Alain Noudehou: Opening Speech At The Innovative Growth That Benefits All

Dec 29, 2015

Opening speech at the Innovative Growth that Benefits All: International Forum on Sustainable Cities in China

Launch of the China Sustainable Cities Report

By Mr. Alain Noudéhou

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

 (N.B. Alain Noudehou was China UN Resident Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative from 2014-2016)

-Mr. Yu Shaoliang, Vice President, Xinhua News Agency

-Honorable Mayors, Vice Mayors here present

-Excellencies, Ambassadors & Members of the Diplomatic Corps

-Representatives and colleagues of the UN family,

-Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great honour that I would like to warmly welcome all of you to this International Forum on Sustainable Cities in China on the theme of Innovative Growth that Benefits All. We are very pleased to launch today the 2015 China Sustainable Cities Report: Ecological and Human Development, which is the result of a strong partnership between UNDP, Xinhua News and Tongji University on the critical issue of urban sustainability  that is so relevant for the development process here in China and in the world. 

2015 has been a very important year for setting global development agendas. In March, in Sendai, Japan, the UN member states adopted a new framework for disaster risk reduction. In July, a new global agenda for financing development was agreed upon in Addis Ababa. In September, the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in New York and at COP21 Meeting in Paris, we have just witnessed the world come together to negotiate a new agreement on climate change. The year 2016 will see the beginning of the implementation of the New 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and as the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said, "Our struggle for global sustainability will be won or lost in our cities".

China is playing a vital role in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and also for achieving results under the global climate change agreement. The leadership role played by both China and the United States through their commitments to low-carbon development sent a positive signal to the rest of the world which contributed to the breakthroughs that were necessary to ensure a successful global agreement on combating climate change. Also, China has assumed the presidency of the G20 for 2016 and has decided to put issues of sustainable and inclusive development on its agenda. As part of its international cooperation, China has also made substantial financial commitments to support other developing countries to combat climate change and eradicate poverty.

As we are all aware, the year 2016 will also see the adoption of China's 13th Five Year Plan that will guide China's development domestically for the next five years.

And as it is widely acknowledged, cities are crucial actors in our ability to attain the Sustainable Development Goals worldwide. In China, they will also be key for the fulfillment of the targets laid out in the 13th Five Year Plan.

China’s National New-type Urbanisation Plan (2014-2020) sets out a ‘human-centred’ approach to increasing urbanisation through: extending urban public services to migrant workers; relaxing restrictions on migration to small and medium sized cities; improving public engagement of migrants; improving basic social security measures; rational use of land to limit sprawl and overly dense construction; increasing affordable housing; improving transportation within and between cities; and an overall ‘green’ approach to city infrastructure.

We welcome this agenda and we are hopeful that these will also be reflected in the 13th Five Year Plan.

It is also vital that local governments align their local five year plans with the national Five- Year Plan, and the global sustainable development goals, and to adopt an approach that fosters human development with ecological limits.

New ways of approaching economic development with a strong focus on supporting human capacity to innovate will be needed to ensure that the 13th Five-Year Plan fulfills the overall national objective of creating a prosperous and harmonious society.

The report we are launching today announces the results of the China Sustainable Development Index for 2015. This is a tool that cities can use to assess how well there are doing with regards to human development and urban ecological impact.   The Index combines UNDP's Human Development Index and the Urban Ecological Input Index to evaluate the sustainable development level of 35 large and medium-sized cities in China, 16 cities in the Yangtze River Delta and 12 cities from the BRICS countries. Today, as part of the Report Launch we are also recognising cities that are achieving high human development while also minimising damage to the environment. Globally, urbanization is an important factor that affect social and economic development patterns.  Cities are becoming the primary engine of economic growth and development and are also the center of innovation. We need the development energy produced in the cities as well as their innovation dynamism to be directed towards inclusive and sustainable growth to achieve the future we want.

In conclusion, I want to commend Tongji University, Xinhua News and UNDP for initiating the Report and for organizing the event today.  Measuring the urban sustainability of cities is a very complex topic as cities cannot be isolated from their regions, countries or the world. This Report is an important contribution to the dialogue in China on some of the factors that need to be addressed to support cities to develop in a more sustainable way. The Index and the analysis will continue to be improved as our understanding of urban sustainability and our access to urban data in China increases. We very much look forward to the discussions and follow up action on how cities are working to promote human-centred sustainable development. I thank you for your attention and wish you a very fruitful deliberations.  


(Alain Noudehou was China UN Resident Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative from 2014- 2016)

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