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Opening Remarks for Briefing Meeting with Member States on UNSDCF Implementation-31 August 2021



Good morning, Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,


The fact that we are gathering here today like this in large numbers is emblematic of a successful public health response. In many parts of the world, we are still seeing the scourge of the pandemic, yet here we can connect confidently, knowing that we are in a safe space. Therefore, I would like to start by commending China’s public health response and the fact that we have been able to adhere to certain protocols and principles by which we are able to continue to interact and have a sense of normalcy as we move forward.


Thank you very much for coming to this meeting today. In fact, it’s my first real collective interaction with senior leadership of missions and embassies here.  I joined the United Nations China office back in January. I come with a mandate to lead the UN country team and support China in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.


Let’s look at the chapter of the United Nations and go back and reflect on a very significant moment of 1945. When President Harry Truman led the effort of really giving shape and velocity to the principles of multilateralism and the creation of the United Nations. China was the first signatory of the UN Charter in San Francisco in 1945. But it was only in October 1971, with the Chinese delegation led by Mr. Qiao Guanhua, that China's representation at the UN resumed. This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the restoration of China’s lawful seat in the UN.


The UN has been a trusted development partner of China, with the first UN office in China opened back in 1979. In the four decades since, the role of the UN in China has shifted from that of a traditional donor to that of a partner providing technical expertise and support, both within and beyond its national boundaries, including in its activities under the framework of South-South Cooperation. We have witnessed the profound economic and social transformations that have taken place in the country since the introduction of reforms in the late 1970s.


During this time, China:

              Lifted over 750 million people out of absolute poverty;

              Invested in public health and education, investing in human capital, thus making possible a happier and healthier workforce that contributed to economic productivity;

              Became the world's manufacturing centre, based on a growth model of foreign investments, resource-intensive manufacturing, cheap labour, and exports;

              Multiplied its per capita GDP from USD 180 in 1979 to an incredible USD 12,000 today.


Notwithstanding this extraordinary achievement, the development gaps between and within urban and rural areas, between coastal, central and western provinces and regions, and among different populations remain a big challenge for China. Relative poverty, persistent inequalities (among regions, income groups, population groups), and environmental deterioration are existing issues also faced by China. That is why the timing of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan is so crucial, as it sets out to bridge these gaps and inequalities.


The UN in China has been continuing with the people and Government of China in addressing these development challenges, through the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) for China. Today we would like to take this opportunity to give you an update on the UNSDCF implementation.

 

UNSDCF

China is one of the first UNSDCF roll-out countries after the UN reforms. This year we are embarking on a new cycle of cooperation with China, as outlined in the UNSDCF 2021-2025. The UNSDCF is the most important strategic instrument for planning and implementation of the UN development activities in China in support of the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.


China’s experience is a source of hope and inspiration for many other countries still facing poverty and aspiring to sustainable development. We cannot miss the opportunity to leverage its experience, expertise and resources beyond its borders and support, influence, and steer the agenda to assist the Government of China in developing its overseas cooperation and investment efforts according to best international norms and practices.


My vision is based on the belief that China has an important role in the community of nations, which the United Nations, through its legitimacy and convening powers, can support towards the achievement of shared objectives, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


The modalities of our engagement will continue to be those of the Cooperation Framework.

 

UNSDCF Implementation and Leave No One Behind

To ensure an integrated and coordinated UN response to UNSDCF implementation, we established three Results Groups in alignment with the three priorities (People and Prosperity, Planet and Partnerships) laid out in the UNSDCF, and four Theme Groups on Gender, Disability, Youth and Leaving No One Behind to ensure our work focuses on the rights and wellbeing of the most vulnerable groups in China.


Through the mechanism of UN inter-agency working groups, we developed a Joint Work Plan to operationalize the Cooperation Framework. The UN’s work in China contributes to all 17 SDGs, with a total annual budget of more than USD 105 million for 2021.


Same as the Cooperation Framework, our Joint Work Plan is also rooted in the normative agenda of the UN, aiming to Leave No One Behind.


Within China, many of our projects are implemented in the underdeveloped areas of central and western China. We work closely with and for the most vulnerable groups, such as children facing different difficulties, women, rural smallholder farmers, informal sector workers, elderly people, ethnic and religious minorities, persons with disabilities, people living with HIV, LGBTI communities, victims of human trafficking, and refugees.


Beyond China, we are leveraging China’s resources, experiences and expertise, and building capacity to better provide international cooperation and assistance in line with international standards and in our efforts to meet the SDGs everywhere.


Through the UN, China has provided development and humanitarian assistance to more than 40 countries. The total funds mobilized from China to partner countries is estimated at about USD 160 million. This number is still increasing.


The UN will continue working with China to influence and strengthen China’s capacity for international cooperation and assistance, enhance its alignment with the 2030 Agenda and maximize the potential of China’s international initiatives and engagements for SDGs achievement.


As part of this process, I am keen to engage with all stakeholders, including the private sector, State owned enterprises, academic and scientific communities, in partnership platforms aimed at leveraging knowledge and resources to achieve the SDGs, in China and beyond.  I invite you to be part of this process, to steer it and to strengthen it.


My experiences from Africa convince me of the enormous potential of partnerships, as I have seen first-hand the reduction of maternal mortality in parts of Kenya, when Huawei (China), Merck (USA), GSK(United Kingdom), Philips(Netherlands) and Safaricom(Kenya) partnered up with the UN to reduce maternal mortality. We demonstrated the incredible potential of harnessing big data, technology, and innovation to accelerate the SDGs. This success in reducing maternal deaths together with the UN family-UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO, was showcased as a best practice at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2017.

