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Special Guest Speech by Mr. Khalid Malik UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative


  Your Excellency, Mr. Zeng Peiyan, Vice Premier of the State Council,

  Distinguished Council Co-Chairs,

  Distinguished Council Members,

  Ladies and Gentlemen,

  It is a great pleasure for me to attend this year's CCICED Annual Meeting and have the honor of delivering a statement on behalf of UNDP and the UN in China. The theme – sustainable agriculture and rural development – is a crucial and timely topic. China is compressing a century- long change into decades. The pace is not only rapid but also systemic in nature. As with any changes, this is a time for promising opportunities and great challenges for the 1.3 billion Chinese and the world as a whole. The draft recommendations put forward by the CCICED Lead Expert Group reflect the breadth and magnitude of issues to be considered in sustaining agriculture and rural development in China. I would like to commend the Task Forces and the Lead Experts for their refreshing analysis and extensive recommendations.

  Human Development, MDGs and Xiaokang

  At the outset, let me say our prism for looking at issues of sustainable agriculture and rural development is one of human development – putting people first. This impressively is precisely the intention of China's own vision of a balanced, all around society - Xiaokang. There is in fact a rare correspondence between the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Xiaokang. It presents a large opportunity for our partnership in China.

  In this statement I plan to cover three issues: the challenge of sustainable agriculture in China; the role of rural communities in China's overall development and the future of rural life; and touch upon some challenges related to globalization. In keeping with our emphasis on human development, I will be looking at issues through the framework of MDGs and Xiaokang. The government and leadership of China have committed themselves to an ambitious set of development goals to be achieved by 2020. Xiaokang aims at a more balanced, harmonious and human-centered approach to development. It seeks to ensure a balance between man and nature and to empower people to improve their own lives.

  Today, China is seen by the rest of the world as the global manufacturing base, changing and driving world markets in many areas. Yet, a fact easily forgotten, is that, still, 60% of China's total population – or 800 million people – live in the countryside. Whatever decisions are made regarding agriculture will affect more than half of China's population. Agriculture still accounts for 15% of China's GDP. Chinese agricultural products are entering global markets with the force that makes competitors reassess their strategies. The focus is moving away from ensuring food security to growing products that will yield high profits. Despite the rapid changes in China, agriculture remains a crucial sector in its overall development affecting the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese. Given the global importance of China, its impact will be felt well beyond national borders. Yet again, the policy attention given to agricultural matters tends to take second place to urban concerns and industrialization.

  Globally, the MDG picture is mixed with both significant progress and lost opportunities. The most somber picture is in Africa where according to UNDP's Human Development Report, it will take more than 150 years for a majority of the countries in sub-Sahara Africa to achieve some of these goals. In Asia and the Pacific the performance is more promising, but while many countries have made progress at the national levels, there are deep pockets of poverty within countries. In Asia and the Pacific, a few countries will meet all the goals, while some countries may meet none of the goals. Nearly everywhere, countries are lagging behind in trying to achieve MDG 7 – Ensuring Environmental Sustainability.

  The MDGs are intimately linked to the Xiaokang goals set by the Chinese government to achieve the overall Well-Off Society by 2020. We are working together with the government to operationalize this development agenda and to merge them with the MDG approach. Xiaokang calls for a new holistic approach to development. This is particularly true when it comes to sustainable agriculture.

  Defining Sustainable Agriculture

  How should we look at sustainable agriculture for China? Given the vast variety of climate, physical, ecological, cultural and economic circumstances, there is no 'average China'. Is it the Northeast China with its legacy of centrally planned one-factory towns and resultant heavy pollution; Is it the Western China where poverty remains the challenge number one - some 100-200 million of them depending on the definition; Or is it the booming, increasingly sophisticated coastal, East–Southeast China represented by the world city of Shanghai? When we define sustainable agriculture, we have to take all these dimensions into account. With 30 plus provinces and special regions, perhaps it is wiser to look at China as clusters of regions with different resource base and increasingly diverse challenges.

  An essential part of sustainability is protecting the rights of the future generations. What do we want to sustain? Traditional ways of production, rural lifestyle, ecosystems, incomes, local cultures…? Policy decisions must be based on what people need, and on expanding their choices. However we define sustainable agriculture, special attention is required to a more equal distribution of benefits among rural communities, and bridging gaps between rich and poor regions as well as between rural and urban communities.

