Sharing the Planet, One Bike at a Time

23 May 2017

image An Ofo bike parked outside the UNDP China office, Beijing

By Patrick Haverman - Bike sharing runs in the family. My brother is the inventor of bike sharing in the Netherlands, and in the 1990s he started a system where at most of the train stations you could rent a bike for 23 hours at relatively low costs to get from the station to your destination and back. The system is popularly known as ‘The Last Mile.’ When I first arrived at UNDP China, I was determined to follow in the footsteps of my brother, and soon with the office we introduced a bicycle-share scheme. First a quick prototype and later scaled up to 30 bikes for all UN agencies in China, donated by Giant Bikes. The bikes are free to use for meetings and staff can even use them to go for lunch, encouraging healthy habits and a low-carbon lifestyle. The world is moving at an astonishing pace, with new ideas and innovations appearing every day. While there are currently around 1.2bn petroleum-emitting vehicles on the world’s roads, in September 2016, Beijing witnessed a sudden explosion of bicycles, with thousands of colorful bikes covering the streets and hutongs in orange and yellow. The yellow bikes, rolled out by ofo, a  READ MORE

Multilateralism and the Chinese Dream

19 Apr 2017

image A wind farm outside Tianjin. Credit: Mitch Moxley/IPS

By Nicholas Rosellini - “Pursuing protectionism is like locking oneself in a dark room,” Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the assembled leaders at the World Economic Forum earlier this year. “While wind and rain may be kept outside, that dark room will also block light and air.” All signs are that China has been heeding its own advice. With the current geopolitical balance seeming to teeter on every tweet, China’s brand of multilateralism – which President Xi has described as “a win-win, opening-up strategy,” an engine of development for the world – is an alternative to the zero-sum calculus that has fed a wave of nationalism across developed countries. At the United Nations, where Member States have pledged to ‘leave no one behind’ with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, China has been positioning itself as a champion for inclusive growth and peace. China’s engagement combines development assistance, soft loans and direct investment, reimagining possibilities in a transformed landscape in which leveraged financing, rather than grant-making, is fast becoming the new normal. China has become the largest contributor of troops and second-largest contributor of funds to UN peacekeeping missions among the five permanent members of the Security Council, which also include  READ MORE

Can Africa grab the window of opportunity and ride on China’s economic transformation?

10 Apr 2017

Industrialization for job creation and poverty reduction in Africa- case from Rwanda

When President Alassane Ouattara during the opening of the 2nd International Conference on Emerging Africa (ICEA) 28th March in Cote d’Ivoire declared that time has come for African countries to seriously and rapidly move forward in creating a conducive environment for industrialization, the Presidents of Guinea, Senegal and Liberia were quick to echo the call for Governments and private sector – local as well as international – to form stronger partnerships for economic growth. At the heart of this push lies the basic need for increasing industrialization as an important sustainable and long-term solution to job creation, peace and poverty reduction. Concrete examples from Rwanda and Ethiopia point to a significant potential for some African countries to attract Chinese investments in manufacturing that both creates jobs and expands exports to European and American markets of garments, textiles, shoes and other light manufacturing. Against the backdrop of the ICEA, UNDP launched a Senior Advisory board that aims at advocating for the potential but also challenges. But how representative are these experiences? Can a wider set of countries show similar trends? While Africa achieved impressive economic growth over the past 15 years with the average gross real domestic product (GDP) rising from just  READ MORE

The need to move beyond Demonstration – expanding renewable energy solutions in partnership with China

10 Apr 2017

image Hawa Adams, a vegetable farmer with the the other leaders of the farmers' group. Credit: UNDP Ghana

I recently met Hawa Adams, a vegetable farmer. Hawa lives with her husband and eight children in Tamalgu, a farming community in northern Ghana. She complements her income through a pilot demonstration initiative together with UNDP and local NGO, New Energy. Over the past two years, she and 77 other families in the community have been testing enhanced agriculture production methods using drip- and regular irrigation. She smiles when I ask her to speak about some of the benefits of the initiative. Schooling for her children, access to health services and additional income for the household. And, most importantly: there are no more hungry months for her and the family to go through. Power is scarce across sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 1.2 billion people that live without electricity, half lives in Africa. Combined with the fact that by 2040, Africa will need 4 times of its current consumption given increase in GDP, a doubling of population, electricity-access levels reaching more than 70 percent by 2040, and overall increased urbanization. By 2040, sub-Saharan Africa will consume as much electricity as India and Latin America combined did in 2010. Given the key importance of expanding access to affordable and stable power supply for  READ MORE

Innovation exchange in Pakistan - the Sky is the limit!

31 Mar 2017

image Patrick Haverman meets with UNDP Pakistan colleagues

By Patrick Haverman - Last month I visited Islamabad, where I joined UNDP Pakistan for a workshop discussing innovation. This was to be the first time I would visit Pakistan, a country I have heard a lot about from my colleagues who work there, and on my flight from Beijing I was excited and curious to find out more about the great work going on there. With almost 200 million habitants, and a 2% population growth rate, Pakistan is the world’s sixth most populous country. The South Asian country faces major development challenges, ranking 147th on the Human Development Index, with 30 percent of its population living below the poverty line and only a 60 percent literacy rate. The population is also extremely young, with almost 64 percent of people under the age of 30. According to the National Human Development Report (NHDR), over four million individuals reach the youth working age of 15 every year, and thus Pakistan is currently in the midst of a ‘Youth bulge’. However, the report has found that a large number of young people are currently employed in poor quality jobs, 25% in unstable low paid jobs without any security or benefits, and 35% unpaid  READ MORE

Where Are We Going With Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?

