Delivering as One, a UN in China conversation presented by Resident Coordinator Siddharth Chatterjee: Episode 4 with Beate Trankmann
12 January 2022
Delivering as One is a podcast series that brings you the stories behind the representatives of the UN family in China.
In the fourth episode of the Delivering as One podcast, UN Resident Coordinator in China Siddharth Chatterjee sits down with Beate Trankmann, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in China, ahead of the 2022 New Year.
A German national, Ms. Trankmann was born in West Berlin after the Second World War. She grew up with the influence of her parents as ‘children of war’ who had experienced the challenges of scarcity and hunger, leading to her early realization of injustice and the divisions between the haves and have nots, guiding her into the development space.
Having travelled in between her studies of Sinology and Political Science to various parts of East and South-East Asia, she was struck by the palpable and intransigent nature of inequality and poverty, as observed in the slums of Jakarta, only confirming her desire to pursue a career in international development, with interest in the Asia-Pacific region.
Starting in the late 1990s, Ms. Trankmann served as a programme officer for UNDP China, specializing in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. She recalled the spirit of the time and China being a country on the move, as exemplified by the accession to WTO and the successful bid to host the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, poverty was never too far away and persisted outside the big urban centres of Eastern China, including in rural areas adjacent to Beijing.
Ms. Trankmann returned to China to serve as the Resident Representative for UNDP China in 2019, and in this conversation, highlights the country’s progress in poverty reduction and its rise on the Human Development Index since, saying, “I feel privileged to witness the historical transformation that China had gone through the years.”
“Our work here in China has evolved quite dramatically, mirroring the transition that China has gone through over the past 40 years.”
In this episode, Ms. Trankmann describes the history of UNDP China over the past four decades, the shifting development priorities of China, and the early focus on areas such as poverty reduction and technical support in sectors such as agriculture, including through UNDP supporting the diversification of domestic vegetables and the introduction of new ones from abroad, such as broccoli, to improve nutrition and enhance incomes.
During the conversation, Ms. Trankmann explains how UNDP China's focus has moved towards areas such as environmental protection, innovations, and partnerships, highlighting past examples including the introduction of computers to China in the 1990s, energy-efficient LED lamps to contribute towards emissions reduction in later years, and collaboration with companies such as Baidu in 2016 on real-time poverty monitoring and reduction.
Together with the Resident Coordinator, the two discuss remaining challenges in the years ahead during the period of the 14th Five-Year Plan, including the transition to a net-zero economy, tackling inequalities between urban and rural areas of China, and UNDP’s work in China to leave no one behind and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, as part of the UN system in China.
Listen to the fourth episode of Delivering as One below and stay tuned for future instalments.
Beate Trankmann took up her post as UNDP Resident Representative for China in October 2019.
Ms. Trankmann has had a diverse career with UNDP since the late 1990s, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. Most recently she served as United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Mongolia from August 2015 to September 2019. She also served as the UNDP Country Director in Indonesia (2010-2015); Deputy Resident Representative in charge of Programme in Sri Lanka (2005-2010); Assistant Resident Representative responsible for democratic governance in Cambodia (2002-2005); and programme officer in China (1999-2002) and Geneva (1998-99). Prior to joining UNDP, Ms. Trankmann was a research fellow at the European Institute for Asian Studies in Brussels, advising European Union institutions on EU-Asia relations.
Educated in France, China (Taiwan) and Germany, she holds a master’s degree in political science and a bachelor’s degree in China studies, both from the University of Hamburg.
Siddharth Chatterjee took office as the United Nations Resident Coordinator in China on 16 January 2021 and is the designated representative of - and reports to - the UN Secretary-General. He presented his letter of credence to the President of China on 14 April 2021.
Mr. Chatterjee has more than 25 years of experience in international cooperation, sustainable development, humanitarian coordination and peace and security in the United Nations and the Red Cross movement. He has served in many fragile and war-torn countries all over the world.
A 3 times TEDx speaker, he is a regular opinion contributor on humanitarian and development issues for a range of journals which includes Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, Huffington Post, Forbes, CNN, Al Jazeera, the Guardian and of late has also published in mainstream Chinese journals.
Mr. Chatterjee holds a master’s degree in public policy from Princeton University in the United States of America.