Source: RDCY Published: 2020-6-12
Editor's note: Essam Sharaf gave a speech at the Global Think Tanks Online Forum held in Beijing on June 10. Over 100 think tank experts and media representatives from 48 countries and nine international organizations attended the forum. The following is the full text of his speech.
Excellencies, Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. It gives me a great pleasure to be with you today. Allow me at the outset, to extend my deepest gratitude for inviting me to address this distinguished gathering. I also, wish to thank our Chinese host for their excellent arrangement of this timely important meeting.
I have already selected a title for my brief intervention "Why Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)?"
The humanity is facing a dangerous health threat, translated to sever economic crisis, affecting and will affect all of us because we are connected and will remain connected. To handle these crisis, there should be a global orchestrated mechanism based on: A fundamental concept to stimulate global cooperation. A platform for systemizing global cooperation, capable of fighting the current pandemic, improving global public health governance, and stabilizing world economy.
In the remaining part of this speech, I will illustrate how the BRI satisfies the above requirements.
BRI and the fundamental concept
The basic concept, namely building a community of shared future for humankind is a basic component of the BRI's hard and soft activities. It was reaffirmed and elevated to a strategic level for China's future diplomacy during the 19th National Congress of the (CPC), Also, this concept was recognized internationally during the 2018 UN general assembly.
BRI as a platform for International cooperation
BRI has been successfully transformed from China's initiative, and has become a global initiative. and currently joined by more than 160 countries and international organizations. Thus, offering a platform for countries to conduct cooperation and take joint efforts to develop economies.
BRI as an international cooperation platform is based on both hard and soft connectivity through following five priorities:
3.Investment and Trade connectivity
I believe that these connectivity priorities, if properly adopted, can play a vital role in stabilizing world economy and consequently social coherence.
BRI and Health
BRI as a global platform contains several sub-platforms (thematic and regional). Thematic sub-platforms include, but not limited to Digital Silk Road, Green Silk Road, Innovation silk Road and Health Silk Road.
Of course today I will briefly talk about Health Silk Road, as we all facing a global health threat. In the most detailed description of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission titled "Vision and actions on jointly building Belt and Road", published in march 2015, one can read the following: "We should strengthen cooperation with neighboring countries on epidemic information sharing, the exchange of prevention and treatment technologies and the training of medical professionals, and improve our capability to jointly address public health emergencies.
Also, in the "Belt and Road High-Level Meeting for Health Cooperation tilted "Towards a Health Silk Road", held in 2017 in Beijing, at the end of which the participating 64 countries signed the "Health Silk Road communiqué".
Therefore, BRI is and can always be a major vector for health cooperation, and enhancing the global public health governance as well.
BRI and comprehensive regional development plans
BRI contains several regional sub-platforms including but not limited to:
1.China - Europe for Technical and Economic Cooperation
2.China - Arab Countries Cooperation Forum.
3.China - Latin American countries
4.China - Oceania countries
5.Forum on China - Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)
Let me talk about Africa. A model plan for a BRI-based application of the concept of building a community with shared future for humankind was professionally presented by president Xi in his speech during the China- Africa cooperation summit (FOCAC). Among other important issues, he presented the cooperation plan including 8 initiatives covering political, economic, social, environment, security and cultural aspects.
The Eight Major Initiatives are:
1.Industrial promotion initiative, by upgrading a number of economic and trade cooperation zones in Africa.
2.Infrastructure connectivity initiative, by formulating a China- Africa infrastructure cooperation plan with the African Union.
3.A trade facilitation initiative, by increasing imports, particularly non-resource products, from Africa and implementing trade facilitation programs for Africa.
4.A green development initiative, by undertaking projects for green development and ecological and environmental protection in Africa.
5.a capacity building initiative, by supporting cooperation with Africa on economic and social development planning.
6.A health care initiative, by upgrading medical and health aid programs for Africa, particularly flagship projects such as the headquarters of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention and China-Africa Friendship Hospitals.
7.A people-to-people exchange initiative, by establishing an institute of African studies to enhance exchanges with Africa.
8.A peace and security initiative, by setting up a China-Africa peace and security fund to boost cooperation on peace, security, peacekeeping, and law and order.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I tried through my talk to indicate that maximizing the available mechanism, namely the BRI and its associated sub-platforms, is an appropriate selection to: fight current epidemic, enhance global public health governance, and stabilize global economy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, yes, we have great challenges, but also we have great opportunities. We have to react wisely and collectively with appropriate cooperation plans and exchange of ideas.
Thank you very much.
Essam Sharaf is former prime minister of Egypt and a non-resident senior fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.