Building desert ecological civilization, restoring the glory of the Silk Road

Updated: 2015-08-03 16:27


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Address at the Fifth Kubuqi International Desert Forum

By Sha Zukang

United Nations Former Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)

28 July 2015

Your Excellency Jose Manuel Barroso,

Your Excellency JohnKufuor,

Your Excellency José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning, everyone.

I am delighted to attend the Fifth Kubuqi International Desert Forum. I appreciate the opportunity to meet with old friends, as well as new ones, at this Forum, to discuss how to advance ecological civilization and green development.

This Forum focuses on the central theme of "Desert Ecological Civilization - Building Together Silk Road". I believe it is highly consistent with the demands of our times; and it is very much in line with the interests of several scores of countries and several billion people along the Silk Road.

As you know, for millennia the ancient Silk Road had been the artery running through the landmass of Eurasia. Like a belt, the Silk Road connects the four great ancient civilizations, as well as ancient Persia and ancient Greece. For more than two thousand years, countries along the Silk Road have had friendly exchanges, fostering open trade and development and win-win cooperation, bringing about mutually beneficial exchanges of goods, people, technology and ideas.

For example, whether it is the Chinese Four Great Inventions spreading to the West or the western medicine being absorbed into the Chinese traditional medicine or the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in China– they are the fruits of interactions between human wisdom and civilizations.

Arguably, the ancient Silk Road is both a road of exchanges between civilizations and a road of commerce and economic development. Moreover, it is a road of peace and friendship. It facilitated dialogue and exchange and integration between civilizations, advancing by leaps and bounds the greater prosperity and development of all countries and ethnic groups along the way. The Silk Road represents a glorious chapter in the annals of history of mankind.

Unfortunately, we regret to see today thatwarsandover-exploitationsand otherhumanactivities have seriously undermined the green resources along the Silk Road. The old fertile land of the ancient Silk Road underwent serious degradations due to widespread desertification. Ragingsandstormobliteratedthe ancient towns of Shuofang and Loulan and buried the Babylon, turning once thriving towns into wasteland, and the ancientSilk Roadthat was alive with ringing camel bells,into land of desolation and silence.

This sobering realityconstantlyalerts the world: without a goodecologicalenvironment providing fertile soil, nocivilizationcan survive, let alone sustainable economic developmentandpeople's livelihoods.


To further optimize development space and promote international cooperation, as well as to accelerate the emergence of a newregionaleconomic landscape, the Chinese government has put forwardthe "One Belt One Road" initiative, also known as the "Belt and Road" initiative.

Chinaaims towork together with other countries along the Belt and Road to buildan open, inclusive, balanced regional economiccooperation framework that benefits all, and that helps relevant States to becomea win-win"community of shared interests" and a prosperous "community of shared destiny".

Today, the "Belt and Road" initiativeencompasses65 countries, reaching a large population of about 4.4 billion in its inner and outer regions, producing an economic output of about $21 trillion, accounting for 63% and 29% of the world totals, respectively. It constitutes the world's most promising economic belt.

Jointly building the "Belt and Road" initiative is of fundamental and practical significance for advancing the sustainabledevelopmentof the global economy; it will not onlycontribute tothe eradication of poverty, improve people's quality oflife, but alsohelp toreduce conflicts between statesand regionalstrife, and resistterrorist attacks – these are our common goals.

Furthermore, the initiative will help provide new and additional channels and platforms for thecountries along the "Belt and Road" to safeguard nationalinterests,maintainregional stability, promotegood-neighborly friendship, enhance politicalmutual trust, and strengthenfriendly exchanges.

At the same time, it is worth noting that the countries alongthe Silk Road differ considerably in their natural and geographical conditions, especially given that most countries are landlocked, facing drought, desertification and other challenges.

According to the fourth China desertification andland degradation monitoring survey conducted in 2011, the western region in China faces enormous challenges, with desertification rates reaching 64.53% in Xinjiang, 43.94% in Ningxia, 52.35% in Inner Mongolia, 44.67% in Gansu, and 26.58% in Qinghai.

