Editor's Note: People’s Daily has a written interview with Li Yong, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), on the occasion of the UN 75th Anniversary.
File photo: UNIDO
1. The United Nations is marking its 75th anniversary this year. What is UNIDO’s commitment?
The United Nations is marking its 75th anniversary at a time during an unprecedented global crisis that has a severe economic and social impact. We stepped into 2020, the beginning of the Decade of Action for the international community to accelerate solutions towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is also a year of dialogue, where the UN is encouraging all of us to come together to discuss our priorities as a human family, and how we can build a better future for all.
As the specialized agency of the United Nations for inclusive and sustainable industrial development, UNIDO has a long history of being part of facilitating international cooperation and multi-stakeholder partnerships. UNIDO will continue to stand in solidarity and fully support the global dialogue initiative of the Secretary-General as the United Nations turns 75. I encourage all UNIDO partners to join in and help build the world that we want.
2. UNIDO’s mission is to promote and accelerate Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development (ISID). What is the significance of ISID in achieving the 2030 Agenda?
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) depicts the detailed commitment of the international community to achieve sustainable development as envisaged by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda continues to guide all global, regional and national development endeavours, and it has become more imperative as we face the next 10 years. UNIDO is fully committed to contributing to the achievement of the SDGs, while delivering on its mandate to promote and support its Member States towards achieving inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID).
Inclusive industrial development implies that all parts of society benefit from industrial progress, where industrialization helps reduce absolute poverty and inequality and provides well-paid jobs for both women and men. The key issue in policy terms is to ensure that manufacturing activities grow sufficiently more rapidly to create jobs both directly and indirectly through linkage effects.
The term “sustainable” addresses the need to decouple the prosperity generated from industrial activities from excessive natural resource use and negative environmental impacts. UNIDO research shows that manufacturing development does not necessarily have to pose environmental concerns. New technologies and modernized production processes allow for a less resource-intensive utilisation of inputs. We must increase support for the transition towards clean-energy, low-carbon development and sustainable production and consumption patterns.
UNIDO’s ISID mandate recognizes the irrefutable link between economic growth and environmental pressures, and therefore encourages the promotion of “green industries”. UNIDO seeks to empower countries to proactively and effectively integrate environmentally sustainable industrial development concepts at the policy level, and build up national capacity to acquire cleaner and more efficient technologies.
3. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented health challenges and economic crises to the
world. What is UNIDO’s response to the COVID-19?
As previously mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a global crisis that is unprecedented in the 21st century. It has hit us at a time when the international community is committed to accelerating progress towards the SDGs.
In the global fight to overcome this virus together, UNIDO is working with the United Nations system to help our Member States overcome this global crisis. Aligned to the UN response framework, UNIDO released its COVID-19 response at the height of the pandemic and it draws on three corresponding packages on the context that industry plays an important role. Other than protecting jobs and incomes, industries were also critical for the production of goods and services. Our response also considers the potential of the digitalization of industries to future-proof productive sectors and foster long-term resilience. Finally we are optimistic that there is an opportunity to prepare better and to build a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future through green industries and transition into low-carbon economy to “build back better”.
4. Some policymakers are calling for protectionist measures in response to the impact of the pandemic.
What is UNIDO’s position? What lessons and opportunities does the pandemic provide?
The COVID-19 crisis has indeed disrupted and fully exposed the vulnerabilities of global value chains linked to globalization, particularly when travel bans, closed borders and other restrictions were put in place.
The crisis clearly showed that not less, but more international coordination and cooperation is necessary. Sharing of information, knowledge and best practices, joint measures, policy coherence and a multilateral response are essential to address global crises.
As the world emerges from one crisis, it will be critical to be prepared before the next one strikes. With developing countries and emerging economies facing serious challenges and with substantial increases in poverty and inequality, we need to step up efforts towards achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda. The United Nations and its specialized agencies, such as UNIDO, play a critical role in building international partnerships and mechanisms for an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future.
5. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is profoundly changing global industry, especially during the COVID - 19 pandemic. How do you view this issue?
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of technologies and they have significantly contributed to the fight against COVID-19. UNIDO sees that the “new normal” in the post-pandemic world will increasingly be driven by advanced technologies and their applications for inclusive and sustainable industrial development.
At the same time, as AI and other technologies are adapted to support recovery, there is also a need to be conscious of the risk of widening the technological gap between developed and developing countries. UNIDO is dedicated to assist countries in the diffusion and adaptation of new technologies related to digitalization and adoption of cyber-physical systems with the aim of facilitating a smooth transition to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
UNIDO is therefore adapting to this new reality through a multi-dimensional approach, encapsulated in our response to: “prepare and contain, respond and adapt, recover and transform”. Through this approach, UNIDO is providing tailored solutions to its Member States to help them recover and build inclusive, sustainable and resilient economies.
6. What is the current situation of cooperation between UNIDO and China? What role does China play in participating in UNIDO cooperation projects and promoting international industrial cooperation?
UNIDO and China have enjoyed a long history of cooperation, which started as early as 1979 after China decided to open up to the outside world. Since then, UNIDO has implemented hundreds of technical cooperation projects in China in the area of inclusive and sustainable industrial development to support the country’s related reform processes.
Most recently, UNIDO’s cooperation with China has focused on advancing green industrial development and food safety, two issues of major importance for the government in the context of creating an ecological civilization and achieving high-quality development.
At the moment, we are formulating our Country programme for 2021-2025 to support the objectives of the 14th Five Year Plan. China ’s role in UNIDO’s cooperation projects cannot be over-emphasized. Having been a recipient of development cooperation in the past, China is now one of UNIDO’s main partners in promoting international industrial cooperation through the provision of funds and expertise to other developing countries, which stand to benefit from China’s experiences.
We expect that as China’s development process continues to move ahead, the country will become an even stronger partner for South-South and Triangular Cooperation, including in UNIDO’s Programmes for Country Partnership. UNIDO will also continue to support China’s initiatives, including the Belt and Road.