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Building Desert Ecological Civilization, Restoring the Glory of the Silk Road


SHA Zukang

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


Your Excellency Jose Manuel Barroso,

Your Excellency John Kufuor,

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 that wars and over-exploitations and other human activities 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. Raging sandstorm obliterated the ancient towns of Shuofang and Loulan and buried the Babylon, turning once thriving towns into wasteland, and the ancient Silk Road that was alive with ringing camel bells, into land of desolation and silence.


This sobering reality constantly alerts the world: without a good ecological environment providing fertile soil, no civilization can survive, let alone sustainable economic development and people's livelihoods.


Excellencies,


To further optimize development space and promote international cooperation, as well as to accelerate the emergence of a new regional economic landscape, the Chinese government has put forward the“One Belt One Road”initiative, also known as the “Belt and Road” initiative.


China aims to work together with other countries along the Belt and Road to build an open, inclusive, balanced regional economic cooperation framework that benefits all, and that helps relevant States to become a win-win “community of shared interests” and a prosperous “community of shared destiny”.


Today, the “Belt and Road” initiative encompasses 65 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 sustainable development of the global economy; it will not only contribute to the eradication of poverty, improve people's quality of life, but also help to reduce conflicts between states and regional strife, and resist terrorist attacks-these are our common goals.


Furthermore, the initiative will help provide new and additional channels and platforms for the countries along the“Belt and Road”to safeguard national interests, maintain regional stability, promote good-neighborly friendship, enhance political mutual trust, and strengthen friendly exchanges.


At the same time, it is worth noting that the countries along the 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 and land 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, degraded grassland vegetation, wetlands atrophy, 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 of an exchange and cooperation mechanism for strengthening the ecological building.


We should continuously strengthen dialogue, exchanges, and pragmatic cooperation with countries along the “Belt and Road” in the field of ecological civilization, and to this end, put in place a good cooperation mechanism, and establish a global ecological governance coalition.


In particular, there is a need to establish platforms such as the Kubuqi International Desert Forum, to enable countries more effectively to share experiences in ecological

management, showcase ecological management technologies, scale up successes in green civilization, 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 ecological restoration demonstration bases or special ecological-economic zones, in the Silk Road ecologically 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, which is 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 development such as Elion Resources Group have also 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 develop ecological culture and popularize the concept of ecological civilization. I propose to carry out various forms of outreach activities on ecological civilization along the Silk Road countries, particularly in ecologically fragile areas, creating a strong atmosphere of ecological civilization, promoting general ecological awareness, making the building of ecological civilization conscious action of peoples along the Silk Road.


Ladies and gentlemen,


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


Similarly, the rise and fall of the ancient Silk Road is in fact a history of ecological changes.


Today, with the advancement and implementation of the“Belt and Road” initiative, building an ecological civilization becomes a most important strategic 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 collaboration and joint efforts of all countries, the ancient Silk Road will surely be able to reproduce Green Value, realizing more benefits for people and reliving its glorious history.


Excellencies,


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!