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Global partners will need local ties

By Li Yong | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-04-26 09:36

From day one, the Belt and Road Initiative has been a reflection of China's commitment to multilateralism. It has provided a new mechanism for win-win cooperation, common development, prosperity, peace and mutual understanding among countries.

This promise has become even stronger as the scope of the initiative has been widened from an initial focus of increasing infrastructure connectivity to one that embraces cooperation in such areas as industrial development, technology and knowledge transfer, cultural exchanges and sustainable development.

In the same vein, the BRI has amplified its potential to be developmental. It could benefit and create synergies with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 sustainable development goals, adopted by member states of the United Nations in 2015. This is where the BRI could become an effective and innovative tool to reinvigorate South-South and triangular industrial cooperation (collaboration and partnerships between South-South-North countries) in the long run.

Many countries along the Belt and Road routes are still in the process of development, but many exhibit great potential for near-future growth if the right partnerships can be put in place. To advance on the sustainable development goals, financing partnerships remain a key topic for them. The financing needs of the 2030 Agenda in developing countries are estimated to be at least $1 trillion annually for infrastructure investments alone. Increased investments in infrastructure, energy and manufacturing through the BRI undoubtedly have a potential to help bridge this financing gap and-consequently-advance the sustainable development goals.

By seizing the opportunity to participate in the BRI, many developing countries could see a window of opportunity in their journey along the road to industrialization and modernization.

At the same time, a number of preconditions will have to be met to ensure the BRI truly fulfills its potential to act as an accelerator for achieving the sustainable development goals. The UN has a chance to play a tangible role in this process by matching the development needs of individual countries and ensuring that cooperation under the BRI upholds the highest levels of quality and sustainability standards.

As a specialized UN agency mandated to foster inclusive and sustainable industrial development in its member states, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization has been working for more than 50 years with governments, business associations, companies, academia and other stakeholders to solve industrial development challenges. It has earned a reputation as one of the world's most experienced industrial problem solvers and industrial policy advisers.

UNIDO has engaged with China and other countries on the BRI right from the beginning.

During the first Belt and Road Forum two years ago, UNIDO signed several key agreements with the Chinese government in support of the BRI, aiming to facilitate the exchange of best practices among countries along the Belt and Road. Based on these, UNIDO and the Chinese government subsequently signed a joint action plan, with a list of dedicated priority projects that are currently being put into practice. These include initiatives to strengthen knowledge and experience-sharing through South-South and triangular cooperation in such areas as energy and trade.

The Second Belt and Road Forum provides an opportunity for UNIDO and others to further broaden their engagement in the BRI, for example by joining the International Coalition for Green Development on the Belt and Road, which is yet to be launched.

As we set our eyes on a reinvigorated, inclusive and sustainable BRI, there is one dimension that is sometimes overlooked in discourses on the BRI: the city dimension.

Currently, more than 50 percent of the world's population lives in cities. The importance of cities and the mutual interdependence between sustainable urban and industrial development cannot be overstated, since cities not only generate more than 70 percent of global wealth, but also produce 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

In recognition of the centrality of cities, UNIDO joined hands with other partners, including the Finance Center for South-South Cooperation, to organize an annual flagship event titled Bridge for Cities. The event provides a platform through which cities can share their development challenges and experiences and ultimately improve their local capacities.

After three successful events, Bridge for Cities is now recognized as a fixture on the BRI agenda.

This year will see discussions on the BRI move from securing international political will and commitment to concrete partnerships and cooperation projects. It also marks the 40th anniversary of cooperation between China and the United Nations, including UNIDO. For UNIDO, this milestone will be a motivation to step up its efforts to support China's global agenda and construct a community of shared destiny for all mankind-never forgetting that eventually global partnerships require local ties.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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