Top UN post for Chinese diplomat
Updated: 2012-08-07 11:17
By Zhang Yuwei at the United Nations (China Daily)
Chinese diplomat Wu Hongbo was sworn in as the new United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday.
The swearing-in ceremony was conducted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with Ban's senior management team.
Wu, born in 1952 in Shandong province in eastern China, was Chinese ambassador to Germany since 2009 and assistant foreign minister. He graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University and pursued his master's degree from Victoria University in New Zealand from 1978 to 1980.
Wu said one of the priorities in leading DESA is to help implement the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include ending extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education. All 193 UN member states have agreed to try to achieve these by 2015.
"What happens after 2015 remains a key question," said Wu, adding development issues were still the most pressing ones for the international community.
"One of the priorities on my work agenda, despite just taking office, is that I will lead my team to help implement the MDGs for the last three years before its deadline, and propose a framework for the follow-up of the post 2015 MDGs," Wu said.
Development issues had a different and broader meaning, and the MDGs and sustainable development goals can integrate into each other, Wu told a group of Chinese resident UN reporters after his swearing-in ceremony.
"Now it includes economic, social and environmental issues. Effectively dealing with issues will help build a better world for our future generations," he added.
The veteran diplomat also sees tough challenges ahead in solving these pressing issues.
"There are some big challenges to integrate the MDGs and sustainable development goals because the latter go far beyond the MDGs," said Wu.
"One thing we have to do is to make sure developing nations understand that the integration of the two will still protect both their interests and the interests of the least developed countries."
He said some developing countries may fear they will lose some of the assistance promised when the MDGs were set up.
Wu succeeds Chinese diplomat Sha Zukang who led the department since 2007. Sha recently chaired the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, where more than 190 countries agreed on a plan to achieve a set of sustainable development goals and to promote global "green economy".
Zhu Zhiqun, professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, said Wu is "fully qualified and competent" for this role because of his diverse background serving as ambassador to both developed nations (Germany) and developing nations (the Philippines) in addition to working at China's foreign ministry.
"Wu's background and first-hand experience in development issues will be helpful for him as he leads UN efforts to implement the consensus-program plans reached at the Rio+20 development summit," Zhu said.
"Wu's appointment, though succeeding another Chinese, is significant and suggests that China will continue to have a voice at key international organizations as it becomes a major player in international politics and economics.
"In fact, the World Bank, the IMF, the World Health Organization and other international organizations are likely to have more Chinese faces at the top leadership level in the future."
Wu has more than 30 years of high-level experience, including close collaboration in international conferences with multilateral organizations, and has been involved in China's contribution to the implementation of the UN Conventions on Environment and Development, as well as China's report on its progress towards the MDGs.
He is expected to "play a key role in working with member states in formulating the UN Development Agenda beyond 2015", said a statement on the UN website after his appointment was announced in May.
Wu said it was quite a transition for him personally to shift from being a Chinese diplomat to an international civil servant serving the UN.
"In my previous jobs, all my colleagues were Chinese, but now I have colleagues from different parts of the world," he said.
"The goal of my work changes too. It changes from serving my country to serving the international community, which of course includes protecting the interests of China.
"There is no conflict between the two."
(China Daily 08/07/2012 page2)