that resonates with China’s interest in quality and people-centered development. China’s championing of South-South Cooperation reflects the 2030 Agenda’s emphasis on partnerships. 

 

The successful implementation of the ambitious 2030 Agenda will depend on new and strengthened partnership involving governments, businesses and civil society at global, regional, national and sub-national levels. The financing gap to achieve the SDGs in developing countries is estimated to be USD 2.5 - 3 trillion per year.[1]This will need additional public and private investment in addition to ODA.  

 

For this reason, the UN is working with countries to explore new financing models to cover the needed investment through facilitating new partnerships between local governments, the private sector and foundations.

 

The UN Common Country Analysis (the CCA) is the UN system’s collective analysis of the country situation. The CCA examines the progress, gaps, opportunities and bottlenecks vis-a-vis the member state’s commitment to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, UN norms and standards and the principles of the UN Charter. In line with the UNSDCF’s expanded notion of partnerships, the CCA also presents an important opportunity to engage with relevant stakeholders, through continuous and inclusive dialogue to address amongst others complex issues of inequality and exclusion. This will both support CCA preparation and familiarize key stakeholders with the overall UNSDCF purpose and preparation process. 

 

Throughout the summer, the UN Team on Common Country Analysis has been collecting data and inputs from different agencies and external sources, and consulting within the UN system and government partners for developing the CCA. Our past efforts in gauging the understanding of common priorities through the CCA exercise, and equally important, how to effectively and efficiently deliver on the priorities in the coming years, have culminated into today’s Workshop. We will be able to share the findings from the CCA with all of you and use them to prepare the UNSDCF. 

 

As you can see from the Agenda, we have framed the UN’s interactions based on issues including Multidimensional Poverty, Social Protection, Health, Environment and Climate Change, and South-South Cooperation. These issues are extracted from the CCA and are expected to cover the broad spectrum of the UN-China collaboration during the next UNSDCF cycle. We anticipate these issues and priorities fit well with the context of China as an upper-middle-income country, faced with emerging risks and challenges.

 

China has made extraordinary progress on poverty reduction over the past decades. It has been a pioneer in driving the 2030 Agenda and implementing the SDGs, both at home and abroad. Eradicating extreme poverty by 2020 will be a landmark achievement. It also brings to our attention the next generation of development challenges, which go beyond extreme poverty, and are comprised of more complex, intertwined issues that require a holistic and cross-sectoral approach to tackle successfully.

 

Domestically, to walk the last mile of poverty alleviation and shift the focus towards high-quality development resonates with the SDGs as sustainable development aims to achieve all-round development, provide access to quality services including health and education and is people-centered; we repeatedly remind ourselves to leave no one behind, with efforts focused on reaching the furthest behind first. Anticipating the more complex development challenges ahead of us, the UN is committed to address these challenges under the UNSDCF. 

 

A crucial requisite for our support is a comprehensive quantitative understanding of what challenges remain, and we count on the Government to gain increased access to disaggregated data as well as access to work in the poorest regions, including the Western Provinces. 

 

It is anticipated that Global Partnerships will continue to gain prominence in our collaboration, mainly through South-South Cooperation, including initiatives such as the Belt and Road and funding windows like the SSCAF. We will continue to act as facilitator for China’s Global Partnerships aligned to the SDGs, through helping to bridge the information gaps that often exist in partner countries on potential collaboration opportunities with China. Building on the experience gained through working on China’s domestic development, we can also help support the alignment of China’s South-South Cooperation activities with the 2030 Agenda by promoting the focus on disadvantaged groups and supporting adherence to international conventions in China’s engagements abroad. 

 

Globally, combatting Climate Change is the defining challenge of our time and given its size and technological advancements, China could become a champion on Climate Action. With measures taken by China to reduce emissions and tackle environmental challenges not only having positive impacts within China, but on a global scale. 

 

The UN Reform is not only about changing the UN’s internal working arrangements, but also about changing UN member state behavior. Engaging with a UN System that is more coordinated and unified in its approach vis-à-vis the host country will help to reduce the transaction cost for the government in comparison to the previous system of individualized engagements with individual agencies, funds and programmes. That is why we are conducting the broad-based consultations between the UN Country Team and the majority of our government counterparts.

 

We hope today’s Workshop would allow us to go beyond the mandate of individual agencies, funds and programmes from the UN side, and ministries and departments from the government side; and instead create a venue to forge common understanding on what are our shared priorities and how to deliver on them in a coordinated and concerted manner. But today’s Workshop should not be perceived as the finishing touch on the preparations for the UNSDCF. 

 

On the contrary, throughout the planning and implementation process of the UNSDCF, we should have a mechanism to allow us to meet and review regularly, on whether we are on track to achieve the goals as set; and should we encounter any hold-ups, work immediately together on how to take instant remedies to avoid progress going off-track. The UNSDCF, unlike the previous UNDAFs, will have a clear-cut M&E framework, and has to be linked to budgets. 

 

We would therefore strongly propose to develop a multi-year work plan with the Government, to help to provide clearer predictions of budget and priority areas, allowing the UN to better align with other funding sources and therefore maximize the impact of our joint efforts and expedite to the global SDG process. 

 

As China has moved up the income ladder, the UN agencies are no longer donors, but development cooperation partners with China. To deliver on the expectations of the UN Reform, the UN and China need to think through on the funding modalities to enable the UN to provide more integrated support to the implementation of the SDG’s in China, in the context of the UNSDCF and given China’s position as a middle-income-country. Similarly, we need to positively consider the possibility of a UN House in Beijing that could accommodate a larger number of UN agencies to support the goal of achieving more cost-efficient UN presence. 

 

I would like to quote the UN SG from the Opening of the 74thSession of the UNGA, “today’s world is rapidly changing. Our challenges are global and increasingly interlinked.” I hope today’s Workshop can contribute to a better understanding of how to overcome those interlinking challenges we collectively face through better collaboration, and to better position us to work together to deliver on the ambitious 2030 Agenda and our common commitment to leave no one behind.

 

Thank you!



[1]UNCTAD (2014). World Investment Report.

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