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`The Contributions of the Belt and Road Initiative to MENA and Global Health Coverage

13 July 2020

EIRNS—Schiller Institute Southwest Asia Coordinator Hussein Askary addressed a high-level China-Arab webinar organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) held yesterday. The event’s title was “International Webinar: China-MENA Cooperation Under the COVID-19: Traditional Friendship & Common Future” (MENA = Middle East and North Africa). The speakers included the top leadership of the CASS. Keynote speakers were Prince Turki bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Chairman of King Faisal Foundation’s Center for Research and Islamic Studies, former Saudi Ambassador to London and Washington, and former Director of Saudi Intelligence), and former Prime Minister of Egypt Essam Sharaf. Several former Arab Ambassadors to Egypt and Chinese ambassadors and envoys to the MENA region also spoke at the webinar, followed by academicians from both China and the Arab countries. The webinar came just a week after the China-Arab Ninth Ministerial Meeting Chaired by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Most of the Arab academicians were from the United Arab Emirates Al-Sharjah University.

All speakers agreed on the importance of China-Arab cooperation to both combat the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve economic development, peace, and stability in the region. Cooperation between the U.S. and China in the Middle East was called for by some speakers, including Askary and an American professor at the National Defense College in the U.A.E.

Askary opened his speech with a reference to the vision developed over the past three decades by “the great American economist” Lyndon LaRouche, Helga Zepp-LaRouche, and associates in the Schiller Institute, a vision which has now evolved into the World Land-Bridge. Askary showed a map of the World Land-Bridge, stating that it is necessary to bring the Americas and the United States into this vision. He praised the announcement of the Belt and Road Initiative by President Xi Jinping as “a turning point in world history.”

Askary referred to the massive potential for development through peaceful economic development in West Asia and Africa. Since the theme was Chinese-Arab cooperation against and post-COVID-19 pandemic, Askary brought up the “correlation” between infrastructure development and creating a global health-care system, drawing from speeches by Xi and World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom, a report by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and concluding with the recent study conducted by the Schiller Institute on creating a global health-care system.

Askary showed the participants copies of the Schiller Institute reports on the New Silk Road in both Arabic and English, offering to send copies as gifts.

Transcript of Mr. Askary presentation:

The Contributions of the Belt and Road Initiative to MENA and
Global Health Coverage.

Hussein Askary Expert on The Belt and Road Initiative, Southwest Asia Coordinator for the Schiller Institute, Germany

Thank you, Mr. Chairman

Assalamu alaikum, ni hao!

Your excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to address this very important international webinar. I thank the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Professor Tang Zhichao for inviting me to speak.

I have worked for the past 24 years with the now deceased great American economist Lyndon LaRouche and the Chairwoman of the Schiller Institute Mrs. Helga Zepp-LaRouche and colleagues on the development of a concept of global connectivity, originally called Eurasian-African Land-bridge or the New Silk Road. We believe that the launching of the Belt and Road Initiative by President Xi Jinping in 2013 marked a turning point in world history into a positive direction.
[Powerpoint Slide 1 World Land-Bridge]

This is our vision of how the whole world could be connected together in peaceful cooperation. The Americas are also included, because it is important to bring all the nations including the U.S. into this vision.

We also believe that the region of West Asia (so-called Middle East) and North Africa [Slide 2 BRI connections in the MENA region] is one of the most promising regions for economic, social, and scientific development. This region is home to one of the youngest fastest-growing populations, it is home to ancient civilizations and cultures, it is home to 40% of the world’s energy supplies and two-thirds of the reserves, it has also nearly $3 trillion in foreign reserves and sovereign wealth funds, although not evenly distributed. Moreover, it is the crossroads of the continents and oceans. So, it has all the ingredients for massive and rapid economic and technological development. However, this region has been highly unstable, for reasons we cannot delve into here. [Slide 3, Pictures of separate meetings between President Xi with the Presidents of Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia] But the BRI could become a catalyzer for stability and peaceful cooperation both among the nations of the region and the major powers of the world.

