By Ramesh Jaura
VIENNA (IDN) – Li Yong has a ‘dream’, the dream to give young people, living in similarly poor conditions as he experienced in China in his childhood, an opportunity to play a part in “the global fight against poverty”.
Li was re-appointed head of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) on November 27 for four years by the Organization’s supreme policy-making organ, the General Conference (GC) where member states meet once every two years.
He was first elected in June 2013 as the UNIDO’s Director General, becoming as Xinhua noted, “the first United Nations (UN) agency chief from the Chinese mainland”.
Li received congratulatory messages not only from member states, but also from the UN Secretary-General António Guterres. In a video message, Guterres described UNIDO as “a key voice on technology transfer, investment flows and skills development,” and added: “Your efforts can help support economic transformation in Africa and in other regions, and, as we combat climate change, your work can facilitate the transition to low-carbon growth.”
China’s Vice-Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen also commended Li for his re-appointment, and thanked member states for their “support to China’s candidacy,” adding: “China will continue to work with all member states and support UNIDO’s work in promoting global industrialization.”
In his address at the 17th session of the General Conference ‘Partnering for Impact: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals’, Wang said: “China and UNIDO have engaged in substantial cooperation. In the coming four years, China will make a contribution of 24 million U.S. dollars to UNIDO” – amounting to 6 million U.S. dollars a year.
The Vice-Minister added: “We will continue to support UNIDO’s various approaches including the PCP [the Programme for Country Partnership], so as to help promote industrial development in member countries. We call on all member states to act together, forge a new partnership on industrial development, and make greater contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
However, he did not specify whether that contribution should be in terms of funds or in kind.
Li shared the dream of the global fight against poverty in a statement at the opening of the General Conference. He said UNIDO’s strategic direction was refocused in 2013 with the Lima Declaration and the mandate of inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID) was anchored in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The UNIDO chief is confronted with ample challenges during his second term from 2017 to 2021. “The global community is still facing a number of unresolved and urgent challenges. Poverty, unemployment, and hunger remain the most persistent and daunting tasks for our world,” he told member states during the opening session.
“Climate change, resource-depletion and environmental degradation, as well as the potential impact of the latest technological revolution, add another dimension,” he added.
But he is optimistic about confronting these challenges: by fostering partnership with governments, UN sister agencies, the private sector, and civil society. And he will strive to “ensure that UNIDO plays an increasingly strategic role as the central coordinator of industrial development in the UN system.”
As a specialized agency, UNIDO also “fully” supports the Secretary-General’s reform of the UN development system, he said. “As an international gender champion, I am also committed to engaging all my staff to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
During the GC, Li joined policymakers and business leaders for a panel discussion entitled ‘Partnering for Impact: Advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in industry to achieve the 2030 Agenda’. “Through Sustainable Development Goal 9, we support inclusiveness, meaning that everyone can participate in industrial development,” said Li.
High on his agenda in the global fight against poverty is the assistance to 47 least developed countries (LDCs), which are low-income countries confronting severe structural impediments to sustainable development. They are highly vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks and have low levels of human assets.
Equally of crucial importance, according to Li, is the implementation of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III) spanning a period of 2016 and 2025, where the majority of least developed countries is located.
In fact, in August 2016, the General Assembly tasked UNIDO as a specialized agency of the UN, with the mandate to support member states in achieving inclusive and sustainable industrial development, to foster partnerships and coordinate with other relevant UN entities, and to build joint initiatives in favour of industrialization.
The ways and means of making the IDDA III a reality in the next eight years was the subject of a side event on November 30, titled ‘Helping Africa leapfrog its industrial development’. A wide range of high-level stakeholders, including Ministers of Industry, heads of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and representatives of the core implementing partners, including the African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) as well as the heads and representatives of other UN agencies and development finance institutions attended.
Speaking at the opening of the event, the UNIDO Director General said that, “through a blend of existing, new and innovative development intervention measures, IDDA III is expected to become a game changer, which can radically transform the structure of Africa’s economies and jumpstart them towards industrialization.”
He intends to work hard to realize the objective of “integration and scale-up”. One way to achieve this is the gradual expansion of the Programme for Country Partnership in the coming years with a view to further shaping the partnership approach around the world. Currently, Ethiopia, Peru and Senegal are pilot states for the programme. Cambodia and Kyrgyzstan are also expected to join.
Chairman of the Vienna Chapter of the Group of 77 (G-77) and China, Ambassador Reza Najafi of Iran to Austria and Permanent Representative to the UN in Vienna, said the Group “looks forward to receiving the results of the mid-term review for the pilot PCPs, with a view to encourage Member States and international donors to support the implementation of PCPs and its expansion, through among others, the partnerships trust fund.”
Several members of the 134-nation of G-77 and China agreed that UNIDO’s Programme for Country Partnerships “shows promise”. They have taken note of the draft evaluation report but now looked look forward to the final report.
India’s representative Dr. Subhash Chandra Pandey, Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor to the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion told the General Conference: “The draft report provides a sound evaluation of the two years of the pilot phase of the PCPs and we hope that it would be helpful and important learning to enable UNIDO to further scale up the PCP model to other Member States. While going forward with the PCP, it is also equally important that the traditional models of project delivery in the South-South, and triangular cooperation frameworks, should also be further strengthened.”
While the re-appointed UNIDO Director General has every reason to rejoice at the member states’ praise for his ‘achievements’ in the first four years, observers agreed that he would need much more for his ‘dream’ to become a reality – a point that was stressed by the Chairman of the Vienna Chapter of G-77 and China, Ambassador Najafi.
“The Group expresses its satisfaction that 2016 was once more an excellent year in terms of mobilization of voluntary contributions. The Group welcomes the increase in the amounts of voluntary contributions in 2016 by 4.8 million euros (about 5.71 million U.S. dollars) to a total of 216.8 million euros (257.9 million U.S. dollars).”
Najafi added: “The Group notes the significant imbalance between the regular budget, funded by assessed contributions, and the voluntarily financed operational budget, and calls upon the Secretariat to propose ways to bridge this gap. The Group takes this opportunity to recognize the voluntary contributions from governments and institutions that facilitated further technical cooperation, as well as advisory services in many of the G-77 countries.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 November 2017]
Photo: UNIDO Director General Li Yong addressing a press conference in Vienna, Austria, on November 27, 2017. Credit: Xinhua/Pan Xu
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