17 June 2019
Ms. Shalina Miah, UNV Regional Manager, Asia and Pacific,
Ms. Manon Bernier, UNV Regional Portfolio Manager and Deputy, Asia and Pacific,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to be here this morning to talk about volunteerism, the UNV’s work and the UN’s work in China.
I have been working in China for almost three years now and how volunteerism is deeply embedded in the cultures and the essence of volunteering – solidarity, inclusion, community service, compassion – is highly valued.
Here in Beijing alone, among the population of around 20 million, there are over three million registered volunteers. They are putting the SDGs into action by participating in programmes and initiatives on environment, health care, youth training and community development. And volunteerism and volunteers travel beyond borders. They are providing volunteer services all over the world, making sure that no country, no community and no one is left behind.
Volunteerism is about people to people contacts across countries, societies and cultures. It is about participating in development and improving conditions for communities. It is a vehicle to achieve sustainable development: The United Nations system, including UNV, can help to deliver development assistance, either through dispatching UNVs abroad or implementing aid projects. For example, over the past ten years, 388 Chinese nationals have served as UNVs for peace and development projects all over the world, including 300 working in China, either with UN agencies in China or with our Chinese counterparts.
The timing and location of this Workshop is very critical. 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China; and the 40th anniversary of the UN’s development presence in the country. Over the past four decades, the United Nations has been partnering with the Chinese government, as well as other stakeholders, to address China’s domestic development challenges. As part of the UN Country Team here in China, UNV has been a bridge between the UN and Chinese counterparts to forge people-to-people links and facilitate two-way exchange of knowledge and know-how.
The UN’s partnership with China is evolving as China has reached upper middle-income status. We are increasingly engaged in partnering with China in finding new and innovative solutions to address existing and emerging development challenges, both domestically and globally. There is a growing international interest in documenting and learning from China’s development experience, including poverty reduction experience and sharing through South-South and trilateral cooperation. Notable examples include our collaboration on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the South South Cooperation Assistance Fund (SSCAF), where we are supporting aligning China’s initiatives with the SDGs, with a view to helping partner countries to maximize the development dividends and ultimately, accelerating the global SDG processes.
UNV’s partnership with China, which started in 1981, shortly after the first batch of UN development agencies established their presence in China in 1979, has also evolved and expanded.
In March 2019, UNV signed a new cooperation agreement with the China Youth Volunteer Association (CYVA) to deploy Chinese university and youth volunteers all over the world. Moreover, UNV, in partnership with UNDP China, is collaborating with China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, China Soong Ching Ling Science & Culture Centre for Young People on an Innovative Project on Promoting Youth Participation in Sustainable Development. UNV is also planning ahead, already engaging in the capacity building initiatives for volunteers for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
2019 also witnesses the roll-out of the UN Reform. Achieving the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals entails bold changes to the UN development systems to better meet today’s challenges. The United Nations is now engaged in a continuous process of reform to strengthen its ability to deliver to the people in need. We now have a United Nations development system that brings the UN family together. I would like to quote from the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed that “while reforms are about process, the transformation that we seek is about people.
Our efforts are geared toward implementing policies that empower those furthest behind”.
To achieve the SDGs we need to bring in as many partners as possible – and UN volunteers, an effective vehicle to deliver on the SDGs, remains an important part, and will increasingly gaining prominence in our partnerships as China rapidly moves from being a recipient of development aid to becoming a provider of it, and UNV can assist in technology transfers and best practices from China to the rest of the world.
Looking ahead, here in China we are in the first generation of UNCTs rolling out the new United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework – UNSDCF. The UNCT in China is starting our Common Country Analysis (CCA) this month as we move forward with preparation of the UNSDCF for the period of 2021-2025, as the guiding document for the UN’s collaboration with China.
The UNSDCF period coincides with the 14th Five Year Plan period and will undoubtedly need to adjust to this post-2020 development reality in China and continue a commitment to sustainability and “leaving no one behind” in joint development activities. I look forward to UNV having a role to play in the new Cooperation Framework.
In our engagements with counterparts, including those here in China and the partner countries, as well as the UNCTs in those countries, we keep hearing a few key ideas and words such as “innovation”, “the need for greater coordination” and “enhancing experience-sharing between the UN and China and between China and the world”.
As the United Nations Secretary-General said at the 2nd Belt and Road Forum, we need to “work together to restore trust by making good on the shared promise of the 2030 Agenda and our common commitment to leave no one behind”. To realize our collective goals, we need to deepen our cooperation and maximize the impact of our joint work.
Thank you for the opportunity to join you. I look forward to the interesting discussions today – to exchange experiences on promoting volunteerism with a view to achieving sustainable development. Together, we can make the world a better place for all.