Hannah Ryder: Closing Remarks at 1st FOCAC Sub-Forum on Poverty Reduction

Dec 9, 2015

(N.B. Hannah Ryder was Head of Policy and Partnerships from August 2014- July 2016)

Honorable Ministers,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has truly has been an honor and a pleasure to be here on behalf in Johannesburg to support the first ever Forum On China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) sub-forum on poverty reduction.  

On behalf of UNDP, I would like to first extend my gratitude and warm thanks to the South African government for hosting the conference over the past two days, the International Poverty Reduction Center for China (IPRCC) for their continued partnership in delivering this important aspect of China Africa relations, and to the Finance Center for South South Cooperation (FCSSC) for their new support to this initiative.

I have been asked, like others, to make some proposals for “what next” – an action or implementation plan that we could deliver in time for the Seventh FOCAC Ministerial in 2018. You will all give your ideas on paper through the evaluation forms on your tables, but in the meantime let me infuse your minds with some ideas.

Our starting point for next steps must be the two documents that came out of FOCAC – the Johannesburg Declaration and the 2016-2018 Action Plan, as well as the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed at the UN Summit last September. It should also be the fact that both China and Africa have not finished their trajectory to eradicating poverty, and both can learn a lot from each-other. Based on World Bank data, China has 152m people under the $1.90 poverty line, and Sub-Saharan African countries have 416m people under the same line. National poverty lines suggest around half this number. But generally the statistics illustrate the fact that this is not just a one-way relationship, one-way opportunity or one-way challenge. It is mutual.

Specifically, the new FOCAC action plan, in the section on Poverty Reduction (4.4), has four components:

1.     First, this conference itself is named as an outcome. We will continue to host it annually, and will be able to confirm the next venue soon. But importantly, we will welcome your suggestions for what worked well and what we can do to improve and evolve the format next time.

2.     Second, the action plan mentions continued workshops and training on poverty reduction. We know many of these are hosted by IPRCC in Beijing including field trips to other parts of China and we heard about a few of their results over the past few days. They should certainly continue. But we also heard about China’s work to target poverty as well as best practice from South Africa on social grants (also known as cash transfers), on working with and utilizing civil society and several other areas – some of these workshops can be framed the other way – to support China to meet its poverty challenges.  These can be part of the action plan.

3.     Third, the action plan has targets to deliver 10,000 satellite TV projects, 200 “Happy life” projects focused on women and children, and other small scale projects – perhaps in the areas of energy. We should map out together where these should take place, propose a division of labor between those of us here – including businesses and civil society, and use a variety of mechanisms we discussed over the past few days here – such as micro-finance, cash-transfers, e-commerce for farmers, relocation – to deliver outcomes. We should also use the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) and best practice impact evaluation techniques to work out what works best and is most sustainable to use going forward in different contexts.

4.     Last but not least, the action plan includes a commitment to carry out joint research and consultancy services on poverty reduction policies. We can and should focus at least some of this on localizing the SDGs as we discussed this morning – which is in fact, something that UNDP has the lead mandate on within the UN system.

These four areas are critical for us to take forward. They are the main commitments. But over the last two days we have also touched on other areas of the action plan, beyond the poverty reduction section, especially related to trade, FDI and industrialization and ensuring it is as pro-poor as possible.  There is another specific commitment to delivering “Agriculture leads to prosperity” projects in 100 villages. Therefore two more actions that I would suggest we should take forward are:

5.     During the past two days, we heard about and were impressed by both the Made In Africa Initiative (MIAI) which will be piloted immediately in Djibouti, Nigeria and Senegal, supported by UNDP and FCSSC and the ambitious Agri-Parks Initiatives the South African government will take forward. We should track the results of both of these initiatives, exchange experience, and ensure they deliver jobs, social responsible activities, and so on.

6.     Finally, as a sixth action point, we have listened keenly to presentations here touching on the importance of technicians to both China and African countries – including vocational schools as Public Private Partnerships. We could do some pilots on this as well – perhaps specifically in urban areas, targeted to young people.

For the last six years, UNDP has been privileged to work with IPRCC on these Africa-China conferences in particular.  We are very pleased that they have now been upgraded and recognized as an important input into the FOCAC agenda. But this makes our work harder not easier. South Africa and the Johannesburg action plan itself include a new commitment to monitoring and evaluation, and plans for a review of the past fifteen years of FOCAC, which will help in future communication as well as consideration of future priorities. We must contribute to this seriously through our own work over the next three years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Delivering on the new Sustainable Development Goals and ambitious poverty reduction in China and African countries will not be easy. As one of our speakers said earlier – no-one can walk the path to the SDGs alone. The hard efforts from governments, businesses, civil society and the public must begin now. We need to begin strong, equal and open partnerships to fulfill the sustainable development goals together.

Thank you once again for your attention, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with you all.

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