China's role in peace and progress
Updated: 2015-04-10 07:14
By Huang Haoming and Peter van Tuijl(China Daily Europe)
Proposed UN goal would strengthen the country's image as a good example
There is an emerging consensus to incorporate "building peaceful and inclusive societies" as a standalone goal in the post-2015 development agenda, to be put before the United Nations General Assembly in September.
The inclusion of this new goal is important for China and offers opportunities to further strengthen China's contribution to constructive international relations, both at the governmental and civil society level.
From 2000 to 2015, the Multilateral Development Goals have been the major international umbrella established by the UN to assess the progress of nations. If we look back at the extent to which the goals have been achieved, two things are striking.
On the one hand, China has made significant progress on most of the goals. China has substantially reduced poverty and infant, child and maternal mortality rates; increased access to primary and secondary education; and made important gains in combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Hundreds of millions of people in China are better off today than they were 15 years ago.
On the other hand, a number of countries affected by violent conflict show the opposite. These countries did not manage to make much progress on achieving the goals. Wherever violent conflict is raging, there are few opportunities to work on better healthcare or better education, and there is no room to invest and develop economic activities. Millions of people in these countries continue to suffer, and their suffering breeds new violence and risks of instability.
These two observations show that there can be no development without peace. They also help in looking at the recent Chinese experiences in the context of building a peaceful and inclusive society. In the history of China, there have been episodes of civil war and social unrest, and China knows from experience what the costs of violence can be. The Chinese modernization and progress of the past decades is grounded in understanding the importance of the need to work on building a peaceful and inclusive society.
Considering that China is an increasingly important actor in the global economy and in the world order, it is relevant to make this connection with China's experiences. It also is important to appreciate that it is in everyone's interest to understand the causes of instability and violence, and agree on a new goal that will provide an incentive to address these challenges jointly in the years to come.
One significant element over the past 15 years has been the rapid growth of nongovernmental organizations following the opening-up of the economy under Deng Xiaoping. At the moment, there are about 600,000 registered Chinese NGOs, fulfilling a host of different developmental functions. Their activities represent 9.7 percent of GDP and they have created 12 million jobs. The Chinese experience thus argues for the essence of civil society space and not-for-profit principles to allow for the creation of capacities and social capital that cement a peaceful and inclusive society.
The importance of not-for-profit principles in building a peaceful and inclusive society has an element of voluntarism and professionalism. Voluntarism is needed to safeguard and promote the basic human imperative that people can do something for other people not to make money, but out of empathy, values or enlightened self-interest. This is essential for humanity and healthy social relations.
Not-for-profit principles also need to be applied in a professional sphere, wherein more, more effective and better quality work can be done because it is based on a higher level of standard. It is important to note that this also creates a greater accountability towards both supporters and beneficiaries of such work.
If we look again at conflict-affected countries, NGOs also play important roles, often in a space where there is only a weak government, and sometimes no government at all. Such a situation makes the capacity and social capital building functions of civil society even more needed. The absence of government may steer NGOs to take on a more political edge, as they may have to assert a greater responsibility with immediate consequences for local communities in a larger part of the public domain. But in doing so, NGOs can help to strengthen the necessary ownership of the process of moving forward and building or rebuilding a country.
When building peaceful and inclusive societies in countries where it is most needed, strengthening local ownership of the development process is essential to give meaning to state sovereignty.
In this regard, Chinese NGOs are beginning to take on greater responsibilities by sharing their experiences and increasing their collaboration with international partners to support and participate in building peaceful and inclusive societies. It is an important reason why China should support this new goal in the post-2015 global development agenda.
Huang Haoming is vice-chairman and executive director of China Association for NGO Cooperation. Peter van Tuijl is executive director of Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
(China Daily European Weekly 04/10/2015 page11)