Beijing, June 5 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Situated along rivers and beside mountains, Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan and host of this year's Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, used to be a key juncture along the ancient Silk Road.
The historical trade routes snaked through the Central Asian country for centuries, witnessing and facilitating commercial and cultural exchanges between the East and the West.
Today, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), proposed by China and inspired by the historical link, has offered Bishkek a new opportunity to rejuvenate its old glory in global trade. The city has now become an economic partner with China's eastern port of Qingdao, host of last year's SCO summit.
Over the years, the organization has made strides in bolstering security cooperation among its members, including combating the "three forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as in cracking down on transnational organized crime across the region.
After 18 years of growth, the SCO has now matured under the guidance of the Shanghai Spirit, which features mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for cultural diversity and pursuit of common development.
The SCO has expanded from a six-member group when it was founded in 2001 to one of the world's most important multilateral platforms that, in addition to tackling shared security problems in the region, also seeks to promote economic development and people-to-people exchanges.
Robust and sustainable economic and social development is key to fundamentally addressing security challenges. The BRI, now in its sixth year, can bring the SCO members both the "Belt" of security and "Road" to development in the face of rising trade protectionism and economic nationalism to achieve lasting stability and common prosperity.
Spreading across the Eurasian continent, the now eight-member SCO accounts for nearly half the global population, and over 20 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), according to official statistics. These numbers provide a glimpse of the SCO members' immense demand and potential for development cooperation.
In previous gatherings, leaders of the SCO members expressed their support for the BRI and pledged to dock their respective development strategies with it. Some SCO members like Russia and Pakistan have become key partners with China along the Belt and Road, and their BRI-related cooperation has made notable strides.
Take Russia for example. With a boost from the growing synergy between the BRI and the Eurasian Economic Union, two-way trade between China and Russia hit a record high of over 100 billion U.S. dollars last year.
The two sides have also worked closely on major inter-connectivity cooperation projects, such as the construction of gas pipelines and cross-border roads and bridges.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Russia last week, the two nations vowed to join hands to increase two-way trade to 200 billion dollars and promote regional integration and economic development.
At the Qingdao summit last year, all eight member states made "building a community with a shared future for humanity" a shared notion in the Qingdao Declaration for the SCO community.
The BRI, with an aim to promote common development in Asia, Europe, Africa and beyond, can offer new opportunities for SCO members and, ultimately, build that shared community.
Addressing the plenary session of the just-concluded 23rd St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last week, Xi said that as the world is standing at a crossroads of history again, pooling wisdom and efforts to expand cooperation and achieve win-win outcomes is the way forward. He called sustainable development the "golden key" to solving global problems.
All SCO members can find this "golden key" along the Belt and Road and work together to build a more peaceful and prosperous world.
Moscow, June 7 (Xinhua/UNB) -- China and Russia agreed Wednesday to lift their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era, opening a new stage of bilateral cooperation conducive to global stability and prosperity.
Seven decades after its establishment, the China-Russia diplomatic relationship has reached its highest level in history under the strategic leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
Now that the two leaders have decided to once again elevate their countries' ties, the pair of neighboring large countries are poised to open up a new chapter of bilateral cooperation for greater accomplishments.
In the new era of bilateral ties, China and Russia will cooperate more closely in a broader range of areas with greater depth.
The two countries have overlapping development strategies, which allows them to work together on major projects, along the border regions and even across the whole Eurasia.
China and Russia have different advantages in natural resources and technologies, and their economies are highly complementary, which can translate into a substantial increase in trade and investment in coming years.
Bilateral trade surged 27.1 percent in 2018 to hit a record of 107.1 billion U.S. dollars, the highest growth rate among China's top 10 trading partners. Analysts expect the strong momentum to continue and the trade volume to double in the near future.
Strategic projects in traditional fields of energy, aerospace and interconnectivity have made solid progress. Cooperation in such sectors as agriculture, finance, science and technology, and e-commerce has developed rapidly.
The first ship carrying liquefied natural gas from Russia's Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic traversed the sea to China last summer, and millions of tonnes more are expected to be supplied every year thanks to the project partly financed by China.
A second line of the China-Russia oil pipeline began commercial operation in 2018, and the east-route natural gas pipeline is expected to supply gas to China by the end of this year.
The Tongjiang railway bridge and the Heihe highway bridge will be completed this year to make cross-border transportation much easier.
The booming China-Russia relationship is also bringing the two peoples closer.
In 2018, Chinese tourists made 1.8 million trips to Russia while Russian travelers made nearly 2 million trips to China. The two countries have become major sources of tourists and travel destinations for each other. Beijing and Moscow have also co-conducted Tourism Year activities.
