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This week’s China-Africa summit provides a critical opportunity to promote sustainable development.
Coinciding with the UN Climate Conference in Paris, and following the adoption of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 6th Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Johannesburg can help to boost development and poverty eradication in Africa, while safeguarding the environment, protecting the ecosystems that sustain human well-being, and mitigating the impact of climate change.
WWF is urging FOCAC to incorporate clear goals in its Declaration and Action Plan on the sustainable use and trade of natural resources, responsible infrastructure development, clean energy, sustainable finance, and the creation of a more inclusive process. Under these broad themes, WWF is calling on China and all 50 African states represented in FOCAC to commit to specific actions.
To highlight these issues, WWF hosted a high-level, pre-summit conference titled ‘FOCAC – Opportunities to Create Sustainable Development Pathways on 1 December.
The conference brought together African and Chinese stakeholders from government, state-owned companies, private enterprises, civil society and academia to explore the role of FOCAC and Chinese investments to drive sustainable development in Africa. Issues discussed included the illegal wildlife trade, how to promote sustainable forestry, the need for environmental planning to be built into infrastructural developments and the role of civil society in providing the checks and balances, an element missing from the FOCAC process.
Opening the WWF conference, Dr Deon Nel, WWF Executive Director, Conservation, stressed the importance of the geopolitical relationship between Africa and China in the light of the rapid development facing the continent.
“FOCAC can help protect the environment and the priceless services that Africa’s ecosystems provide by directing China-Africa economic cooperation towards sustainable development. Critically, FOCAC can use policy and finance tools to promote strategically-planned infrastructure development, renewable energy and resource-efficient technologies that benefit national economies and local populations,” he said.
“WWF is keen to encourage vibrant partnerships to safeguard the environment for future generations. The decisions to secure Africa’s ecological futures must be taken today and FOCAC must take the opportunity to contribute its share.”
Said Fredrick Kumah, WWF Regional Director for Africa: “FOCAC has enhanced economic cooperation and development in China and Africa over the past 15 years: now it can pave the way towards a more sustainable and equitable future. WWF is calling on FOCAC to seize this critical opportunity to align its aims with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and incorporate these into future action plans.”
Africa’s economies have grown considerably since FOCAC was launched in 2000, and China has contributed significantly through the Forum by facilitating trade, investments, aid and development.
However, China and Africa’s relations and long‑term prosperity are increasingly threatened by economic and social challenges driven by environmental degradation, such as biodiversity loss, soil erosion, pollution and climate change. There are also concerns about the potential long-term impact of infrastructure, manufacturing and mining projects if they are inadequately planned and managed, and do not follow best practices.
Since 2008, WWF’s China for a Global Shift Initiative has promoted the mainstreaming of environmental and social sustainability in trade and investment between China and other regions.
Dr Li Lin, WWF’s China for a Global Shift Initiative leader, commented: "China has embarked on a road towards an ‘ecological civilisation’, where ecological integrity is mainstreamed into the country’s sustainable development. We urge that this principle also be translated into China’s ever-growing overseas investment. FOCAC has emerged as a critical platform to advance sustainable development in African countries and in China, to cooperate in their exploration of a development path within the ecological limits of our planet.”