On the sidelines of the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 20, the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of the Global Development Initiative (GDI) was held in New York. China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired the meeting.
Deputy prime ministers and foreign ministers from more than 40 countries participated in the meeting. UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres, and representatives of several UN organizations like the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) were also in attendance.
The GDI was announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in the 76th Session of the UNGA in September 2021. Over the past year, more than 100 countries and international organizations, including the United Nations, have supported the GDI, and more than 60 countries have joined the Group of Friends of the Global Development Initiative.
Wang Yi said that the GDI “aiming at building a global community of development, gives priority to development, puts people at the center, and seeks to expedite the implementation of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” He stressed that “the global development cause is at a critical juncture now. Global economic recovery is becoming more difficult every moment, and developing countries face severe challenges in the realization of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.” However, he stressed that “the more difficult things get, the more we need to work together.” Wang Yi noted that President Xi Jinping chaired the High-level Dialogue on Global Development, in which he announced China’s 32 important measures to implement the GDI, “helped to bring development back to the center of the international agenda together with leaders of other countries, and stayed committed to forging a united, equal, balanced and inclusive global development partnership.”
What makes the GDI special is that it elucidates the concept of development putting emphasis on the priorities of the developing nations. When he announced the initiative, President Xi said: “The world needs to increase input in development, advance on a priority basis cooperation on poverty alleviation, food security, COVID-19 response and vaccines, development financing, climate change and green development, industrialization, digital economy and connectivity, among other areas, and accelerate implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. This differs greatly than the priorities set by the G-7, the EU and other Western-dominated coalitions, where priority is given to political changes rather than solving the urgent needs of humanity. This has alienated many nations in Africa and Asia, who see the Chinese vision of development more attractive as China itself is a developing nation which successfully managed to rescue its people from extreme poverty, hunger, and economic backwardness in record time.
Comparing the GDI with Belt and Road Initiative, Dr. Swaran Singh, professor of diplomacy and disarmament at Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi, India) in an article published by Beijing Review said: “While the nine years of the Belt and Road Initiative have been focused on enhancing growth through economic corridors and physical infrastructure, the GDI aims to contribute to the evolution of the overall development philosophies through the enhancement of social infrastructure by sharing best practices, capacity-building and knowledge transfer, which makes it people-oriented and largely multilateral.” Dr. Singh pointed out that the GDI “presents a more comprehensive vision and a step forward from China’s run of its connectivity-driven Belt and Road Initiative” adding that “the two apparently complement each other as two stages of a larger goal for building a community with a shared future for humanity.”
In New York, Wang stressed that the GDI intends to inject strong impetus into the accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda and marking the transformation of the GDI from “laying a foundation” to “building a framework” and the stride from “painting the broad strokes” to “refining the details”.
Pointing at where China’s emphasis is placed in these times of global crises, Wang said: We have built a platform for cooperation and worked together to build networks of cooperation in agriculture, education, pandemic countermeasures and climate change response; we have made the Global Development and South-South Cooperation Fund implemented and have officially launched Phase III of the China-FAO South-South Cooperation Trust Fund; we have ensured that cooperation projects focus on people’s livelihood areas, such as poverty reduction, food, and health.”
Wang announced that China will additionally work with the members of the Group of Friends of the GDI to take seven additional measures to implement the 2030 Agenda:
- First, release first batch of 50 projects of GDI project pool in areas of poverty reduction, food security, and industrialization.
- Second, advance Food Production Enhancement Action and carry out cooperation in areas of digital and innovative agricultural finance, prevention and treatment of animal and plant diseases, and sustainable soil & water resources management.
- Third, promote Global Clean Energy Cooperation Partnership and promote clean energy transition, to achieve more sustainable energy security.
- Fourth, promote “Smart Customs, Smart Borders & Smart Connectivity Cooperation”, strengthen the building of smart customs networks, and boost the connectivity of the supply chain in the digital era.
- Fifth, initiate the World Digital Education Alliance, strengthen international cooperation in digital education, empower education development with digitalization, and make educational resources more inclusive and accessible.
- Sixth, jointly start formulating the Global Action Plan of the Bamboo as a Substitute for Plastic with INBAR to effectively combat plastic pollution so that our future generations will continue to enjoy a clean and beautiful planet.
- Seventh, announce that make available globally the data acquired by the Sustainable Development Science Satellite (SDGSAT-1) launched by China in November last year to assist countries in sustainable development research and decision-making.
Furthermore, Wang Yi put forward three suggestions for “forming synergy of the international community to advance the GDI”:
First, seek synergy and enhance the leading role of the UN development system. “We should set up a working mechanism at the UN level as soon as possible to promote the initiative, strengthen alignment, and make good use of the Global Development and South-South Cooperation Fund and the China-UN Peace and Development Fund”, He said.
Second, uphold extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits and pool wisdom and strength. “We should promote the institutionalization of the Group of Friends, confirm a coordinator in key areas and regions, and make joint efforts to achieve positive outcomes in the mid-term evaluation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations and the Sustainable Development Goals Summit next year” Wang added.
Third, pursue inclusive progress and revitalize the global partnership for development. “We expect developed countries to implement obligations of official development assistance, and increase input in developing countries, least developed countries and small island states in particular, he said. He concluded saying: “We hope that World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other institutions will actively participate in the cooperation of the GDI and provide more financial support for developing countries.” The latter two are mostly Western dominated institutions that have been skeptical to the Chinese initiatives for clear political reasons.
What the Chinese leaders are presenting through the GDI is not just one more loose attempt to help poor nations. This is a serious attempt to globally streamline and institutionalize the terms of implementing a development policy and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. This requires clear definitions and policies, and above all the contributions of all nations of the world to the same goal. This means that the nations of the world agree on tying all the loose ends of individual or group initiatives making the world community pull in the same direction. The term “development” can mean many things depending on whom you ask. The reason the developing nations worked hard to define and order the 17 Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and order them according to priority was intended to avoid the many definitions and priorities and that no confusion emerges about where to start. China’s GDI is an attempt to put thing in order again.