Global Forum Promotes Dialogue, Urges Anti-Poverty Action
A high-level forum kicked off today in Beijing to mark the 21st International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, convening top government officials, international development experts, and renowned scholars including a Nobel Prize-winning economist, for idea-sharing sessions on how to accelerate local and global anti-poverty action against the backdrop of rapid urbanization.
The Forum is an annual event jointly organised by the Government of China and the United Nations in China. As a globally recognised platform for improving policy coherence and coordination, the event this year attracted over 300 participants from China and other countries, including Bangladesh, Botswana, Colombia, India, Iran, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, and Tanzania, among others.
Christophe Bahuet, Resident Representative ad interim of UNDP China, relayed a message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the forum’s opening ceremony. In his message, Mr. Ban addressed the importance of planning ahead: “The post-2015 agenda must have poverty eradication as its highest priority and sustainable development at its core. After all, the only way to make poverty eradication irreversible is by putting the world on a sustainable development path.”
The primary aim of this year’s forum was to address China’s unprecedented surge of urbanization and accompanying challenges such as rural-urban migration, new types of poverty faced by disadvantaged groups, and how to improve public policy in a rapidly evolving development landscape. Leaders called for greater global commitment to bridging socioeconomic disparities and promoting social inclusion.
“Over 95 percent of future urban expansion will take place in developing countries, mostly in Asia and Africa. China’s efforts at achieving social reforms will be watched closely around the world as other countries follow its leadership on urbanization and poverty reduction,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan. Her opening remarks paralleled findings from the 2013 National Human Development Report entitled “Sustainable and Liveable Cities: Toward Ecological Civilisation” which states that economic, social, and environmental challenges must be considered together to make cities in China more sustainable and liveable.
Other key speakers at the forum included Mr. Wang Yang, Vice Premier of China; Mr. Robert Mundell, 1999 Nobel Laureate in Economics; and Mr. Fan Xiaojian, Director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of China (LGOP).
During his speech, Vice Premier Wang Yang outlined implications of China’s immense pace of urbanization, remarking: “China's urbanization rate reached 52.6 percent in 2012, a 1.3 percent increase from the previous year. As we deepen reform and strive to readjust the nation’s economic structure, we must take advantage of this critical period to achieve aspirations of an all-around Xiaokang Society and introduce new means of poverty alleviation.”
Though the number of Chinese citizens living below the 1.25 dollar-a-day poverty line set by the World Bank has already decreased from 446 million in 1999 to 160 million in 2009, Mr. Wang advises renewing efforts to find a more effective urbanization path. Strategies moving forward should emphasise urban-rural integration, continuing to strengthen China’s core agricultural base at the same time that they are advancing urban development.
Mr. Wang also called for heightened poverty alleviation efforts in all regions, especially the underdeveloped Western provinces. He applauded urbanization that makes improvement a constant goal, innovates institutional practices, and has people at its center. Keynote speeches given throughout the day also stressed equitable access to basic infrastructure and broad-based social services, including education and healthcare. Focused attention was given to redesigning management of vulnerable demographic groups such as migrant workers and the ageing population, in hopes of achieving meaningful inclusion of all people living in poverty.
Methods on managing new forms of poverty such as multidimensional poverty and urban poverty were among the hot-button topics, with experts leading discussion on how to deliver aid to those who need it most. Accelerating efforts to achieve global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eradicating aid programme conditionality obstacles, and building on sustainability commitments was highlighted as high priority.
Discussion on the post-2015 development framework also posited new ideas on how development cooperation can serve to further sustainable development goals. Increased collaboration via a stronger global South will be a major asset to the future of development.
“South-South Cooperation is a critical tool in the battle against poverty,” commented Ms. Grynspan. “International partnerships between cities in these regions have been actively used to facilitate knowledge exchange and technology transfer in order to make great strides in development.”