Now, concerning the joint fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and the cooperation between China and the Arab and MENA region nations, it is obvious that this cooperation is unique and necessary. Other speakers have already highlighted the different aspects of this cooperation.

What I want to present is a specific point on the direct correlation between the BRI, building the Health Silk Road, and the fight against this pandemic and potential future pandemics.

After President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission issued a paper on the "Vision and actions on jointly building Belt and Road," published in March 2015, which said and I AM repeating what H.E. Mr. Essam Sharaf said: "We should strengthen cooperation with neighboring countries on epidemic information sharing, the exchange of prevention and treatment technologies and the training of medical professionals, and improve our capability to jointly address public health
emergencies. We will provide medical assistance and emergency medical aid to relevant countries."

In a speech delivered by President Xi at the Legislative Chamber of the Uzbek Supreme Assembly on June 22, 2016, President Xi said: "We should step up efforts in deepening medical and health cooperation, and enhancing mutually beneficial cooperation in the alert of infectious diseases, disease control and prevention, medical assistance, traditional medicines and other areas, so as to jointly build a healthy Silk Road."

In August 18, 2017 Beijing hosted the "Belt and Road High-Level Meeting for Health Cooperation: Towards a Health Silk Road," in his address to this conference, Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: "As you know, the world faces increasing and more complex epidemics, pandemics and disasters. Not only are these events more likely to occur, they’re also likely to have a bigger impact on human health, the social fabric, security and the economy. President Xi’s proposal for a Health Silk Road is indeed visionary."

Dr. Tedros emphasized that "if we are to secure the health of the billions of people represented here, we must seize the opportunities the Belt and Road Initiative provides." Pointing the connection between the BRI and the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 3, the WHO Director said: "The Belt and Road Initiative contains the fundamentals to achieve universal health coverage: infrastructure, access to medicines, human resources, and a platform to share experience and promote best practices."

The fact that there is direct correlation between the availability of a strong infrastructure (transport, water, power, telecommunications) and the ability to provide healthcare for the population when needed in any country was emphasized in a detailed study published by the AIIB [Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank] in March 2020 and titled "The Impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Its Implications for Infrastructure Priorities."

The AIIB researchers correctly point to the importance of infrastructure for providing a good level of healthcare for populations, urging the redefinition of priorities for infrastructure development projects by governments. It also pledged to support such priorities financially.

The report states: "The disruptions brought about by COVID-19 also highlight the importance of sustainable and resilient infrastructure. Firstly, developing economies will need to increase investments in healthcare and public health infrastructure. This is especially crucial in the context of megatrends such as urbanization and increased trade connectivity. Without proper public health infrastructure such as clean water and sanitation, developing economies will remain vulnerable to such outbreaks. A country’s readiness to cope with epidemics is correlated with its quality of infrastructure. Infrastructure development is a key part of health security and epidemic preparedness."

And, ladies and gentlemen, we saw proof of this point in front of our eyes in the way China managed and contained the COVID-19 outbreak in mainland China in record time earlier this year. The fact that China could build a 1,000-bed hospital in ten days is proof of this point. China not only had a great level of social organizing, but all the necessary infrastructure that the builders of the hospital needed.

Our Schiller Institute published a thorough study in April on the specific requirements for building a global healthcare system along the lines of the Health Silk Road. For West Asia and Africa, this means we need to build 18,000 new modern hospitals and provide 4,5 million new hospital beds. But without a strong infrastructure (i.e. electricity, transport, clean water, building materials) this cannot be achieved.

Therefore, the BRI offers the best proven chance of achieving these goals and other goals of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, such as eliminating poverty and industrialization.

The Arab countries and the MENA region nations have everything to gain and nothing to lose in joining hands with China and other BRI members in building a "community of a shared future for humankind"!

Thank you for your attention!

I would like to send a copy of our books in both Arabic and English to the participant, will print my email in the chat section! Thank you!