  Ultimately, the Chinese government has to decide what kind of agriculture and I should say way of life it wants to promote. Conscious choices need to be made. It is important to have an agricultural sector that is profitable, but it is not enough. We need to look at the other benefits that vibrant rural communities bring about. What is the value of having an energetic countryside that can provide home and livelihoods for hundreds of millions Chinese? A massive rural exodus has tremendous costs economically, environmentally and socially. Estimates suggest that 300 million rural residents may be moving to cities by year 2020, which will dramatically change China from how we now know it. The Chinese government is taking measures to prepare the population for an easier and more flexible transition from countryside to urban areas. In setting the urbanization targets, the government many need to carefully assess the value of maintaining an active countryside and the costs of the changing lifestyles as a result of urban migration.

  In defining sustainable agriculture, we need to assess how the environment is coping with the increasingly resource-intensive agricultural practices. The Xiaokang aims at ensuring a balance between Man and Nature. How can this be achieved? China is now the world leader in the use of pesticides and fertilizers. The nitrogen use per hectare is three times the world average. Pesticides are used in doses that far exceed the real needs. The overuse of chemicals is not only putting increasing pressure on the environment, but also endangering human health. Huge quantities of water are wasted in irrigation depleting already scarce water resources. According to the recent ecological footprint analysis, in the past 40 years, China has increased its resource use from 0.8 to 2 times its annual bio capacity to meet its resource demand. This means that it takes two Chinas to provide enough resources for its activities and consumption every year. China is not only importing resources but also borrowing from future generations. In the search for high yields and bigger profits, environment is often given second consideration. The challenge is to reverse the trend of unsustainable resources utilization.

  Going Beyond Sustainable Agriculture

  Even if we are able to promote sustainable agriculture, it does not guarantee sustainable rural development. The statistics show that income gaps between rural and urban communities continue to grow. In 1984, the average rural income was close to two-thirds that of urban income. By 2002, it had decreased to one-third. Although China's efforts in bringing more than 200 million people out from extreme poverty in the past 25 years is an unprecedented success story, poverty continues to keep rural communities in its grip. Many environmental problems stem from poverty – often contributing to a downward spiral in which poverty exacerbates environmental degradation and environmental degradation exacerbates poverty.

  The challenge is to develop rural China in a way that benefits entire communities, not only those who were fast enough to start profitable horticulture plantations and export-oriented farms. While farms are growing in size by stitching together small family plots, many farmers chose to move into cities in search of higher incomes. Those who stay become industrial workers earning minimal incomes.

  If we truly want to sustain the rural way of life in China, we have to step up the social investments. Faced with such dynamic change, it is our collective responsibility to make sure that the coping mechanisms are in place for rural communities to survive any shocks coming their way and meet challenges of modernization. By strengthening social capital, we can improve the social cohesion. By engaging local communities in decision-making, we can make sure that adequate investments are made. The opportunities and quality of education for rural children desperately need upgrading. Significant investments have to be made to improve rural health care. Rural communities require assured access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Innovative approaches are needed to apply simple technologies - such as ecological sanitation - as solutions to serious health hazards. Although significant progress has been made in terms of access to drinking water in rural areas, water quality remains a real concern. According to UNICEF's statistics, 30,000 children die every year in China from diarrhoeal diseases caused by contaminated water

  Moving Forward

  The Chinese government has shown strong commitment to reversing these trends by better incorporating environmental considerations in decision-making. Development of Green GDP is a big step forward, but it is only the beginning. From the perspective of sustainable rural development, one has to decide what actions need most attention and should be treated as priority. In this spirit, I would like to propose the following four points as a reform agenda for the future:

  1. Institute a people's campaign on environmental awareness. China has had tremendous experience and knowledge of such campaigns. Experience elsewhere shows that empowered and informed communities are true custodians of the environment.

  2. Fit strategies to problems and regions. Integrating environment and poverty is a priority in the western regions, while cleaning up heavily polluted rivers and deltas may be the most pressing in the coastal regions. Flexible and targeted approaches and solutions are essential.

