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Chinese Premier Urges Intensive Efforts on MDGs

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday urged the international community, especially developed nations, to speed up intensive efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

China's Contribution 

Wen made the calls in his address to the UN high-level event on the MDGs. He told the meeting China has honored its commitments to the MDGs by dramatically reducing the number of Chinese living in poverty and by providing assistance to least developed countries.

China, the most populous country in the world, has accelerated development mainly through its own efforts and through reform and opening-up since 1978, and has "brought down the number of people in absolute poverty from 250 million to 15 million in less than 30 years," he said.

The nation's free compulsory education, medical care for 800 million farmers, and governance at various levels have all witnessed substantial progress, the Chinese premier said.

The vision set out in the UN Millennium Declaration is being gradually turned into reality in China, he added.

"Statistics released by the World Bank last year showed that over the past 25 years, China accounted for 67 percent of the achievements in global poverty reduction," Wen said.

Though not rich, China has honored its commitments to the Millennium Declaration and done what it can to help some least developed countries, he noted.

By the end of June 2008, China had written off 24.7 billion RMB (US$3.63 billion) in debts owed by 49 heavily indebted poor countries and least developed countries in Asia and Africa. It has also provided 206.5 billion RMB (US$30.37 billion) in various forms of assistance to such countries, of which 90.8 billion RMB (US$13.35 billion) is free aid, Wen said.

China also provided zero-tariff treatment to the goods of 42 least developed countries. It has also trained 15,000 African medical professionals, sent medical teams and provided free medicines to Africa, he added.

Joint Efforts

In his speech, the Chinese premier called for joint efforts from the governments of all countries to realize the goals set out in the Millennium Declaration.

"Counting from today, we have only seven years to go before the end of 2015 to reach the goals" of halving the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day, and "no more than 12 years before the end of 2020" to significantly improve the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, Wen said.

"I hope that we, leaders present today, will join hands to shoulder greater responsibilities as statesmen and pay closer attention to and show more compassion for the poor regions and people in the world," he urged.

Wen emphasized the importance for governments to give top priority to development. The first and foremost development goal should be economic, with educational, cultural and social development also high on the agenda, he added.

He urged respect for the right of all countries to choose their own development paths suited to their national conditions, and called for efforts to resolve regional conflicts and ethnic strife through peaceful means.

On international assistance in eliminating poverty, Wen said developed countries in particular should assume the responsibility of helping underdeveloped countries.

"Assistance should be provided selflessly, with no strings attached. It is particularly important to increase assistance for least developed countries and regions," he said.

Wen proposed that donor countries double their donations to the World Food Programme in the next five years and that the international community do more to cancel or reduce debts owed by least developed countries and provide zero-tariff treatment to their exports.

Efforts should also be made to improve the working mechanisms for the development goals in the Millennium Declaration and coordinate the functions of international organizations to jointly overcome the difficulties facing developing countries, he proposed.

More Assistance from China

China will speed up efforts and provide more assistance to needy countries to facilitate the attainment of the MDGs, pledged Wen.

China will contribute US$30 million to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to establish a trust fund to help developing countries enhance agricultural productivity.

It will also "cancel the outstanding interest-free loans extended to least developed countries that mature before the end of 2008." Ninety-five percent of products from these countries will also enjoy zero-tariff treatment in the Chinese market, the premier said.

China will also increase agricultural technology support and provide more agricultural training opportunities for developing countries, he said.

Over the next five years, developing countries will get 10,000 more scholarships from China, along with some training programs provided exclusively for African teachers. China will also fully staff and equip the hospitals it builds for African countries and help train their medical staff.

Also in the next five years, China will develop 100 small-scale clean energy projects for developing countries, including small hydropower, solar power and bio-gas projects, the premier said.

Wen arrived in New York Tuesday morning for a three-day visit. He attended the annual high-level debate of the UN General Assembly Wednesday as well as Thursday's UN MDGs summit meeting, and held talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and leaders of some countries.

(Xinhua News Agency September 26, 2008)

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