UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals: China's contribution to poverty reduction

The 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aim to eradicate poverty and encourage peace and prosperity around the world.

With less than 10 years to go to meet those goals, the challenges we face in realizing them will need to be overcome through a global effort.

Looking back, the world has come a long way in reducing poverty. As chairman of the Boao Forum for Asia and the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon noted in his message to a forum on the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and China's experience on poverty reduction, extreme poverty rates had been cut in half by 2010.

However, such an effort is still not sufficient in making sure the goal of eradicating poverty is achieved in the future, and the outbreak of the COVID-19 certainly has reversed some of the past achievements.

To achieve the original vision, Ban Ki-moon believes that "international cooperation, innovation, and engagement by all stakeholders in all regions are essential in the next decade."

Other world leaders and experts at the forum also called for global cooperation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world was already struggling to achieve the 2030 agenda before the outbreak of COVID-19, what are some key areas to focus on to catch up with the original goals?

Liu Zhenmin, UN under-secretary-general, points out that one key cause of poverty and inequality is limited access to digital technologies. He emphasized the importance of data and statistical tools in decision-making. "It is critical to ensure that statistical organizations have the tools and resources to facilitate timely and smart decision- making," Liu said.

Marcos Tryjo, former Brazilian deputy economy minister and president of the New Development Bank, agreed that international institutions like the UN could play a key role during this process in building a better and more sustainable world.

Yves Leterme, former prime minister of Belgium, also stressed the importance of the UN in strengthening the international system.

International cooperation may be indispensable to a sustainable future but each country has its own unique experiences in poverty reduction. According to Professor Justin Yifu Lin, dean of the Institute of New Structural Economics at Peking University, every country will hope to have eradicated poverty by the end of 2030. He said every country has a unique advantage and with the support of a competitive market and state facilitation can experience inclusive and dynamic economic growth.

Beate Trankmann, UNDP China Resident Representative, discussed her insights from the perspective of the UN system. "What we are saying as UNDP is that we need to recalibrate our systems, to take account of the strength and also buffer the effect of the pandemic. One way of doing that is the introduction of a temporary basic income that would cover 0.7 billion people that are just below or above the poverty line."

Could a basic income be a good solution to address the poverty caused by the pandemic? Michele Geraci, former undersecretary of state at the Italian Ministry of Economic Development talked about Italy's mixed experience of a basic income. He said a basic income is too weak to attract young people into the workforce. To fully address those challenges including poverty reduction, a highly capable government is indispensable.

In addition to a basic income, many other projects aim to reduce poverty in different dimensions such as children's health, women's rights and educational opportunities. What's more important is to prevent the intergenerational poverty trap from happening, said Zhang Linxiu, director of the UN Environment Programme-International Ecosystem Management Partnership, who has abundant experience in various poverty alleviation projects in rural China. 

She introduced the importance of early childhood education on the future development of kids: Her research has found that for babies with early childhood training or parents who know how to play with babies, they grow much faster in almost all kinds of skills. 

This argument was echoed by Michael Kremer, an American developmental economist and a Nobel laureate, who conducted deworming research in developing countries. He suggested that programs like deworming could substantially benefit the future growth of kids and more likely to help them get out of poverty.

Jeffrey Sachs, a professor at Columbia University and director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, proposed his solutions to a sustainable world: human ethics and management.

"A big part of development is confidence that you have plans, that you are organized, you can manage and you can deliver. So, I think it's a combination of ethics and management. The ethics are the ethics that we are all in this together," Sachs said.

"I believe that's decent human ethics. I believe it's also true, but it's not the prevailing ethics among powerful people. And second is the quality of management because development is a management process."

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