A closer and stronger partnership between China and Russia, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, is also set to make the world more peaceful, stable and prosperous.
China and Russia share similar views on many regional and global issues. As they seek to better coordinate their foreign policies, they will continue to be a ballast stone and stabilizer in the world, which is now rife with uncertainties.
As the two have repeatedly affirmed, Beijing and Moscow will firmly uphold multilateralism and seek to build a more open world economy against the backdrop of rising unilateralism and trade protectionism.
They have also pledged to closely coordinate within such multilateral frameworks as the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Group of 20 to make the international system more fair, just and inclusive.
A solid foundation for a bright future has been laid over the past seven decades, particularly over the recent years with Xi and Putin at the helm of bilateral ties.
Now it is time for the two countries to build on the momentum and translate the latest upgrade of relations into more concrete achievements so as to bring greater benefits to the two peoples and the wider world.
Around the world, hate is on the march.
A menacing wave of intolerance and hate-based violence is targeting worshippers of many faiths across the globe. Sadly – and disturbingly – such vicious incidents are becoming all too familiar.
In recent months, we have seen Jews murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas; Muslims gunned down in mosques, their religious sites vandalized; Christians killed at prayer, their churches torched.
Beyond these horrific attacks, increasingly loathsome rhetoric is being aimed not only at religious groups but also minorities, migrants, refugees, women and any so-called “other”.
As the wildfire of hate spreads, social media is being exploited for bigotry. Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements are growing. And incendiary rhetoric is being weaponized for political gain.
Hate is moving into the mainstream in liberal democracies and authoritarian regimes alike – and casting a shadow over our common humanity.
The United Nations has a long history of mobilizing the world against hatred of all kinds through wide-ranging action to defend human rights and advance the rule of law.
Indeed, the very identity and establishment of the Organization are rooted in the nightmare that ensues when virulent hatred is left unopposed for too long.
We recognize hate speech as an attack on tolerance, inclusion, diversity and the very essence of our human rights norms and principles.
More broadly, it undermines social cohesion, erodes shared values, and can lay the foundation for violence, setting back the cause of peace, stability, sustainable development and human dignity.
In recent decades, hate speech has been a precursor to atrocity crimes, including genocide, from Rwanda to Bosnia to Cambodia.
I fear that the world is reaching another acute moment in battling the demon of hate.
That is why I have launched two United Nations initiatives in response.
First, I have just unveiled a Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech to coordinate efforts across the whole United Nations system, addressing the root causes and making our response more effective.
Second, we are developing an Action Plan for the UN to be fully engaged in efforts to support safeguard religious sites and ensure the safety of houses of worship.
To those who insist on using fear to divide communities, we must say: diversity is a richness, never a threat.
A deep and sustained spirit of mutual respect and receptivity can transcend posts and tweets fired off in a split second. We must never forget, after all, that each of us is an “other” to someone, somewhere. There can be no illusion of safety when hate is widespread.
As part of one humanity, it is our duty to look after each other.
Of course, all action aimed at addressing and confronting hate speech must be consistent with fundamental human rights.
Addressing hate speech does not mean limiting or prohibiting freedom of speech. It means keeping hate speech from escalating into something more dangerous, particularly incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence, which is prohibited under international law.
We need to treat hate speech as we treat every malicious act: by condemning it, refusing to amplify it, countering it with the truth, and encouraging the perpetrators to change their behaviour.
Now is the time to step up to stamp out anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, persecution of Christians and all other forms of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Governments, civil society, the private sector and the media all have important roles to play. Political and religious leaders have a special responsibility to promote peaceful coexistence.
Hatred is a danger to everyone – and so fighting it must be a job for everyone.
Together, we can put out the wildfire of hate and uphold the values that bind us together as a single human family.
* The author is the Secretary-General of the United Nations
Last week, the deadly shooting incidents at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand left 50 people dead, including 5 people of Bangladeshi origin, and many injured. On the same day, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang sent messages of condolence to express their deep sympathy for the victims and the bereaved families. This incident again proves that combating terrorism is a common task for all countries around the world.
Xinjiang is situated in northwest China and the hinterland of the Eurasian Continent, covering an area of 1.66 million sq km. It has been home to various ethnic groups, and different cultures and religions coexist. It has also been an important channel for communication between civilizations of the East and the West, and was an important section of the famed Silk Road which linked ancient China with the rest of the world. By the end of the 19th century, 13 ethnic groups – the Uygur, Han, Kazak, Mongolian, Hui, Kirgiz, Manchu, Xibe, Tajik, Daur, Uzbek, Tatar, and Russian – had settled in Xinjiang, with the Uygurs having the largest population. The multi-ethnic region constitutes an integral part of the Chinese nation.
