Beijing - China has been and will continue to be a key player in advancing human development and the Sustainable Development Goals, remarked scholars during a forum on Monday.
Over the past 40 years, China has contributed close to three-quarters of the global reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty, without which the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 1 would not have been successfully reached, said Peng Gang, vice president of Tsinghua University, at this forum co-hosted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the China Institute for Development Planning of Tsinghua University.
China is the first country to have moved from the low human development category to the high human development category since the UNDP began publishing Human Development Index (HDI) in 1990. China's HDI reached 0.768 in 2021, said Yang Yongheng, vice dean of the institute.
China was also one of the few countries that saw an increase in HDI during the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, in 2021, 156 out of 196 countries and regions experienced a decline in HDI compared to pre-pandemic levels, Yang said.
Kanni Wignaraja, director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific of UNDP, said human development is about expanding people's opportunities and choices, improving their well-being, and safeguarding the lives of future generations. "This means, amongst other issues, tackling climate change and accelerating a just energy transition."
China has made important commitments in this regard, exemplified by its dual carbon goals to peak emissions before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality before 2060, Wignaraja said.
"If these efforts are maintained and accelerated, and made inclusively, the green transition can generate significant economic, social and environmental benefits," she added.
However, China is also faced with some challenges in advancing human development, such as slowing income growth, unbalanced regional development and inadequate educational level of the population, and solving them requires concerted efforts of all parties, according to Yang.
"The structural imbalance between rural and urban areas remains a key development challenge for the Asia-Pacific region which is rapidly urbanizing. This is also very much so for China," Wignaraja said.
By investing in initiatives that promote the green and digital transformation of agriculture and enhance the income of rural households, "China can unlock the untapped potential of the rural market," she said.
Attendees of the forum also discussed the 2024 Regional Human Development Report released by UNDP last week.
The report said the Asia-Pacific region faces a potentially more turbulent future as the development landscape is being reshaped by clusters of interacting risks, such as climate change, pandemics and aging populations.
Countries in the region should prioritize people's needs, expand opportunities for all, unlock new drivers of growth and improve governance, in a bid to advance human development and build resilience and sustainability for the future, according to the attendees.
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