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Complementary Development Initiatives

Apr 20, 2022
  • Wang Yiwei

    Jean Monnet Chair Professor, Renmin University of China
  • Chen Chao

    PhD Candidate, School of International Relations at Renmin University of China

In September, President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Development Initiative during debate in the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly. This is a major public good that China is offering to the international community.

At present, developing countries are still hotbeds of global development problems and face serious challenges in implementing the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. According to the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects 2022, the risks of a hard landing for developing countries are increasing. Not only are their debt problems far from being solved but some countries and regions have even returned to poverty and chaos as a result of the pandemic. The failure of governance in some developing countries has increased the complexity of the global development deficit.

Under the existing development framework, progress in South-North cooperation has been slow, and assistance from developed countries to developing ones stands at less than half the pledged amount, especially for the least-developed countries, which are still far behind the global pace in achieving sustainable development goals.

Not only is the original development process in developing countries stagnant and regressive but even developed countries are facing new challenges. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, the development gains that the international community has accumulated over the years have been severely eroded. In July, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that between 720 million and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020, an increase of about 161 million people from 2019.

Data suggest that the world is largely off track in terms of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The world economy is struggling to recover from the pandemic, with inflation levels in some developed countries rising to multiyear highs and interest rate hikes in the U.S. and Europe posing stagflationary challenges for the global economy. The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine has had a serious impact on the eurozone economy, while international energy and food prices have continued to rise and global supply chain disruptions have intensified.

Moreover, there remains a perception deficit between North and South regarding the global development deficit, and a fragmented global consciousness has become a major obstacle to cooperation. According to the UN Sustainable Development Report 2021, the pandemic has slowed progress on 17 goals for 2030, with regression in some areas and a decline in the Human Development Index for the first time in three decades.

It is against this backdrop that the Global Development Initiative and the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s twin programs for the world, have given prominence to the promotion of common development.

With the focus on putting development first, putting people at the center, staying inclusive, pursuing innovation-driven development, striving for harmony between humans and nature and becoming action-oriented, the core of the GDI is to promote common development. Its goal is to build a global human community with a shared future. The GDI will eventually promote the building of this community in which “humans rise and fall together with a shared future and the interests of all countries are closely tied up with each other.”

The GDI and the 2020 UN Decade of Action echo each other, focusing on the most pressing issues facing developing countries, such as poverty reduction and eradication, food security, economic recovery, education, health and providing 21st century solutions.

The Belt and Road Initiative can function as an important platform for promoting the joint implementation the Sustainable Development Goals. The Belt and Road Economics report from the World Bank predicts that by 2030 the BRI will have helped lift 7.6 million people out of extreme poverty and 32 million out of moderate poverty in the countries concerned, giving new impetus to global development cooperation.

The global development agenda has entered a countdown, with 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets to be achieved by 2030. The GDI and the BRI, though proposed by China, belong to the world. They focus the pulse and urgent needs of global development, and have received positive responses and broad support from the international community.

To promote each other and work together for more benefits, China should do the following three things to promote their implementation:

First, it should unite with developing countries and unleash the potential of South-South cooperation. Within the South-South framework, China should provide assistance to other developing countries within its capacity to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and respect the equal development opportunities and rights of other developing countries.

China should follow the guidelines for practical cooperation and seize opportunities for development in the digital economy, vaccine cooperation, connectivity and green development, ensuring that joint efforts are made toward self-improvement. China should adhere to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and other principles, and ask developed countries to ensure that their words are consistent with their actions in support of developing countries’ green and low-carbon transition. China should also explore new economic models and new development patterns and help other developing countries to promote economic and social recovery.

Second, China should unite with other developed countries in narrowing the North-South development divide. In 2015, China became a member of the Development Center of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD. In its reform and opening-up China has explored the “well-functioning government plus efficient market” model of economic development, which has great appeal.

The measures taken by developed countries to accelerate their post- epidemic economic recovery and their international development commitments will determine the development path for the next five or even 10 years, directly affecting the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

China should urge developed countries to fulfill their commitments to assist developing countries, implement responsible macroeconomic policies, curb the global spread of hyperinflation and reduce the negative spillover effects on developing countries. China should work with other developing countries to oppose any country or individual engaging in a technological blockade, technological divide and development decoupling. It should promote North-South cooperation.

Third, China should strengthen and give full play to the role of the United Nations in the practice of multilateralism. China should continue to ensure that the United Nations places development at the heart of its agenda, and puts multilateralism into practice in all aspects of international development cooperation.

China should also take a clear-cut stand against unilateralism, protectionism, ideologically based discrimination and politicization of development. It should pursue cooperation through consultation on international affairs and adhere to a pattern of international development cooperation, with North-South cooperation as the main channel and South-South cooperation as a complement.

It should promote and lead the discourse system, knowledge construction and paradigm research on global development cooperation in the multilateral development framework. And it should promote the active participation of the private sector, NGOs, think tanks and the media in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

In short, by refocusing on development issues, recommitting to sustainable development goals, reinvigorating the global partnership and reactivating international development cooperation, China has put forward a road map for narrowing the North-South divide and addressing development imbalances.

It has also provided an accelerator for advancing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and created a powerful synergy for promoting stronger, greener and healthier global development and building a human community with a shared future.

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