Synergy between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Green “Belt and Road”
by Mr. Nicholas Rosellini,
United Nations Resident Coordinator
7th July 2018
- Honorable leaders,
- Distinguished guests,
- Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to start by expressing my appreciation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, and the Development Research Center of the State Council for hosting this event on “Synergy between the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Green “Belt and Road”, as well as the Guizhou Provincial Government and the Center for International Knowledge on Development for organizing it.
The topic of today’s session is one that we attach great importance to in the UN. The potential opportunities to create synergies between the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and to generate important development and environmental benefits, make it highly relevant for the UN agencies here in China. In connection to the Belt and Road Forum last year, more 15 UN agencies signed various types of agreement with Chinese partners on BRI. At the heart of these agreements is the commitment of both sides to cooperate to create synergies between the two initiatives by ensuring sustainability, both social and environmental, in BRI engagements.
While the BRI and the 2030 Agenda are different in nature and scope, they – in many respects – share a similar vision and a set of basic principles.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all Member States in 2015, is a universal plan of action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.
Its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 associated targets, touching upon almost every aspect of development, are unique in that they call for action by all countries to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth, that address social needs including education, health, social protection, and that generate jobs and livelihoods, while at the same time tackling climate change and ensuring environmental protection. In other words, the 2030 Agenda places “Sustainability” at its heart, both social and environmental.
The spirit of the Belt and Road Initiative is to promote win-win cooperation, common development and prosperity, peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, and mutual understanding and trust. As evident, this vision is to a large extent in line with that of the 2030 Agenda.
Given the alignment between the two initiatives and the scope of the BRI – which covers a vast population of 4.4 billion and an economic output of $21 trillion in more than 70 countries – it has the potential to provide a powerful platform for promoting the achievement of the SDGs.
However, the key to the success of the BRI in having such a positive accelerating role will depend on the ability of BRI engagements to bring not only economic development, but also sustainable development, which transforms local communities, helps reduce poverty, and facilitates inclusive social development, while protecting the environment.
Let me start by returning to the collaboration between China and the UN on BRI. As the main multilateral organization driving the 2030 Agenda, the UN in partnership with China, has a special role to play when it comes to ensuring that the two initiatives reinforce each other in a way that creates synergies.
Through the collaboration agreements I mentioned, the UN fulfills this role by providing support to both investors and the recipients of the investments to strengthen their capacities to ensure that projects under the BRI are sustainable both from a social and environmental perspective.
One critical aspect to ensure that BRI brings sustainable outcomes, is through ensuring that BRI engagements are aligned with national priorities of partner countries and are responding to their development needs. Equally important is to ensure that investments adhere to social and environmental standards.
In practice, ensuring social and environmental sustainability, requires policymakers to have the capacity to not only select projects and investments based on sustainability. It also requires the capacity to enforce responsible investment principles and practices throughout the investment cycle.
However, the responsibility for ensuring sustainability does not only lie with the recipients of the investments, it also lies with the investors.
Here I would like to note that the SDGs framework can be used directly to help investors ensure sustainability and manage risks. The goals themselves can serve as a framework of orientation and evaluation to BRI-associated decision making at all levels, by providing orienting principles to planning, implementation, monitoring and accountability. Evaluating investments properly against the goals can also help ensure that adverse social and environmental impacts are minimized.
I would also like to highlight the progress made by some Chinese firms. For instance, the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals & Chemicals Importers & Exporters has established Guidelines for Social Responsibility in Outbound Mining Investments, which are the first social responsibility standards in the natural resources field in China, the first standards to regulate domestic enterprises’ overseas behavior, and the first inclusive, comprehensive, international social responsibility standards in the global mining industry.
Another good example comes from the textile industry, where the China National Textile and Apparel Council, is actively promoting responsible investment principles and practices in the countries looking for investments. These principles incorporate comprehensive due diligence and feasibility management standards that includes social and environmental factors prior, during, and after the completion of the investment.
Additionally, China’s new initiatives to integrate standards and principles such as the Responsible Cobalt Initiative (RCI) and the Guidance for Sustainable Natural Rubber (SNR) are effective measures ensure environmental sustainability in investments.
In sum, for synergies to be created between the 2030 Agenda and the BRI, BRI engagements should offer more than just economic returns, they have to be sustainable in social and environmental terms. Only then can we talk about a Green Belt and Road, contributing to inclusive and sustainable development.