16 Dec 2016


By Patrick Haverman - I just came back from Wuzhen, a nice ancient touristic town in Zhejiang province. Since president Xi attended last year’s “world Internet forum”, it has gained the attention of the Internet World. The ideas of these conferences are not only focusing on applying big data in justice systems, poverty and living standards, but also inspiring us to think about how technology will transform the next generations in the future. It gave me a lot of food for thought on several topics of the future. One of the sessions focused on the application of big data and smart tools in the judicial procedures, and as UNDP has been working for many years with the Supreme People’s Court of China, I was actively participating. During the session organized by the chief justice of China, Mr. Zhou on “Rule of Law and Building Smart Courts”, judges and experts from China, Samoa, Bolivia, UK, Russia, Vietnam and Kazakhstan had a good discussion on this topic. The presentations from the Chinese side were impressive. In this big country with its 1,3 billion people and numerous judicial cases each year, it is incredible that 91 million cases have been put together in the  READ MORE

Happy Peace Day

21 Sep 2016

image Building Blocks for Peace. Image Credit: UN

By Patrick Haverman- On the 21st September every year is the International Day of Peace. In what has been a turbulent year on the international stage, maybe more than before it’s important that we stand still for a moment and give some thought to the fact that there is much more in life that connects all human beings than divides us. Unfortunately, there are still wars and conflict raging over the planet. A couple of years ago I started juggling for peace, hoping that by inspiring more people to juggle we could bring more joy to the world. This year, I was playing around with Apple playlists, and was inspired by some people who had created playlists of Peace Songs. There is something about music that seems to make it the perfect partner for social change. Music has the power to move us and inspire us. It can bring about change and make a difference. The power of music was one of the dynamic topics discussed in Beijing at the Social Good Summit last Sunday. Let me share with you today, on this 21st September, my own 21 favourite songs about peace. I hope that by listening to some of these  READ MORE

Being a flexitarian and contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas

22 Jun 2016


By Patrick Haverman - What good news yesterday to hear about China's plan to cut meat consumption by 50%. It’s been cheered by both climate campaigners and health experts alike. I stopped buying meat at the beginning of 2014. This change in my lifestyle was brought about mainly environmental reasons but also because it was becoming clearer that vegetables are simply healthier for your body then meat. To save the animals, reduce CO2 emissions on the planet and at the same time live longer and healthier…. It all seemed a logical choice to me. With my wife only eating fish the cut back was not that difficult to implement into our daily lives. To explain this new diet identity to people I use the term ‘flexitarian’. Here in China we often eat at large round tables with a “lazy Susan” in the middle, a big round glass plate which rotates on an axis. Everybody orders a couple of dishes and you all share during the meal. As I don’t wish to be the difficult person at the table during these dinners (and to taste some meat once in a while), I just eat whatever is ordered, which includes a little bit  READ MORE

Sharing is Caring: Replicating solutions to the global e-waste challenge

16 Jun 2016

image A collection of selfies from the highly successful 'Meet-you-walks' activity.

By Patrick Haverman -  Last week we invited delegations from 13 different countries to come visit us here in China. Our visitors came from India, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Jordan Mexico, Maldives, Egypt and Zambia. The visitors were not coming to China for the usual reasons, not to see the Great Wall, nor the Forbidden City. They were here to learn about something that amounts to more than 35 Great Walls of China, and that is e-waste! (Did you know there are 2.6 billion smart phones in use worldwide? If you were to lay them end to end you would have 35 Great Walls of China!) More specifically, they were here to learn about the innovations and solutions that China has been using to tackle the issue of e-waste and how these can be replicated and applied in their own countries. Over a three day interactive and diverse workshop organized by our colleagues from the innovation and environment team, the delegates visited the Ministry of Environment and Protection (MEP/FECO), took a field trip to a recycling factory and finished up at the headquarters of our private sector partner, Baidu. Determined to create a workshop that was engaging  READ MORE

Why Two New FOCAC Commitments Could Help Improve Africa-China Relations

23 May 2016

image Hannah Ryder at a special exhibition in the margins of the FOCAC Summit in Johannesburg. Discovering new projects in China has helped deliver in African countries over the last 60 years. In future, maybe all this information will be available to everyone and anyone, even online.

By Hannah Ryder (N.B. Hannah Ryder was Head of Policy and Partnerships from August 2014- July 2016) Late last year and early this year African heads of state and Government leaders gathered together at two key events. The first was the 6th summit of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). The second was the 26th African Union Summit, hosted at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was built by China in 2012 as a signal of an ever-strengthening relationship with the continent. In the margins of both summits, various non-governmental and business organisations held ‘side events’ - on themes such as HIV and AIDS, women's empowerment, and wildlife protection. The DEGRP and SAIIA workshop on the future of China-Africa relations was one such event, and was striking both for the breadth of issues discussed and the diversity of perspectives around the table. Speakers and delegates addressed topics from industrialisation to peacekeeping, with both supportive and sceptical views represented. Yet one issue was consistently raised – the ongoing lack of credible, multi-country data to supplement and reinforce the rigorous research already being conducted. Many are working hard to address this. For instance, Professor Deborah Brautigam presented new information  READ MORE