  3. Reinforce agricultural communities and a rural way of life. Despite its vagueness, this issue is key: the quality of the lives of 800 plus million people depend on it. Better resources and institutions are required. Community involvement is essential. Communities should be given knowledge and tools to better manage their land. At the same time, they need to be given a channel to voice their concerns if they are subject to negative environmental impacts of others' activities. Issues of land tenure and ownership have to be settled.

  4. Stronger and better coordinated institutions – especially at the local level - are needed to manage and drive a holistic approach to rural development. Vertically organized institutions are increasingly inadequate as development challenges - especially relating to the environment - become more broad-based and multi-disciplinary in character. New institutional arrangements are needed which promote dialogue, cooperation and joint management.

  All of these suggestions might sound simple and common sense, but then, as somebody said: "common sense is surprisingly uncommon". They require true commitment and conscious efforts from the government. The international community can help in this by sharing best practices from other countries and support in developing models that are feasible for China. This is where CCICED and the UN system can add value.

  Integrating with the World - Why and for What?

  What role does globalization play in rural development? As we all know, China's entrance to WTO has brought about big changes and vast opportunities yet to be tapped. It is up to China to decide how it wants to approach and benefit from this integration. What does it want to integrate and why? More importantly, it has to decide how it will protect the most vulnerable members of society. If being a member of the global trade community means that women are marginalized, the poor get poorer and farmer incomes decrease, we should be worried. We should remember that it is not only the opening up of economy that has brought about the rapid growth – China's performance is a combination of hard work, government support and long-term commitment to reform. How do we make sure that the rural communities will benefit from globalization? How do we take advantage of the new WTO provisions to improve agricultural conditions and production in China?

  UNDP believes that trade is a means and not an end. We have to be smarter in defining the rules of trade. We have to create the policy conditions and trade regimes that put people first. Trade has to become pro-poor, pro-environment and pro-development. In 2002, UNDP launched an important publication, "Making Trade Work for People". For that to happen, we need to establish the right institutions, exploit synergies and complementarities, and create 'win-win' solutions for all partners. It requires that trade and investment be more closely linked. It requires enhancing the capacities of the poor to participate in markets and trade.

  The Chinese government as a member of the global community is using Millennium Development Goals to measure its progress in human development. According to the first report on China's progress on the MDGs published earlier this year, substantial progress is being made and it seems that China will be able to meet most of the MDGs. China is significantly ahead of MDG targets in eradicating hunger, achieving universal primary education and firmly on track on reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

  However, more attention is needed to achieve the goals related to gender equality, environmental sustainability and HIV/AIDS. All of these are issues of special concern in rural areas. Women continue to be discriminated when it comes to property rights and inheritance. China's girl-boy ratio reached a worrying level of 1:1.17 in 2001 at birth. Such imbalances unchecked can seriously affect national well-being. Projections indicate that 40 million young men cannot get married - mostly in rural areas - by 2020. Female suicides are particularly common in the rural areas, Chinese women constituting roughly half of all female suicides in the world. It is estimated that HIV infections in China will reach 10 million by 2010, potentially seriously affecting any progress made in other areas of human development. Here, we are pleased to witness the strong efforts taken by the Chinese government to reverse the epidemic.

  Sustainable agriculture and rural development should serve the needs of people. To achieve this objective, it is not enough to have the right policies. The right institutions are also needed to implement them – and to support rural communities. At the same time, we need an effective mechanism to monitor and assess the progress made in terms of sustainable development. This is why Xiaokang and MDGs are of critical importance. How China develops will have big impacts globally.

  I would like to propose that the Task Forces of CCICED be used to following up on the progress made in terms of these development goals in the coming years. UNDP and the UN system in China stand ready to assist. The Chinese government has committed itself to achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015 and the Xiaokang society by 2020. We should join our forces to help China achieve this ambitious set of goals! Our collective future depends on it.

  We acknowledge the valuable work done by the Task Forces and the Lead Experts in formulating the draft recommendations. At the same time, we believe that more can be done. Sustainable agriculture and rural development have to be given higher priority in national development – in a comprehensive way and from the human perspective.

  Again, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to share our views in the beginning of this high-level meeting. I look forward to an interesting discussion during these three days.

  Thank you!

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