As Xinjiang region is multi-ethnic in nature, it tends to be more susceptible to the influence of terrorism and extremism with its complex ethnic composition. From the early 90s to 2016, there have been multiple terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, which led to heavy loss of lives and property. To contain violent and terrorist crimes is the common call from all ethnic groups in Xinjiang. Therefore, drawing on the global counter-terrorism experiences, Chinese government has set up vocational education and training centers in Xinjiang for people who are under the influence of terrorism and extremism, where free courses are provided to the trainees in mainly 4 areas: standard spoken and written Chinese language, law, vocational skills, and the eradication of extremism. All trainees get paid when working in the centers, and are permitted to go home regularly, as well as to hold fast during Ramadan at home. Upon completion of their study, the trainees will be given certificates that would be helpful for them to find jobs.
As a result of China’s efforts to eradicate terrorism and extremism, Xinjiang has witnessed a clear rise in its stability and local people’s living standard. No terrorist attack has occurred for 26 consecutive months. In 2018, Xinjiang recorded over 150 million visits from tourists from both home and abroad, which fully illustrates the peace and prosperity of the region.
China and Bangladesh are close neighbors and good partners. We both have suffered from terrorism and extremism, and share similar concerns for the security of our peoples and nations. So we believe after learning the realities of Xinjiang, the people of Bangladesh would understand and support China’s counter-terrorism and de-radicalization initiatives. The Embassy of China also welcomes our Bangladeshi friends to visit Xinjiang and other parts of China, and to see what China is really like.
Chen Wei is DCM & Spokesperson of the Embassy of China in Dhaka
This past November, I met an extraordinary little boy named Fawaz in a hospital in Aden, Yemen. At 18 months old, Fawaz weighed a little more than 4 kg (9 lbs). Severely malnourished, Fawaz had been in the hospital for more than a month, barely able to hold the therapeutic milk he was being given. Yet, he persevered, determined to live. Fawaz’s mother, Rokaya, was at his bedside day and night as if in a silent pact with her son to ensure that he prevailed.
Unlike most severely malnourished children, Fawaz did not respond well to the two types of therapeutic milk normally used to treat such children. After weeks of unsuccessful treatment and several blood transfusions, doctors switched to hypoallergenic milk, which is more expensive and had to be paid for by Fawaz’s family.
Without this milk, Fawaz would not have recuperated. But his recovery came at a tremendous price for his family. Each milk tin costs about $30. For families who survive on a few dollars a day, this has devastating consequences. Medicine for one child means less food for the family, and one less meal a day means a heightened risk of malnutrition for the other children in the household.
This story does have a happy ending. Fawaz won. He left the hospital on 20 December and has continued to recover.
But millions more Yemenis are facing similarly dire conditions. One aid agency estimates that 85,000 children in Yemen may have lost their fight against starvation since 2015.
Out of a total of 20 million people who need help securing food, nearly 10 million are just a step away from famine. This includes almost 240,000 people who are facing catastrophic levels of hunger and barely surviving.
Only half of the health facilities in the country are fully functioning. Hundreds of thousands of people got sick this past year because of poor sanitation and waterborne diseases. Needs have intensified across all sectors. Millions of Yemenis are hungrier, sicker and more vulnerable today than they were a year ago.
The United Nations and humanitarian partners are doing our best to provide children such as Fawaz with a fighting chance.
Throughout 2018, despite one of the most dangerous and complex operational environments, some 254 international and national partners actively coordinated to provide even more people in Yemen with life-saving support. Together, we assist about 8 million people every month across the country – the largest aid operation in the world. In December alone, we reached a record number of more than 10 million people with food assistance.
But much more needs to be done. We know we can save millions of more lives this year. But we are running out of time. And we are running out of money.
That’s why on 26 February, the United Nations will convene a high-level pledging conference in Geneva, co-hosted by the Governments of Sweden and Switzerland. Just over $4 billion is needed for the humanitarian response in Yemen this year, representing a 33 per cent increase since last year to provide not only food, but treatment for malnourished children such as Fawaz, health care, clean water and so much more.
The amount of money needed may sound large, but it will help reach 15 million Yemenis – about half of the population – by rolling back cholera, protecting children against deadly diseases, tackling malnutrition and improving living conditions for the most vulnerable people. Without additional funding, this simply cannot happen.
Donor countries have continued to give generously to the Yemen Humanitarian Response and we urge them to do so again this year. It is in all of our interests to prevent the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Yemen from deteriorating further. I have every hope that our collective action in Geneva will save more lives and bolster the political process towards a peaceful solution.
We owe it to Yemen’s children and their families.
Mark Lowcock is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. He last visited Yemen in late November 2018.