IDS Director Melissa Leach was one of three panellists to take part in a UK parliament event, ‘China and ‘Global Britain’ – a sustainable development partnership for the future?’. This high profile event was jointly hosted by IDS, the All Party Parliamentary China Group and the All Party Parliamentary Group on the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The event sought to explore the opportunities and challenges associated with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in relation to accelerating progress towards the Global Goals and strengthening the UK’s global partnership with China.
Speaking alongside Mellissa Leach were Dr Yu Jie, research fellow at the Asia-Pacific Programme, Chatham House and Jinny Yan, managing director and Chief China economist, ICBC Standard Bank, London. All three panellist spoke of the challenges and opportunities that the BRI could bring to the UK, its relationship with China and what this means for sustainable development.
Professor Leach highlighted how the potential exists to align the ambitions of the BRI around policy coordination, connectivity, trade, financial integration and cultural exchange with the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development (Global Goals) framework and its focus on people, planet and power and leaving no-one behind. However, partners across national governments in developed and developing countries, investors and private sector organisations, multilateral agencies and regional banks need to work together to conceptualise how this might be achieved, the opportunities and the risks involved, as this was not the original intention of the BRI.
The discussion also explored BRI promises to close the global infrastructure gap, and the benefits and risks this posed to BRI countries in Central Asia, South Asia and Africa.
Asked about how the BRI might be connected to the ongoing plight of the Uighur Muslim populations in China, millions of whom it is estimated currently reside in concentration and re-educations camps in the North Western Xinjiang province, panellist spoke about how violations of human rights runs against the promises and high ambitions made by the BRI.
Bringing rigorous research to BRI debates
This parliament event followed IDS’s ongoing engagements in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. At the launch of the Belt and Road Studies Network as part of the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, IDS Director Professor Melissa Leach emphasised the need for stronger evidence to reinforce understanding and inform decision-making around the prospects and challenges that the BRI presents in terms of achieving sustainable development outcomes.
Preceding this, IDS played host to senior financial and sustainable development experts from the UK and China at a Wilton Park event supported by the UK Department for International Development. This event looked at opportunities and challenges that BRI could bring to the 2030 sustainable development goals. Of particular interest to the discussion was how partnerships across civil society, multilateral development banks, governments, international financial institutions can manage and mitigate the political, social and environmental risk that BRI will bring.
Listen to the full event below