China an important partner to Small Island Developing States: UNDP chief

(240528) -- ST. JOHN'S, May 28, 2024 (Xinhua) -- This photo taken on May 27, 2024 shows a scene at the fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States in St. John's, capital of Antigua and Barbuda. Under the theme "Charting the course toward resilient prosperity," the fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States opened Monday in Antigua and Barbuda, aiming to build resilience, tackle the world's most pressing challenges and achieve sustainable development goals. The event, held by UN and attended by world leaders, representatives from the private sector, civil society, academia and youth, will last four days, from May 27 to 30. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

“China can be a very important partner to many Small Island Developing States (SIDS),” said Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in a recent interview with Xinhua during a UN conference held in Antigua and Barbuda.

Steiner, who attended the fourth International Conference on SIDS, said that China is today a major partner to many countries because it provides affordable technologies for building renewable energy infrastructure.

The conference, held under the theme “Charting the course toward resilient prosperity” Monday through Thursday, addressed the world’s most pressing challenges, including climate change and achieving sustainable development goals.

He told Xinhua that one of the great challenges of the coming years for the small island countries is moving to a renewable energy platform rather than importing fossil fuels to power their energy systems, diesel generators and their cars and trucks.

“The SIDS have to spend roughly 3 billion U.S. dollars or 3.3 percent of their GDP just on importing fuel to power their economy,” added Steiner.

Faced with the challenges, “UNDP has a long tradition of working with SIDS, and over the last 10 years, it has invested over 4 billion dollars and mobilized financing resources to support SIDS with almost 1,900 projects,” he said.

UNDP data indicates that from 1970 to 2020, SIDS suffered a loss of 153 billion dollars due to extreme weather, a substantial amount compared to the average GDP of 13.7 billion dollars for SIDS.

Steiner said that China has played an important role in collaborating with UNDP in some of the early recovery and reconstruction work by helping SIDS invest in climate resilience and adaptation to make weather in the future much more predictable.

Representative of the Chinese government and Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu speaks at the fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States in St. John’s, capital of Antigua and Barbuda, May 28, 2024. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

According to remarks made by Representative of the Chinese government and Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu during the conference, since 2018, China has approved and implemented some 200 cooperation projects with SIDS in trade, investment, infrastructure, medical services and health.

Steiner said that in this sense, the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Chinese government’s Global Development Initiative both share the goal of sustainable development.

“These are all means by which China can be a very valuable partner,” he said.

The conference concluded Thursday and adopted an inter-governmentally agreed effort to pursue a more resilient future.

Steiner believes that the international community should recognize SIDS’s uniqueness, vulnerability and fragility and shoulder the responsibility of supporting them.

“Many SIDS and their economies are in some ways quite sophisticated and need to address issues in a systematic way,” said Steiner, adding that the development in different fields should interact and support one another.

“I think the South-South cooperation is certainly a tremendous opportunity to learn lessons from one another between SIDS and between countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

“The international community, including China, can help these countries to pivot into an economy of tomorrow — a blue-green economy,” Steiner said. 

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