Beijing — The epidemic of new-type coronavirus COVID-19 has dealt a serious blow to economies around the world, causing rising unemployment and poverty, including in developed nations. High levels of poverty persist in a number of SCO Member States. Member countries, home to nearly half the world’s population, are prioritizing the political and socio-economic consequences of the pandemic, tackling unemployment and poverty, which Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly called “the fiercest of battles”.
According to the SCO Secretariat, disruptions in supply and production chains caused by the spread of COVID-19 have caused many small and medium-sized enterprises to go bankrupt, increasing the number of poor people in SCO countries. Experts predict that the economic situation in many countries will continue to deteriorate in near future, adding another 150 million people to the army of the poor by 2021.
At the same time, according to SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov, the pandemic has brought new opportunities to the world, including an acceleration of digital transformation in virtually every sector of social and economic life. He believes there is a need to actively engage small- and medium-sized businesses in cross-border e-commerce as the global economy recovers from the pandemic.
In order to overcome poverty in remote and rural areas, last November’s SCO Summit adopted a “Concept of Cooperation of SCO Member States for the Development of Remote and Rural Areas in the Digital Age” to address the accessibility of services and infrastructure for the population of these areas. The Action Plan for Implementing the SCO Development Strategy until 2025 was also approved. Both documents are aimed at establishing cooperation in the field of poverty alleviation and improving the living standards of the population of the SCO Member States.
According to the SCO Secretariat, all SCO Member States have already achieved significant results in the fight against poverty, based on their national plans. For example, China – the most populous country in the world, has completely eliminated absolute poverty in 2020 and implemented the first point of the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 ten years earlier.
China has come close to eradicating poverty altogether. The WB estimates that the number of people living below the international poverty line in China has fallen by more than 850 million since 1978. The state’s rapid growth in recent years has been driven by the digitalisation process and the increasing share of high-tech in a wide range of areas of life, from medicine and science to public administration and public transport.
In December 2020, China officially announced that in eight years of hard work, it has achieved the goal of reducing poverty in the new era as planned. The country is implementing the world’s most ambitious Anti-Poverty Programme, and the Chinese government’s social policies are aimed at building a harmonious development society.
Local experts estimate that 740 million people in China have moved out of poverty between 1978 and 2017. This figure represents 70 per cent of people globally lifted out of extreme poverty over the same period. The country has a Steering Group of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China for Development Assistance to Poor Areas, which coordinates the implementation of the national programme. A whole system of anti-poverty institutions has been established, covering insurance, investment, social assistance, data collection, analysis and reporting. Priority is given to improving infrastructure, which contributes significantly to the development of deprived areas. Ensuring access to water supply, communication, communication networks and other conditions for development is the basis for poverty alleviation.
In recent years, China has taken steps to make new technologies accessible to special groups of people, including the elderly. In particular, a national programme to help the elderly use smart technology has been implemented to teach them how to use mobile phones and popular apps against the backdrop of a growing digital economy and online services.
According to WB estimates, investments in education and medicine, urbanization and opening policies also represent important experiences for China in reducing poverty. The Chinese government set common goals, hire qualified people, and encourage them to achieve their goals. These are important factors for China’s success in poverty reduction and development.
According to the SCO Secretariat, based on national plans and priorities, the SCO Member States cooperate and share experiences. All Central Asian countries, India, Pakistan, and Russia have made significant progress in fighting poverty. Russia’s effective Anti-Poverty Policy aims to reduce poverty by at least half by 2024 as compared to 2018.
There is no doubt that the SCO is also becoming an effective platform for the exchange of practices to eradicate poverty. In particular, at the end of last year Pakistan proposed creation a Special Working Group on poverty reduction and establishment of SCO Centre of Excellence for Poverty Reduction to develop and implement a joint multilateral cooperation programme, exchange positive experiences and practices in this area. In order to address emerging economic problems, the SCO Member States promote new approaches and procedures for crisis management and strengthen and improve the work of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other intergovernmental organisations, Said the SCO Secretary-General.
In September 2020, speaking at the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev proposed that the fight against poverty be identified as one of the main topics on the UNGA Agenda and that a global summit devoted to this issue be organised. At the SO summit in November 2020, Mirziyoyev raised the topic of supporting needy segments of the population and reducing poverty. In order to coordinate interaction in this sphere he put forward an initiative to establish a mechanism of meetings of the heads of ministries and agencies responsible for fighting poverty, and to develop a programme of cooperation among the SCO Member States to this end. The President also proposed holding an international forum to develop coordinated anti-poverty measures. In his view, the successful experience of China should be used in the implementation of these measures.
According to Alisher Makhkamov, Chief Specialist of the Department of Science and Education of the SCO Center for People’s Diplomacy in Uzbekistan, his country is also providing friendly assistance to SCO countries, including in overcoming the consequences of the pandemic. In particular, Uzbekistan has built two modal hospitals to treat coronavirus patients in Kyrgyzstan, and with the country’s financial assistance, a 200-beds infectious hospital has been built in the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan. These medical facilities are fully equipped with the necessary medical equipment and furniture, and all the necessary conditions have been created for patients. Tajikistan has also been assisted in setting up modal hospitals.
In these difficult times, against the backdrop of a raging coronavirus pandemic, political instability around the world, global issues of poverty, climate change, terrorism and other destructive factors that hamper good neighbourliness and joint development, the SCO states set an example of cohesion, solidarity and are ready to make every effort to jointly confront emerging threats to regional and global stability.