Likewise, many countries in the Middle East and Central Asia face serious ecological problems, having to contend with falling water tables,degradedgrasslandvegetation, wetlandsatrophy, loss of biodiversity and other challenges.

These ecological conditions are too fragile to serve as a solid ecological basis for the sustainable development of the Silk Road. Thus, building the "Belt and Road" requires first and foremost efforts to tackle the ecological crisis. It is the common responsibility of all countries along the Silk Road to build a Green Silk Road, and put in place a framework for pursuing a green economy.

In this context, I would like to make four recommendations for your consideration:

First, speed up the establishment ofan exchange and cooperation mechanism for strengthening the ecological building.

We should continuously strengthendialogue, exchanges, andpragmaticcooperation withcountries along the "Belt and Road"in the fieldof ecological civilization, andto this end, put in place a goodcooperation mechanism, and establish a globalecologicalgovernancecoalition.

In particular, there is a needto establishplatforms such as the Kubuqi International Desert Forum, toenable countries moreeffectively to shareexperiences in ecologicalmanagement, showcase ecological managementtechnologies, scale up successes in greencivilization, and increase green aid for ecologically fragile countries.

Second, we should continue strengthening technological cooperation to develop ecological industries.

Ecological development requires the support of technology. Ecologically fragile areas should be encouraged to learn advanced ecological management expertise and experience, to introduce and create, on a large scale,innovative eco-technologies, applying them to basic productive sectors, especially water-saving agriculture, smart animal husbandry, as well as integrated ecological industries.

Such integrated approaches will allow for the restoration of habitat while meeting food self-sufficiency, eradicating poverty, and moving out of the vicious cycle of conflict between people and land, so as to achieve win-win ecological and economic results.

In this regard, I propose to establish ecologicalrestoration demonstration bases or special ecological-economic zones, inthe Silk Roadecologically fragile areas. After the pilot phase, successful experiences can be disseminated further along the Silk Road areas.

Third, we should encourage multiple actors to participate in the Silk Road ecological development, whichis not just a government priority of the Silk Road countries; more importantly, we should encourage social actors, especially business enterprises, to participate in ecological development.

Leading enterprises in the field of ecological developmentsuch as Elion Resources Grouphavealso shown a strong sense of social responsibility. They should vigorously implement the "going out" strategy, to participate, on a larger, wider and higher scale, in international exchanges and cooperation in ecological development, and promote ecological and economic integration along the Silk Road.

Fourth, we should seek to developecological culture and popularize the concept of ecologicalcivilization. I propose to carry out various forms of outreach activities on ecological civilization along the Silk Roadcountries, particularlyin ecologically fragile areas, creating a strongatmosphere ofecological civilization, promoting generalecological awareness, making the building of ecologicalcivilizationconscious actionof peoplesalong the Silk Road.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As an ancient Chinese saying goes, "In the mirror of bronze, one canlook at oneself to be properly dressed; in the mirror of history, one can study history to learn about therise and fall of nations".

Similarly, the rise and fall ofthe ancient Silk Road is in fact a history ofecologicalchanges.

Today, with the advancement andimplementation of the "Belt and Road" initiative, building an ecologicalcivilizationbecomesa mostimportantstrategic link. It is also the consensus of countries along the Silk Road that we should build an ecological Silk Road and a Green Silk Road.

I believe that with strong collaborationandjointefforts of all countries, the ancientSilk Roadwill surely be able toreproduce Green Value, realizingmore benefits for people and reliving itsglorioushistory.


This September the United Nations will convene a Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda, embarking on the implementation of sustainable development goals (SDGs), which emphasize balanced development in the economic, social and environment fields – the three pillars of sustainable development.

The post-2015 development agenda will also establish broader and stronger global partnership for development, injecting renewed energy into international development cooperation.

Goal 15 is for member States to"Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss".

And Target 3 of Goal 15 calls upon the international community to "by 2020, combat desertification, and restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land-degradation neutral world".

The Kubuqi International Desert Forum offers a forward-looking and broad-based platform to address desertification. I am confident that the Forum will contribute to the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda and international cooperation.

Let me conclude by wishing the Forum a great success.

Thank you!