These past two weeks in the United Nations and at side events in various venues, significant happenings took place and will continue to evolve through the month of October. Some of the world’s leaders are phasing out of the international limelight while others will be coming on the world stage for the first time.
Climate Change – Priority for China, U.S. and U.N.
Earlier this month, at the Summit held on 04-05 September 2016 in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang –the first-ever G20 summit China hosted– U.S. President Barack Obama and China President Xi Jinping announced the ratification by their respective countries of the Paris Agreement of the 2015 U.N. Climate Change Conference. This simultaneous declaration was “a giant step forward for Earth’s better and more peaceful future.” The U.S. and China represent, respectively, 18% and 20% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions, the main cause of global warming. Prior to such ratification, only 23 nations had so far ratified the Agreement, accounting for just over 1% of CO2 emissions. Hopefully, more and more nations, the Philippines included, will soon follow.
BBC News reported (03-September-2016): “In a speech in Hangzhou, President Obama said the Paris deal was the ‘single best chance to deal with a problem that could end up transforming this planet’… U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon praised President Obama for what he called ‘inspiring’ leadership. Sec-Gen. Ban also said President Obama and President Xi had both been ‘far-sighted, bold and ambitious.’”
Last 20-September-2016, President Obama gave what was his final speech before the U.N. General Assembly in which he focused on climate and the need for a new sustainable global business model that would be inclusive of both the developed and developing countries.
In his U.N.G.A. speech, Obama asserted: “We need to follow through on our efforts to combat climate change. If we don’t act boldly, the cost that could come due will be mass migrations, cities submerged, nations displaced, food supplies decimated, and conflicts born of despair. The Paris Agreement gives us a framework in which to act, but only if we scale up our ambition. There must be a sense of urgency about bringing the agreement into force, and helping poorer countries leapfrog destructive forms of energy.”
For the wealthiest countries, a green climate fund should be established from the beginning. The developed countries need to invest more in research and provide market incentives to develop innovative applications, and then make these technologies accessible and affordable for poorer countries. Only then can people be lifted up from poverty without condemning our children to a plant bereft of natural resources because of the lack of caring, sharing, and daring.
Sec-Gen Ban Ki-Moon’s Valedictory.
Equally important in terms of earth’s progress toward a better, sustainable future was the valedictory of outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon before the assemblage of Heads of State, Prime Ministers, and top diplomats last 20-September. His term ends by December 2016.
Sec-Gen Ban emphasized the need for greater international cooperation to put a closure to bloody conflicts on several fronts, resolve the migrant issues that had cost thousands of lives of refugees lost seeking sanctuary in safer lands, plus the fulfillment of the 30-year old nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). He specifically pinpointed Syria’s leadership as responsible for continuing suffering in its 5-year civil war.
Sec-Gen Ban stressed: “In today’s world, the conflict in Syria is taking the greatest number of lives and sowing the widest instability… Many groups have killed many innocents, but none more so than the Government of Syria itself, which continues to barrel-bomb neighborhoods and systematically torture thousands of detainees. Present in this U.N. hall today are representatives of Governments that have ignored, facilitated, funded, or even planned and carried out atrocities inflicted by all sides of the Syria conflict against Syrian civilians.”
Sec-Gen Ban called the attack last 19-September on a U.N.-Syrian Arab Red Crescent Aid convoy as “sickening and savage.” The U.N. has been forced to suspend aid convoys as a result of this latest outrage.
Encouraging Commitments from China.
For his part, China Premier Li Keqiang also recently addressed the same U.N. General Assembly. In an article entitled, “Li Vows New Round of Opening-Up,” the China Daily (Asean Edition, 23-September) reports, “China still has a long way to go to reach modernization and needs to pursue development through deepening reform, further opening up and safeguarding a peaceful environment, Li Keqiang said at the U.N. Headquarters in New York. “Li said China has become the first nation to submit a report to the U.N. on how it is implementing the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” a blueprint endorsed unanimously by the U.N. General Assembly in September 2015 for ending conflict, poverty and hunger, promoting equality, and protecting the environment in the years leading up to 2030.”
While addressing the U.N.G.A., whose theme is “The Sustainable Development Goals: A Universal Push to Transform our World,” Premier Li vowed that China would carry out a new round of opening-up and work to achieve mutually beneficial cooperation to fulfill the “U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals,” by 2030.
In the closing part of his U.N.G.A. speech, Premier Li stressed, “China has taken action to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It was among the first to release a national plan on agenda implementation while China remains supportive of relevant international cooperation. $100 million by 2020 from the 2015 level will raise China’s total annual contribution to U.N. development agencies. China was among the first countries to deposit with the U.N. an instrument of ratification of the Paris Agreement, and China will honor its commitment made in this regard.”
China’s State Council ratified on 19 September –two days prior to Premier’s Li U.N.G.A. address– the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Premier Li is President Xi Jinping’s right-hand man and second-in-command for the fulfillment of China’s vision of universal peace and prosperity.
Premier Li released the National Plan when he chaired a recent Beijing Roundtable on the Sustainable Development Goals. The plan consists of five parts, including China’s achievements and experience in implementing the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, and the challenges and opportunities, guiding principles, roadmaps and detailed plans for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Refugee/Migrant Crisis.
In an article entitled, “China Pledges to Help Refugee Crises,” the China Daily (Asean Edition, 23-September) reports, “China pledged $100 million in humanitarian aid to help countries and international organizations to resolve refugee and migrant crises and will consider additional support measures.”
Premier Li made the vow when he addressed a meeting at the U.N. on refugees and migrants. Li said China would also consider using part of the China-U.N. peace and development fund to support refugee/migrant work in developing countries, and to explore ways to enhance cooperation with developing countries and international agencies.
President Xi Jinping announced China’s decision to establish a 10-year, $1 billion China-U.N. peace and development fund during the 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly last year. Premier Li said the resolution of the refugee/migrant issues calls for ramped-up intensified international cooperation and intensified efforts by native countries of refugees/migrants. He said China has actively joined efforts to resolve these humanitarian issues.
At the end of 2015, the number of displaced people reached a record 65.3M, an increase of more than 5M from 2014, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. These figures include 21.3M refugees, 3.2M asylum seekers, and 40.8M migrants.
Threats of Nuclear Warfare.
The same newspaper likewise reported that Premier Li voiced Beijing’s opposition to the plan by Washington and Seoul to deploy an advanced missile-defense system in the Republic of Korea, during Li’s meeting with President Obama last week at the sidelines of the U.N.G.A. 71ST session. Li said, “It is hoped that all parties will avoid taking actions that lead to escalation of the tense situation.”
Earlier this year, Washington and Seoul had agreed to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, angering Beijing and Moscow. The system’s radar has a maximum reach of 2,000 km and could cover parts of China and Russia.
Tensions rose anew on the Korean Peninsula after the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent nuclear test in an area near the China-DPRK border.
The Bottom-line for the Philippines.
It does appear that in the past two weeks, chances for China-U.S. conflict over the China Sea controversies, thankfully, have receded, while their collaboration on equally important issues have been reinforced under the U.N. umbrella, principally the:
- 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by all nations by 2030;
- Global Climate Change;
- Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; and
- Massive Assistance to U.N./Red Cross-Red Crescent Humanitarian Efforts towards refugees leaving their homelands because of violence and terrorism.
44In sum, all of the above developments point to the need for interdependent foreign policies on the part of all countries to ensure people’s well being and Mother Earth’s survival.