Interview with Wang QimingIPMS 1998
Assistant Director-General, Information Research Center
Academy of Macroeconomic Research
State Development Planning Commission
(This interview was conducted in 2002)
Before transferring to his current position several months ago, Wang was responsible for managing the sustainable development information network for China at its national Agenda 21 office. At present, he has been developing a local area information network among eight different institutions within the State Development Planning Commission’s Academy of Macroeconomic Research.
Most Important IPMS Lessons
Wang found that the emphasis that IPMS places on consensus-building was the most important part of his experience. He indicates that developing the ability to understand the multiple points of view that surround contentious issues is very useful in his professional activities. Wang also learned of the value to be found in building trust in the pursuit of mutually beneficial outcomes with parties normally viewed as hostile competitors.
Applying IPMS Lessons
During Wang’s time at the Agenda 21 office, an issue arose with the Bureau of Statistics concerning the absence of important information about sustainable development in China. Critical data concerning natural resources, such as land use, densification, biodiversity, forest coverage, natural disasters, and environmental protection efforts were not being made public. Wang started an initiative geared towards sharing information on sustainable development, and was met with significant hesitation from Chinese state authorities who claimed that such information was in many parts confidential. He took a consensus-building approach to foster support from the national government and persuaded 11 major information source organizations to identify which parts of information could be publicly accessed on the Internet. Wang promoted the commercial value of the data as well as the important governmental role to be played in managing the effort. Consensus was also reached on a solution that informed national policy on sustainable development information sharing, set standards for the web-based information, and integrated different types of data such that they were consistent with the standards. Among the issues debated during the consensus-building process were the detail and quantity of natural resources data to be made available. The parties involved reached an agreement about the scale of spatial data and also established a “meta-data” system that served as a descriptive reference for the nature and price of available data.
Suggestions for Improving IPMS
Wang encourages the IPMS faculty to continue introducing case studies to the curriculum that reflect the true positions of developed and developing countries on issues germane to the Agenda 21 protocol. He feels that it is crucial that participants hone their ability to analyze the political arguments associated with these positions. Wang cites the need for this political understanding during events such as the United Nations “Rio +5” conference, which witnessed heated debate concerning issues such as new and additional financial support, technology transfer, and CO2 emissions as measured on a per capita or total quantity basis.
He also suggests that the programme incorporate practical activities such as site visits to developed and developing countries to share successful approaches to cleaner production. In addition, prior to attending IPMS, participants could also prepare a case study based on their own experience and country of origin for analysis during the programme. In Wang’s estimation, the industrial management capacity of developing countries could benefit significantly by learning from the integrated management of sustainable development processes in developed countries.
Suggestions for Other SCF Activities
Wang believes that a regional IPMS-type program would be very useful for bringing the consensus building process to bear on sustainable development challenges shared throughout a specific area. He cites a program dealing with rapid development, insufficient water supply and shortage of arable land in China, India and Bangladesh as an example.