Helen Clark: 30th Anniversary Celebration of UNDP’s presence in China

27 Nov 2009

Remarks of Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
On the occasion of the 30th Anniversary Celebration of UNDP’s presence in China,
and photo exhibition of China’s Participation in the Greater Tumen Initiative
 Friday, 27 November 2009, Beijing

Mr. Chen Zhili, President of All China Women’s Federation,Mr. Yi Xiaozhun, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Commerce,Mr. Chen Weigen, Vice Governor of Jilin Province,Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen, Ni Men Hao! It is a great honour for me to join you here today as we celebrate 30 years of co-operation between China and UNDP.

I am most grateful to UNDP’s co-hosts - the Ministry of Commerce and the People’s Government of Jilin Province - for their help in organizing this important event.

Last month also marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

Coming from New Zealand, and in my new capacity as Administrator of UNDP, I am well aware of the dynamism of China, its ongoing transformation, and the many development gains it has made in recent years.

The UN estimates that 475 million people were lifted from extreme poverty between 1990 and 2005 in China.

This unprecedented achievement has helped bring about incredible improvements in people’s lives in just one generation.

China will very likely meet all the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. By 2007, for instance, almost all girls were enrolled in primary education, and the under-5 mortality rate has decreased by more than two thirds, from 61 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1991 to 18.1.

The Chinese people should be proud of their extraordinary economic and social progress.

UNDP is pleased that is has been able to partner with China and contribute to its development over the past thirty years.

Overall, UNDP has provided over $1 billion of assistance to China. This year alone we will deliver over $75 million in support.

But the size is less important the nature of our assistance. 

In the early years of our presence, we mainly implemented projects to support livelihood creation and the introduction of industrial and agricultural technologies.

As China has transformed, so too has our support. Increasingly, UNDP has been providing China with strategic policy options to meet its development goals, working in areas such as poverty reduction, protecting the environment, and promoting the rule of law.

UNDP has helped China access the best and most relevant development knowledge and solutions from other parts of the world, including for the establishment of China’s special economic zones.

In carrying out our work, UNDP has been fortunate to have the Ministry of Commerce and the China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges as our partners, building bridges for us to work with people and government at the local, provincial and national levels.

Today, as we celebrate 30 years of partnership, we must also look forward.

We must understand what the remaining priority development challenges in China are, and where UNDP and the UN development system can help in overcoming them.

Three such areas in particular merit attention.

The first is tackling climate change. This is one of the most pressing development challenges our world faces. It may be difficult to reach a high quality, new climate agreement in Copenhagen. But such a deal is urgently needed.

I am delighted that UNDP and China are already working closely together as China takes steps towards becoming a lower carbon economy.

UNDP is supporting China’s efforts to be more energy efficient, including through its development of sustainable cities.

In 2030, it is estimated that 350 million more people will live in Chinese cities as compared to 2005. Accommodating them presents a unique opportunity to build green, urban communities from the start.

We are assisting China as it seeks to use more renewable energy. This is an area where China can be a world leader, exporting knowledge and technology, and demonstrating that economic growth is fully compatible with protecting our planet.

UNDP also helps China in its climate change adaptation efforts. In recent times, China has battled unprecedented rains, floods and cold weather which have affected millions of people.

Here and elsewhere it is important to integrate climate and broader environmental considerations into our development thinking and planning.  Spending our resources responsibly means factoring climate risk into future development investments.

Second, the number of people living in poverty is still high despite the incredible development progress in recent decades.

As China itself acknowledges, there are still a number of economic and social differences to be overcome : between west and east; rich and poor; and urban and rural. As well, others such as ethnic minorities, migrant workers, and people living with HIV may be vulnerable or face discrimination.

UNDP will continue to support China in addressing these gaps, in combating poverty, and in advancing its efforts to achieve a “Xiaokang” society.

UNDP, and the rest of the UN system, will also continue to support China in implementing global norms, conventions and standards.

Third, we need to build on the many successes of China’s own development experience. UNDP looks forward to working closely alongside and in support of China as it plays an ever more important part in global affairs.

Geopolitical shifts mean that development partnerships in the 21st century will be very different from those of the past.

Already China is one of Africa's most significant partners, lending support to African countries in areas as such as infrastructure development, agriculture and education. China recently decided $10 billion in preferential loans to Africa over the next three years.

UNDP’s longstanding presence across Africa makes us a strong partner to work there with China in mitigating and adapting to climate change, reducing poverty and achieving the MDGs, and strengthening the private sector.

China also has so many experiences and useful technologies available to assist other developing countries meet their development challenges. 

An important part of our role at UNDP is to support and facilitate the exchange of development experience and knowledge across the South to where they can be most useful.

Scaling up our joint work on South-South co-operation is a particular priority for me.

For instance, the International Poverty Reduction Centre in China, supported by UNDP, is one vehicle through which we can strengthen our collaboration in sharing across the developing world China’s lessons in reducing poverty.

We will also continue to help facilitate China’s engagement with its neighbours.

One UNDP programme currently helps assists trade and investment between China and Vietnam through a cross-border economic zone.

Another is the Greater Tumen Initiative, showcased here today through the impressive photo exhibition sponsored by Jilin Province. This Initiative brings together China, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia and Russia to co-operate on regional projects which encourage economic growth, improve living standards, and contribute to peace and stability in northeast Asia. Beyond this region, China has a vital role to play in all these areas too.

The multiple crises the world is grappling with reflect our interdependence, and require a reinvigorated multilateral system.

China’s role in such a system is significant to the rest of the world. Its economic progress, its leadership on global issues, and its active engagement with the United Nations are so important for overcoming the crises we face and achieve the MDGs.

As President Hu Jintao said at the United Nations General Assembly in September : “We should aim for common progress, bearing in mind not only the interests of our own people, but also those of the people of the whole world, and expand converging interests.”

As we look ahead, I hope UNDP can strengthen even further its partnership with China to advance our shared goals, and to tackle the great challenges of our time.

Working together with the Chinese Government, civil society, and private sector we can help reduce poverty and promote sustainable development, both in China and beyond.

Once again, congratulations to UNDP and China on this 30th anniversary. I wish China many more successes.