Twenty-eight Heads of state, UN Secretary-General Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde and around 1,500 officials from 130 countries met at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing from 14-15 May 2017.
Chinese President Xi Jinping announced China’s support for various aid initiatives over the next three to five years, including: emergency food aid of RMB 2 billion (around US$290 million) to developing countries along the Belt and Road; US$1 billion for South-South cooperation; and RMB 60 billion (around US$8.7 billion) for infrastructure.
15 May 2017: Heads of State and UN leaders welcomed China’s role in strengthening multilateralism and global sustainable development at a two-day ‘Belt and Road’ Forum in Beijing, China. Several UN agencies also announced joint projects with China during the Forum.
Recalling the ancient Silk Road trade route, Chinese President Xi Jinping set out a broad vision for a peaceful, prosperous and interconnected world, based on a programme of infrastructure development, science research, and diplomacy.
Twenty-eight Heads of State, UN Secretary-General Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde and around 1,500 officials from 130 countries met at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing from 14-15 May 2017. Leaders at the Forum included the Heads of State of Chile, Italy, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Poland, Turkey, the Russian Federation, Switzerland and Viet Nam, among others.
Welcoming all participants, Xi noted that 100 countries and international organizations have become involved in the Belt and Road Initiative since its launch in late 2013. Declaring that China has reached “a new starting point in its development endeavors,” he pledged to be guided by the vision of innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development. Xi listed specific achievements through the Initiative, including many railway, port, pipeline and other infrastructure projects that are creating economic corridors through Central Asia and connecting China with Pakistan, Mongolia and the Russian Federation. He stated that the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has provided US$1.7 billion in loans for nine projects in countries participating in the Initiative, while China’s ‘Silk Road Fund’ has invested US$4 billion, noting that these mechanisms complement institutions such as the World Bank.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres cautioned that “the tide of globalization has yet to lift all boats,” calling for strengthening the links between the Initiative and the SDGs so as to achieve true sustainable development.
Xi announced China’s support for various aid initiatives over the next three to five years, including: development aid of RMB 60 billion (around US$8.7 billion) to developing countries and international organizations participating in the Belt and Road Initiative; emergency food aid of RMB 2 billion (around US$290 million) to developing countries along the Belt and Road; US$1 billion for South-South cooperation; US$1 billion for other cooperation projects; training of 5,000 scientists, engineers and managers; establishment of 50 joint laboratories, and supporting 2,500 short-term research visits to China for young scholars. He affirmed support for countries in adapting to climate change, and proposed the establishment of an international coalition for green development on the Belt and Road.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres cautioned that “the tide of globalization has yet to lift all boats,” calling for strengthening the links between the Initiative and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) so as to achieve true sustainable development. He noted China’s role as “a central pillar of multilateralism” and its work in shaping the 2030 Agenda, enabling the adoption of the Paris Agreement, launching the AIIB and increasing support for UN peacekeeping. Guterres urged all concerned to “seize the moment” to help countries make the transition to clean energy and low-carbon pathways, and avoid locking in unsustainable practices. He highlighted the ongoing need for official development assistance (ODA) and encouraged countries to fulfill their commitments under the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) to finance SDG implementation.
Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), highlighted China’s role as a major trading partner, investor and lender in the region. She looked forward to the CELAC-China Forum in Chile in 2018, noting that the meeting will address the need to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in an increasingly complex international context that includes “greater protectionist and nationalistic tendencies” in industrialized countries.
Jyrki Katainen, Vice President of the European Commission, stressed the need for rules-based trade and investment, and to keep markets open on a reciprocal basis. He welcomed Xi’s commitment to free trade, multilateralism and sustainable development. He called for infrastructure networks to be interoperable, and for plans and activities to be transparent.
Several UN agencies announced joint initiatives with China during the forum. UN Environment highlighted its agreement with China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, signed in December 2016, to promote sustainable development of the Belt and Road. In a blog post published during the forum, Erik Solheim, UN Environment Executive Director, called for making the Belt and Road “as green as possible.” He acknowledged China’s involvement in building clean and affordable transportation systems, such as a metro system in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and a Standard Gauge Railway Project that is aiming to link Kenya with Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, as well as its leadership in renewable energy projects in Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines. Zhang Shigang, China country coordinator, UN Environment, affirmed that initial coalition discussions have taken place with several Chinese authorities on a proposal for establishing an environmental data platform.
Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), signed a cooperation agreement with Liu Yaming, Administrator of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA). The two organizations will work together to promote regional cooperation on the land and maritime routes, specifically on regional disaster monitoring and forecasting, and improving countries’ early warning capabilities and resilience.
At the close of the forum, a Leaders Roundtable chaired by Xi issued a joint communiqué, stating that the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs provide a blueprint for international cooperation, and acknowledging many other international agreements, including the AAAA, the Paris Agreement, Agenda 2063 of the Africa Union, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, and subregional agreements made by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, and the Western Balkans.
The communiqué sets out principles of cooperation, and welcomes the development of “interconnected multimodal corridors” based on cooperation on land, air and maritime transport, as well as infrastructure for electricity, telecommunications and fiber optic including trans-oceanic cable, and information and communication technology (ICT). It notes that, while the Belt and Road initiative is enhancing connectivity between Asia and Europe, it is also open to Africa and South America.
A Belt and Road Summit is planned for 11 September 2017 in Hong Kong, China. This summit will bring together government and private sector investors from the banking, finance, maritime, infrastructure and logistics sectors. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government convened the inaugural Belt and Road Summit on 18 May 2016, which attracted more than 2,400 participants, including investors, project developers and service professional, as well as more than 40 government ministers. [Belt and Road Forum Website] [Xi Jinping’s Speech] [UN Secretary-General’s Speech] [UN Press Release on Secretary-General’s Speech] [ECLAC Press Release] [European Commission Press Release] [Erik Solheim Blog Post] [China Daily Report] [WMO Press Release] [Joint Communique of the Leaders Roundtable] [Belt and Road Summit Website]