Opening Speech at Sub-forum on Eco Civilization and Anti-poverty at the Eco Forum Global Annual Conference Guiyang 2014

11 Jul 2014

by Mr. Alain Noudéhou,

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

Thanks Chairman Liu Yuankun, Vice Governor of Guizhou Provincial Government,

Mr. Liu Yongfu, Minister, the State Council Leading Group of Poverty Alleviation and Development,

Mr. Wang Fuyu, Chairman of Guizhou Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference,

Dear Mr. Li Jun, Deputy Secretary of Guizhou Provincial Government, Mr. Hamid Sharif, Country Director, Asian Development Bank,

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

Good Evening!

I would like to start by thanking the Eco-Forum Global (EFG) and International Poverty Reduction Center of China (IPRCC) for inviting me to address this important sub-forum on eco-civilization and anti-poverty. I am pleased to see that so many people are still gathered here even at this late hour. 

This year’s EFG conference deliberates on “Joining Hands Globally, Leveraging Reforms to Bring Forth a New Era of Eco-civilization”. I am happy to learn, that aside from the regularly discussed topics on environmental protection and climate change mitigation, this sub-forum is putting emphasis on a people-centered approach to development. I would therefore like, to thank the State Council Leading Group of Poverty Alleviation and Development (LGOP) and the International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC), our long-standing partners, for re-affirming the close linkages that should exist between humans and nature and for setting up this sub-forum as a complement to the EFG. 

This evening, I plan to focus my statement on two of the key topics that are to be addressed by this sub forum: 1) the meaning of ecological civilization and 2) China’s increasing profile in the global fight against poverty.  The other 2 remaining topics, namely industrial development and the leading role of the poverty groups, are also well worth our reflection, but given the time allocated, allow me to concentrate on the first two that I mentioned.

As it is generally understood, ecological civilization is a holistic concept which incorporates economic, social and cultural considerations.    This concept contends that sole economic growth, at the cost of environmental degradation with limited prospects for sustainable human development, is no longer a viable choice. The notion of Eco-Civilization, strongly resonates with the concept of human development that has consistently been promoted by the United Nations.  As pointed out by Professor Amartya Sen, human development should be more concerned with advancing the richness of human life.  

In China, the United Nations Development Program has collaborated with Chinese national counterparts since 1997 on the development of NHDRs. Last year, together with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, we launched the 2013 China NHDR on Sustainable and Livable Cities: Toward an Ecological Civilization.

This report stresses that more importance should be put on respecting our natural surroundings and promotes an ethical basis for people and nature to exist in harmony. The reports also alerts us of the pressing need to address the potential paradoxes (sometimes perceived and sometimes real) between economic and human development. I have brought with me some copies of this publication which provide very good insights on the topic and I take the opportunity to invite you to join us to continue the reflection to find solutions, for equitable and sustainable development in China.

Allow me now to move to today’s second topic. China’s rising economic progress has caught the world’s attention. As the world’s growth engine, expectations are also rising for an increasing role for China in international development.  At the same time, although China has attained outstanding achievements in economic development over the past 3 decades, , the country is still faced with poverty affecting a huge number of people and other challenges such as air and water pollution, and income disparity.   I met with Minister Liu Yongfu of LGOP this Monday and he informed me that, according to the newest statistics, China still has around 120,000 poor villages and 90 million people living in poverty.  Poverty reduction, environmental sustainability and social equity are therefore key development problems still facing China.   

The challenge for the country is to find the right balance between meeting the international development support expectations that come from its leadership position and at the same time dealing with remaining poverty and other emerging challenges in China.

In short, while China continues with its progress to address emerging domestic challenges, the country is also in a good position to exchange development experiences with others.  As it is now widely acknowledged, these kinds of experience sharing and exchange are more effective and sustainable when they take in consideration local contexts and needs.   International cooperation is more meaningful and successful when we follow an inclusive and people-centered approach.  

From our part at the United Nations, we are committed to continue providing the appropriate support to the people and to the Government of China in their quest to find sustainable solutions to the national development challenges the country is facing.  

At the same time, and as you may be aware, UNDP is collaborating with IPRCC to create platforms and opportunities for exchange of development experiences between China and the rest of the developing world.  We very much look forward to sustaining this well-established collaboration to bring about sustainable and well adapted solutions to international development challenges. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

In conclusion, I want to bring to your attention that during the on-going post-2015 discussion, the eradication of poverty is emerging as the core element of the Post 2015 agenda. Achieving sustainable development with the eradication of poverty at its center will continue to remain at the center of the United Nations commitments and priorities.  

Once again I want to thank the organizers for having invited me and all of you for your kind attention.