Sustainable development facing ‘strong headwinds,’ Chinese Premier warns UN Assembly

21 September 2016

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Li Keqiang, Premier to the State Council of China, said the 2030 Agenda, the new vision for global development adopted last year, faces an ‘uphill battle’ and its full implementation will require the international community to acknowledge a shared, interconnected future and to take concretes steps to tackle challenges.

Telling the delegations at the Assembly’s annual general debate that China has been among the first countries to submit to the UN its national plan for implementation of the 2030 Agenda, he said that sustainable development should underpin progress at all levels by addressing many of the world’s pressing challenges ¬– from poverty to conflict and the current refugee crisis, “all of which, could be attributed to insufficient development.”

“Only development can guarantee fundamental rights and interests; only development can advance human civilization and progress,” he continued, buts stressed that such development must be broadly sustainable. Development would not be sustainable he said, if it was imbalanced; if it widened the gap between the global North and South; if driven by high consumption and pollution; or if economic and social progress were not well coordinated.

“Currently sustainable development is faced with great challenges,” he noted, pointing to “incessant” conflicts, traditional and non-traditional security threats, the lukewarm world economic recovery and the recurrence of major diseases and natural disasters. “Difficult moments call for stronger confidence,” he said, urging the international community to see itself in a shared future of interconnected interests and to make concerted efforts to tackle global challenges.

Continuing, he said that advancing sustainable development and “achieving our new vision” requires keeping both long- and short-term goals in mind and making concrete efforts to address real problems.

Urging that the United Nations Charter be upheld, he called for States to support the Organization’s lead role in international affairs, support reformed global governance mechanisms that reflect the changed international landscape, and take part in a global partnership that featured dialogue over confrontation.

Turning to other issues, Mr. Li also said the international community should urge parties in Syria to end the fighting. In addition, he advocated denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and seeking solutions to maintain the non-proliferation regime.

While economic globalization, including trade and investment, has been a driving force for growth, it has also taken a toll on certain industries and requires measures to address such problems while “keeping the bigger picture in mind.” Globalization is in line with interests of all countries. He cautioned against protectionism and voiced support for the open trade regime of the World Trade Organization (WTO), among other things.

Redoubled efforts to support Africa and the least developed countries are needed, he said, stressing that developed countries should make good on their official development assistance (ODA) pledges, while developing countries must pursue self-development and find paths suited to their national conditions.

On his country’s economic growth, he said it registered 6.7 per cent in the first half of the year, with 9.5 million jobs created in the first eight months. A developing country, with a long way to go before achieving modernization, China would promote development through deepening reforms and opening its doors to the outside world, as closed door policies had only led to stagnation. China would also pursue cooperation with all countries on the basis of the principles of peaceful co-existence.

His Government, as well, would provide $300 million in humanitarian assistance to relevant countries and international organizations. With 1.3 billion people, “we need to run our own affairs well”, he said “and take our international responsibilities.” China would boost cooperation with other developing countries, and increase its assistance as its economy grew.


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