 



A road from the port of Lamu through Northeast Kenya to Addis Ababa, built by a Chinese company and co-financed by the EU, Africa Development Bank, Kenya, and Ethiopia, transformed lives and livelihoods by generating commerce and employment and spurring the local economy along the way. It even ended internecine conflicts between the tribes inhabiting the Kenya-Ethiopia border in the Moyale Borna region, Northern Kenya, and Southern Ethiopia.

 

 

Before: The Isiolo-Moyale Road

After: The Nairobi – Nanyuki – Marsabit – Moyale Road


The Standard Gauge railway was a game-changer in improving access and cutting travel time for goods, services and people between Nairobi and Mombasa.

 


Mombasa — Nairobi section of the SGR in 2017 is transporting increasing number of passengers and cargo


Member States Engagement in UNSDCF implementation

As our work on the implementation of the UNSDCF gets underway, we continue to rely on Member States’ guidance on the way forward.


Many of you are already working closely with us on many issues, and providing financial and technical support, for which we are most grateful. For example:


              EU support to UN Women: to increase the capacities and access to markets and financial services of women-owned SMEs;

              EU and Switzerland support to ILO: to promote Chinese enterprises in global supply chains and BRI initiatives to adopt sustainable, competitive, responsible and inclusive practices;

              The Netherlands support to UNDP regionally: to enhance LGBTI community groups’ capacity and participation in dialogue and advocacy and improve their access to social services.


Moreover, many of you are also supporting us in a number of important thematic areas. As you have probably heard, together with the Irish Embassy, we held a dialogue on the SDG Partnership Platform on Rural Revitalization and Food Systems Transformation on 14 May 2021. The dialogue was attended by several high-level Chinese officials, including from MOFA and MARA, several Ambassadors based in China, and high-profile figures from academia, and businesses including the US Chamber of Commerce and the British Chamber of Commerce joined. Now we are working on establishing this platform and welcome your engagement in this ambitious initiative.


In addition, we are planning a Joint Dialogue on Promoting Gender in Achieving the SDGs together with the UAE Embassy in China in the fall.


Discussions are also ongoing with a number of African countries on rural revitalization and in support of the FOCAC process.


One of the main mechanisms for the implementation of the UNSDCF is the Joint Steering Committee. As you know, this is a joint UN-China mechanism, and we are in discussions with our Chinese counterparts to expand the membership of the Committee.  The Government of China has signaled that it is open to the possibility of including in the Committee a number of Member States, notably those with ongoing programs in the country. We will keep pushing this forward.


But we know this is not enough. We have heard your clear calls for closer consultations and engagement on the UNSDCF implementation.


For this reason, we are committed to establishing a regular and structured engagement with all Member States: not simply to brief you on challenges and progress, but most importantly to hear your views and have your guidance on the way forward.


Today, we announce a set of two substantive opportunities per year to engage with all Member States on the UNSDCF implementation progress and results. These engagements will take the form of substantive briefings, one in the spring and one in the fall, to retroactively assess progress made but also to present plans for efforts and initiatives going forward.


I will chair those engagements myself and rely on the work of the Results Groups and the Theme Groups. The Chairs of the Groups and I will be at your disposal. We are also open to focus those opportunities on specific themes of your choosing.


Overall, my message is that we want Member States to be fully engaged in the implementation of the UNSDCF. More than that: we need your guidance and added value on the implementation.

 

Update of UN Reform

Finally, I also want to brief you on the state of progress of the UN Reform. In China, the RCO was officially delinked from UNDP in January 2019. Since then, the UN Reform in this country has been going well and achieved preliminary successes. The UN in China has been changing the past sectoral and projectized working modality and transforming to a more collaborative fashion and cross-sectoral working culture.



Programmatically, the UN country team in China have come together on joint planning and programming, developing the UNSDCF 2021-2025 for China in a collective effort. As mentioned previously, a Joint Workplan and inter-agency coordination and governance mechanisms have been established to support the implementation of the Cooperation Framework. Under the Framework, more joint initiatives and activities across different UN agencies are happening. 


UN agencies have also signed and committed to Compact for Efficient and Effective Delivery of China’s UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2021-2025. Agencies agreed to a UNCT code of conduct, which is in line with the UN Development System Management and Accountability Framework (MAF), a core pillar for the reform.


The Secretary-General asks all of us to work as one UN, operating according to the principles of mutual recognition and adopting best practices where possible. He wants UN agencies to collaborate, avoid duplication and find efficiency gains. This is precisely what the Business Operations Strategy (BOS) and Common Back office sets out to do.


The UN Secretary-General would like to see a new generation of UN Country Teams and Common Back Office functions. The Business Operations Strategy is a key driver to make it effective. It will allow us to have programme demands in a timely manner and with quality standards. Timeliness is critical more than ever considering the global challenges we encounter now.


As the UN Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, said, “Reform is not an end in itself. The purpose of reform is simple and clear: to best position the UN to deliver on humanity’s boldest agenda: the sustainable development goals; to better serve people: People in need. People with hope. People who look to use to help improve their lives and also to improve our world at time of spiraling challenges and rapid, dramatic change.”


As the Resident Coordinator in China, I am leading, coordinating and strategically positioning the UN country team in China to advance the UN reform agenda and make the UN system in this country fit for purpose and deliver on the UNSDCF as one, in a way that leaves no one behind.

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