Address by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at the High-Level Symposium on the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
Beijing, 8 September 2011
It gives me great pleasure to attend the opening ceremony of the High-Level Symposium on the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. On behalf of the Chinese government, I wish to extend sincere congratulations on the opening of the symposium and a warm welcome to all participants.
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil next year. It is much more than a commemoration of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development(UNCED) held in Rio in 1992, but rather, it presents an important opportunity for the international community to map out a global strategy for sustainable development. Since the 1992 Rio conference, the international community has made good progress in sustainable development. The concept of sustainable development has gained currency and the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" has become an important guiding principle widely accepted by the international community. Many international treaties and institutions have come into being and developed into important bases and platforms for promoting and regulating activities in various fields. Diverse forms of cooperation on environment and development have deepened. Countries have become more inter-dependant and share a stronger desire for cooperation on sustainable development. Encouraging progress has been made in global sustainable development.
Having said that, the goals formulated at the UNCED have yet to be fully realized and countries still face many difficulties in achieving sustainable development. Old problems facing developing countries, such as shortfall of capital, technological means and capabilities remain unresolved while new challenges, including the financial crisis, regional turmoil, food crisis and natural disasters keep emerging. In particular, the deep impact of the international financial crisis continues to develop, and the world economic recovery is uneven and unstable. All these pose tough and complicated challenges to the cause of sustainable development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the face of these changed circumstances, the international community should have a stronger sense of urgency, mission and responsibility. We must build consensus, enhance coordination and cooperation, and extend the benefits of sustainable development to people of all countries. This should be the consensus of the international community in promoting sustainable development. The international community should make concerted efforts to ensure that the UNCSD in 2012 will comprehensively review the progress of sustainable development over the past 20 years, strengthen political will, implement various commitments, and formulate programs of action in a bid to advance in an all-round way the global sustainable development process.
To achieve this goal, the following principles should be observed in the UNCSD and its preparation.
First, the Rio spirit and principles, in particular the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" should be followed. To achieve sustainable development is the common responsibility and mission of the international community. It is important to take a macro and long-term view, foster the concept of and pursue win-win cooperation based on fairness, justice and openness and implement in real earnest consensus reached by the international community. Differences in the stage and level of development between developing and developed countries should be fully considered in conducting international cooperation. And real efforts should be made to address the difficulties facing developing countries in funding, technology and capacity-building.
Second, the three pillars of sustainable development should be advanced in a balanced manner. Sustainable development covers a wide range of areas. The international community should focus on the goals concerning sustainable development and take a holistic approach in coordinating the economic, social and environmental aspects rather than prioritize one aspect over others. Balanced and sustainable development can only be achieved through parallel and mutually reinforcing progress in the three pillars.
Third, the independent choice of countries in sustainable development should be respected. Due to diverse national conditions, there is no single model of sustainable development that can be universally applied. To independently choose the development path and model that fits one's realities holds the key to achieving sustainable development. The international community should fully respect the independent choice of countries on sustainable development and ensure their policy space.
Fourth, the principle of building broad partnerships should be upheld. The government plays a critical role in promoting sustainable development. At the same time, it should forge broad partnerships with the civil society, private sector, research institutes, business community and other stakeholders. In this process, it is important to strengthen the coordination and cooperation among international institutions and multilateral treaty regimes with the UN at the center.
Fifth, particular attention should be paid to meet the concerns of developing countries. Developing countries, especially the least developed ones, African countries and small island states, have special fragility in pursuing sustainable development. Poverty eradication should serve as an important indicator in formulating and applying green economic policies, and active help should be given to developing countries in tackling the risks and challenges in their transition to green economy. In particular, such concerns of developing countries as assistance with environmental strings attached and "green barrier" should not happen. In reforming sustainable development mechanisms, particular attention should be given to increasing the say and decision-making power of developing countries
Ladies and Gentlemen,
China is an important player in advancing global sustainable development. The Chinese government places great importance on sustainable development. We have made relentless efforts to implement Agenda 21, and in this process, scored notable achievements and gained rich experience. We have made sustainable development a national strategy and incorporated it into our overall plan for economic and social development. Sustainable development is now a major yardstick in measuring development performance. Under the 12th Five-Year Plan, we will focus on speeding up the shift of the economic development model, and push forward sustainable development guided by the Scientific Outlook on Development.
China is still a developing country. Its per capita GDP is only about one tenth of that of developed countries, and there is wide development gap between urban and rural areas and among different regions. 150 million people still live in poverty and China's development faces energy, resource and environmental bottlenecks. We face daunting tasks of eradicating poverty, improving people's well-being, reducing emissions and shifting the model of growth. The understanding and support of the international community are much needed.
Tomorrow, you will visit an experimental zone of sustainable development in the Shijingshan District of Beijing. You will see how a big Chinese steel manufacturer, the Shougang Group, has transformed itself through hard effort. The story of Shougang epitomizes China's endeavor to pursue sustainable development, and more importantly, it manifests the determination and achievements of the Chinese people in realizing scientific development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
China is a strong supporter of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development and is making active preparations. We have established a preparatory committee covering 29 ministries last February, and have actively participated in the UN's preparatory process. We have contributed US$500,000 to the Trust Fund of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. And we are actively preparing China's position paper and a national report on sustainable development. In a word, we are ready to work with all parties and play an active and constructive role in pushing for comprehensive, positive and practical outcomes at the Conference.
The purpose of this symposium, co-organized by China and the UN, is to provide a platform for thorough and in-depth discussions on the two main themes and the objective of the UNCSD. As an old Chinese saying goes, "Branches from one single tree do not suffice for building an inspiring edifice". I am glad to see among the audience not only government officials, but also well-known scholars from home and abroad, and representatives from international organizations. I hope you will fully express your views and pool your wisdom, and I'm sure the UNCSD can gain much from your insightful views and policy suggestions. Together, we can make a positive contribution to the global endeavor for sustainable development.
To conclude, I wish the symposium a full success, and all participants every success and good health.