Helen Clark: Speech at the Opening of Third China-Eurasia Forum

Sep 2, 2013

I am very pleased to address you at this opening session of the 3rd China-Eurasia Expo here in Urumqi, Xinjiang.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), along with sister United Nations’ organizations UNIDO and UNCTAD, is delighted to be a co-sponsor of the 3rd China-Eurasia Expo. We support and encourage the regional co-operation and development being promoted under the Expo’s framework.

Within this region, we have seen a number of countries embark on an unprecedented economic transition marked by an emphasis on market reforms and on regional and global integration. Eurasia is recognized as a growth engine for the wider world. Asia alone accounts for more than a quarter of global economic wealth and is home to four of the ten biggest world economies.

At the same time, countries in the region face both remaining and emerging challenges. I would like to focus on two of these challenges: social inclusion and environmental sustainability. Both are essential to the region's development and stability. Both are also areas where international and regional co-operation can be of high value.

On social inclusion, we all know from experience that different types of economic growth models produce different results. Some types of growth translate into human development outcomes better than others. UNDP and the UN development system as a whole advocate for growth models which are socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. Such models should lift people out of poverty quickly, ensure work and livelihoods for all, raise health and education standards, and leave nobody behind.

UNDP uses the Human Development Index to measure human progress. It goes beyond measuring GDP growth to measure the overall wellbeing of people. According to this Index, countries including, for example, China, Turkey, Iran, and Thailand have been particularly effective in translating their economic gains into human development. Some countries,however, have made only incremental progress. And, even in countries which have made enormous strides overall, there are still regions and population groups lagging behind.

The challenge is to make growth more inclusive and human-centered, so that it embraces all groups in society. That ensures that development builds long term peace and prosperity. In this dynamic region, there are many experiences of inclusive development which can be shared. This China-Eurasia meeting can be a forum for that.

The second challenge I would like to address is environmental sustainability.

We live in a world where traditional development models have taken the environment for granted. But our planet’s carrying capacity is limited, and we are increasingly running up against those limits. This part of Eurasia suffers from a set of environmental challenges, not least desertification, water scarcity, and various forms of pollution.

As the impact of climate change is increasingly felt, the region will likely experience further desertification.That will adversely affect food production and the availability of water, posing particular problems for low income households. In China currently,deserts encompass over thirty per cent of the total land territory, impacting on over 400 million people.

Many central and local governments in China and elsewhere in Eurasia are making enormous efforts to combat environmental degradation.Environmental protection needs to be high on the list of priority issues for all to tackle because of its importance to human health and well being – and to future economic growth too.

To help confront and tackle these important issues, UNDP is working with national partners across China and Central Asia to support the development of green economies and resilient societies. UNDP’s efforts in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have advanced sustainability, supporting communities to manage their resources and bolstering regional capacity to do so. Our water governance programme has enhanced water allocation, irrigation, and safe drinking water facilities through the establishment of local water user associations at village levels in Xinjiang. Across Central Asia, UNDP has also assisted countries to eliminate hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide by investing in low carbon technologies, energy efficient practices, sustainable transport,and renewable energy. These are just a few examples of our development assistance in the region.

UNDP has development programmes and country offices for all Eurasian countries.We are not only immersed in the specific context of each country, but also appreciate the shared challenges. That leads us to be an enthusiastic proponent of sharing knowledge and experience through South South and triangular co-operation. For example, when the Government of Tajikistan requested UNDP assistance in learning from China's great successes in poverty reduction to inform its own national poverty reduction strategy, we facilitated the matching of Tajikistan's specific interest and China's experience to ensure a successful exchange. UNDP is doing the same between China and other Asian countries and between China and Africa.

I would like to conclude by thanking the China- Eurasia Expo organizers and the Government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region for organizing this important event and for their warm welcome.

I hope that the enhanced openness, mutual trust, and co-development promoted by this Expo will result not only in greater trade and investment, but also in greater collaboration for achieving poverty eradication, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. I wish the 3rd China-Eurasia Expo great success toward these ends, and thank you for your attention.

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