Belt and Road Initiative to drive SDG agenda

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Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China is enabling a better connect among participating nations and bringing them on a single platform to deal with common challenges. The initiative is expediting the joined efforts to achieve objectives under international agendas such as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Paris Climate Accord, New Urban Agenda, etc.

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In the past few years, international development cooperation has gradually and surely shifted from bilateral aid to multilateral cooperation. The new power centres have emerged and that is gradually ending the traditional donor-recipient power dynamic. It has led to an alternative form of development practices and has created a space to achieve mutual prosperity. Mariam Zabakhidze of the University of Sussex in a paper opined that  ‘this movement, has been underpinned by new initiatives such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and the establishment of multilateral financial institutions including the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and New Development Bank (NDB). This shift is in line with the International Development Agenda, summarized by 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have been built around the commitment to leave no one behind’.

Post-2015 we have witnessed greater cooperation in the developing world but the search for enhanced clarity on the ways of addressing rooted inequality in development practices to pave the path towards a mutually prosperous world is still on. There are people who say that there is a ‘knowledge gap on the policy level’ that how the joint actions are ‘identified, implemented and monitored’. That is where the role of Belt and Road Initiative in the post-2015 agenda becomes important as to how it can contribute to achieve Social Development Goals 2030. In this context, China’s cooperation with Institutions like the European Union and other multilateral institution gains greater significance.  

Just before the second Belt and Road Forum in April this year, United Nation’s Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the Belt and Road Initiative is a “very important opportunity” to the world. With such a huge volume of investment for international cooperation as the Belt and Road Initiative, he said it is a “very important opportunity for enhancing the capacity to implement the sustainable development goals and an important opportunity to launch green perspectives in the years to come,” He further added that “When we look at the sustainable development goals, when we look at the 2030 agenda, we see that we are not making enough progress. Financing for development is not enough. There is not enough money. There is not enough support to developing countries in order to be able to reach the sustainable development goals.”

While everybody recognizes that climate change is one of the biggest problem facing humanity, fulfilling the Paris agreement is a big challenge and opportunity as well. There is a worry that around the world enough political will is not being demonstrated to reverse this negative trend. “When we have such a huge volume of investment in international cooperation, it is obvious that its significance is extremely relevant, especially in the perspective of the implementation of the agenda 2030,” Guterres said.

The Belt and Road Initiative can have a stronger impact on the economies and societies of the countries concerned and support those countries that benefit from the Belt and Road, in order to make sure that those projects are honestly integrated into their economies and their societies and fully contribute to their development. Lots of investment is required in sustainable development, in renewable energy, and a lot of investments in infrastructure that respect the future, and truly sustainable.

Not surprisingly, the draft communique before the forum said: “We underline the importance of promoting green development, We encourage the development of green finance including the issuance of green bonds as well as the development of green technology.” This was a marked departure from the first forum two years ago which did not mention it even once. In the words of Un Secretary General“the world will benefit from a Belt and Road Initiative that accelerates efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The five pillars of the Belt and Road – policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, and people-to-people exchanges – are intrinsically linked to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals”.

2030 agenda is ambitious and important action plan charting sustainable development for the world in little over a decade from now. Concrete action is required to implement and achieve the SDGs. It requires to be done at the global, national, regional level bringing governments together. The role of the private sector, civil society, the UN, and all other actors is equally important to mobilise the resources. While there is no denying the fact that Belt and Road Initiative and 2030 agenda are different in nature and scope, they share a similar vision in many respects. The essential spirit of Belt and Road charter is read in line with principals of the UN charter. It promotes win-win cooperation, common development and prosperity, peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, and mutual understanding and trust conforms to the values of 2030 agenda.