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My new development obsession

Chinese and African construction teams work together on a development project in Angola. Picutre: Dieter Telemans/Panos
Chinese and African construction teams work together on a development project in Angola. Picutre: Dieter Telemans/Panos

Anyone following my Twitter account will have noticed that I've recently developed a strange obsession with all things China. China even featured in my blog post last week, although my key message was about development partnerships.

The reason I've been interested in all things China is that I am starting a new job in August. I'm moving to the UNDP office in China for two years to lead a team working to support China to cooperate effectively with other countries and develop its international positions on issues such as climate change and what comes after the Millennium Development Goals.

When I first found out that I had got the job, obviously I was very excited.Three reasons stood out.

First, the relationship between China and African countries is at a unique juncture. For example, last month the Chinese Premier made a major speech at the African Union, laying out 4 guiding principles for cooperation. The speech has been seen by some as the most significant statement of Chinese strategy towards African countries for a long time, perhaps 50 years. Many African countries have already welcomed it, and over time, it will be very interesting to watch out for how this strategy becomes a reality.

Second, China's role in international development issues at the UN is at a critical juncture. For example, China has a great deal of experience to share on what steps are essential to lift millions of people out of poverty, which can help shape the post-2015 development framework. Similarly, as I set out in a blog post a few years ago, China is making strong efforts on green growth, and in future may share such lessons with others and take the opportunity to do even more.

Last but not least, the relationship between China and other development actors is changing. Again last month, the People's Bank of China and the African Development Bank announced a new joint £2bn fund, called the Africa Growing Together Fund. The lessons learnt from these two actors working together so closely could be immense. And groups such as the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation and the UN Development Cooperation Forum offer spaces for more collaboration between China and other development actors to emerge.

These are all key opportunities for UNDP to support China to respond, lead and innovate.

However, despite this huge opportunity, there was one practicality that worried me, which at first might seem trivial: will I still be able to blog? The reason I was worried about this is that my experience of blogging in DFID has been fantastic – and far more than a fun "add on" to my job. It has enriched my work through direct feedback from readers as well as helping me think through my work and what change it really delivers.

Thankfully, UNDP has a blog roll called Our Perspective and I'll be able to blog from there, just as regularly as I have done from DFID. I might also experiment with the Chinese equivalents of Twitter, such as Weibo or We Chat, and even Instagram, which my new top boss, Helen Clark, has just started using.

But it's a few months to go until I move, so until then, I'll still be blogging on this site, and tweeting as usual, with a strong Chinese flavour! So please do share your tips for living in Beijing, but more importantly your thoughts on what I should be focusing on in my new role, and any cutting edge research I should be aware of to help my team and I do a great job. After all, the best blogs are a conversation.

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  1. Comment by chris masila posted on

    Dear Hannah, we wish you well in your new upcoming position at UNDP an sure you will continue doing to your best in ensuring the developing countries continue having a space and being heard or being part of the agenda of developed economies like Kenya. For me as you transition a topic which is passionate is health and how PPP's or Private sector led initiatives can lead to good inclusive business or M4P for other development actors which can help assist the bottom of the pyramid or working poor as there is still a lot of gaps despite a lot of development aid therefore I continue asking myself what we have not done all this time. I hope the post 2015 MDG's goals being discussed will address this as it is not good to enough to declare in big forums that we need universal health coverage yet no really implementable ways have been designed. wish you all the best and continue blogging and refreshing our minds definitely a worthwhile cause. Finally we need China to work with other development actors in developing countries like Kenya and other East Africa countries we need that cohesiveness to have double impact in our communities.

  2. Comment by Henry Masha posted on

    Hi Hannah, congrats on the new job. I believe UNDP are lucky to have you and your team in such a position, coz of your experience and passion for the environment. All the best....