Sustainable development, beyond the catchphrase

2018-11-03

AT a recent forum in Chongming District, officials and scholars from home and abroad aired their views on how to explore challenges and opportunities to achieve sustained development.

The forum, 2018 International Forum on Ecological Civilization and the Second International Forum on Silk Road Development, consisted of two parallel events.

The first, “Chongming Island: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” was organized by East China Normal University. The other was organized by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences International Silk Road Institute.

In his keynote speech, Yu Hongjun, former vice minister of International Department, Central Committee of CPC, highlighted improved global governance as an approach to sustainable development.

“We are living in an era of hope and challenges,” Yu said.

On one hand, technology is advancing rapidly and economic ties between countries growing ever closer. But on the other, regional conflicts, traditional and non-traditional security issues are more interwoven. We seem to face endless challenges and threats.

Yu reckons that the evolution and development of society is essentially a process of comprehensive engagement, interaction and collaboration between countries. No country can address the various challenges facing the world on its own, and no country can retreat to an isolated island, Yu said.

“This notion has not yet been recognized by all countries,” Yu said. He also pointed out that the international community has not enough knowledge of the status and appeal of developing countries.

Thankfully, G20 has emerged as one of important vehicles to bring developed and emerging economies together to discuss difficulties faced by all.

Like many other international organizations, G20 has its own problems that need to be fixed. For instance, phrase–mongering, lip service, low efficiency and formalism still exist. Some resolutions are not carried out earnestly.

“G20 needs to renovate itself. Only by renovating and evolving with the times can G20 be an effective tool of global governance, as well as a mutually beneficial platform that defeats unilateralism and protectionism,” Yu observed.

In sustainability, it is not just government action that counts. The private sector has a critical role to play too.

Social responsibility

Liu Meng, head of Asia and Oceania Networks, United Nations Global Compact, called for companies to align their business strategies and operations with the ten UNGC principles on human rights, labor, the environment and corruption.

According to Liu, UNGC is the world’s biggest sustainable business initiative. It has over 10,000 enterprise members from over 170 countries. All the members have to publish a sustainability or corporate social responsibility report.

By committing to social responsibility, companies can contribute to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. This, in return, can give companies an impetus to innovate and seek new opportunities.

“By investing in the SDGs, companies can open up an estimated US$12 trillion in market opportunities.” Liu said.

Food security and sustainable agriculture have always been at the core of sustainable development. Shanghai’s practices have yielded promising results, which may provide some guidance to cooperation between countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Wang Dedi, director of the Department of Economic and Business Affairs, Shanghai Agriculture Committee, observed that despite China’s agricultural history, there is still a long way to go.

As someone with experience of promoting Shanghai’s agricultural products to overseas, Wang said that when participating in expositions, they were sometimes not allowed to bring actual products, only packages.

“We have different standards in quality inspection. The EU has its own standards, and so do we, but it somehow leaves the impression that China’s agricultural products are not safe enough,” Wang noted.

Anecdotes like this have made Wang realize the need to increase agricultural exchange and cooperation, and for China to have a bigger say in rule-making.

Wang is also working on increasing access to local agricultural products as part of the rural revitalization strategy. Shanghai is a destination for global agricultural products, but is rarely seen as a producer. That’s why the city’s agriculture authority is promoting locally grown rice and trying to build Shanghai brand of rice. This year, three kinds of rice were introduced to customers in Shanghai: green rice, pollution-free rice and organic rice, with uniform packaging and quality standards.

“One of the key traits of the new rice is its full traceability from farm to market. By scanning the QR code, you can find out where the rice was produced, what variety it was, and what pesticides and fertilizers were used,” Wang said.

During the two-day forum, participants also discussed issues ranging from development of the sericulture industry, new urbanization strategy with Chinese characteristics, to understanding of corporate social responsibilities.

Source: SHINE


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华东师范大学
East China Normal University