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China helps shape response to challenges

A couple of delegates walk in the hallway of the Secretariat building during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept 22, 2020.  (MARY ALTAFFER / AP)

China’s participation in the United Nation has changed over the 75 years since the formation of the intergovernmental organization after the World War II.

Once seen as a country that took a back seat in the UN, China is now playing a more active role with its financial contributions, involvement in peacekeeping operations and participation in policy initiatives of the world body.

These days, China is one of the economic leaders of the global world and is playing a very active role in many spheres of economic activities and economic cooperation.

Tatiana Valovaya, Director-general of the United Nations Office in Geneva

“These days, China is one of the economic leaders of the global world and is playing a very active role in many spheres of economic activities and economic cooperation,” said Tatiana Valovaya, director-general of the United Nations Office in Geneva.

“It is very important that China can provide its experience to many nations and developing countries,” Valovaya said. “We’ve been watching the economic progress of China over the last decades and China is now absolutely different from what it was 75 years ago.”

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She noted that “China is an important example for other developing nations that are now looking for ways and opportunities to develop their economy”.

China has 2,534 military and police peacekeepers in seven of the 14 ongoing UN peacekeeping operations. In contrast, Beijing provided only five personnel to all peacekeeping operations in 1990.

China is also the UN peacekeeping program’s second-largest funder, accounting for 15.22 percent of about US$7 billion in 2019, up from 10.28 percent in 2018.

READ MORE: White paper: China to increase involvement in UN peacekeeping

As China contributes more to the organization, Valovaya said the world’s second-largest economy can also play an important part in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Agenda.

“For the United Nations, Sustainable Development Goals is a crucial agenda of 2030, even in the time of pandemic,” Valovaya said. “The pandemic has shown the necessity of reaching these Sustainable Development Goals of leaving nobody behind because we saw that regions, countries, communities and people who were poor before the pandemic were the first to suffer during the crisis.

“They did not have access to a proper health system or even just water to wash their hands, so we really understand that Sustainable Development Goals is a crucial agenda. So, I really think China can play a very important role in reaching Sustainable Development Goals.”

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This includes China’s participation in tackling climate change.

“China can play a very important and active role when it comes to the goal of climate and climate emergency,” Valovaya said. “The pandemic really slowed the effects of human economic activities on the environment as we had to shut down around the world to combat the virus.

“The environmental situation was much better all around the world, such as, the Himalayas were visible, the air was better in Europe and there was clear water in various channels as well. I’m sure it was the same in China where the air was much cleaner.”

However, she said that tackling climate change doesn’t require countries to stop all economic activities. It means making sure economic activities are more sustainable.

Active role

“China can take a very active role and lead the way in offering new initiatives on fighting the climate emergency and be on the forefront of sustainable behavior.”

Recently, Beijing issued the Position Paper of the People’s Republic of China on the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations. In the paper, China called on the international community to champion multilateralism, safeguard the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and reject unilateralism, hegemonism and power politics.

China, like the rest of the world, can play a very important role in building the new multilateral system … Again, we see it as a result of the pandemic, how global the world is and interconnected in human contact, communication and in the economy. This was not the case 75 years ago.

Tatiana Valovaya

“China, like the rest of the world, can play a very important role in building the new multilateral system … Again, we see it as a result of the pandemic, how global the world is and interconnected in human contact, communication and in the economy. This was not the case 75 years ago,” Valovaya said.

She described China as a “key economic country” and “much more active politically and also in foreign relations”.

“China has this unique capacity now to build a multilateral system where we can really listen to the voices of all the member states of the United Nations and all the citizens around the world where no one is left behind,” she said.

“I think that’s what can be done together with China and the United Nations. But we must also listen to other key players such as the European Union, African Union or Eurasian Economic Union, and interact with them.”

Valovaya said youth representation is also an important part in shaping the United Nations now and in the future.

READ MORE: Chinese broaden their horizons at UN

“Youth organizations are really important because young people are very active on all issues, especially on climate change and we should consult them,” she said.

“So, for us, when we talk about the future of multilateralism, we have to discuss what kind of multilateralism we need and what we really feel everybody wants to have with this inclusiveness.”

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