Photo: Addis Ababa Financing for Development Conference 2015. Credit: - Photo: 2017

Argentina to Host the Second UN Conference on South-South Cooperation in 2019

By Adriano José Timossi

The United Nations General Assembly adopted on 28 August 2017 a draft resolution calling for the organization of the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation to be held in Argentina in 2019. The Conference will mark the 40th anniversary of the first UN Conference on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries also held in Buenos Aires almost forty years ago, a milestone event in the history of the UN and multilateralism.

GENEVA (IDN | SOUTHNEWS) – The United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus on August 28, 2017 the draft resolution titled Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation to be held in Buenos Aires from March 20 to 22, 2019.

The Conference will mark the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries held from August 30 to September 12, 1978 in Buenos Aires, Argentina which adopted the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (BAPA).

The United Nations Conference on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries and the adoption of the BAPA at the end of the two-week UN conference was a landmark event in the history of cooperation among developing countries. The BAPA also became a driving force in the strengthening of the role of the UN and the international community in supporting developing countries’ efforts to achieve an inclusive and sustainable path of development.

The follow-up to BAPA took place through several recommendations, decisions, resolutions and activities undertaken with the aim to promote cooperation among developing countries over the past decades. Many of them were boosted by the robust coordination and unity of the G77 and China and the support of the UN.

Some milestone events included the two so-called South Summits organized by the G77 and China and held in Cuba in 2000 and Doha in 2005 and its plans of actions which provided numerous recommendations to boost cooperation among developing countries.

Also, there is the Nairobi outcome document of the first High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation held in 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya which endorsed the principles on South-South Cooperation.

The Nairobi outcome stressed: “South-South cooperation and its agenda have to be set by countries of the South and should continue to be guided by the principles of respect for national sovereignty, national ownership and independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in domestic affairs and mutual benefit.”

Resolution A/71/318 adopted last week calling for a second UN Conference on South-South Cooperation was negotiated under the outstanding leadership of Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Uganda appointed by the President of the General Assembly as the chair of the informal consultations on modalities of the High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation.

Ambassador Ayebare is also Chair of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation, the subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly established to review progress made in implementing the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, the new directions strategy for South-South cooperation and the Nairobi outcome document of the High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation.

The previous General Assembly resolution adopted last December 2016 on South-South Cooperation (A/RES/71/244) had already called for such event to take place no later than the first half of 2019 and welcomed the offer of the Government of Argentina to host it.

Important to note that during the negotiations on the draft text, some of the elements highly valued by the developing countries constituency could not be included in the final resolution adopted by consensus. Objections made by developed countries in the negotiations raise concern on the real state of north-south relations and on what might come in the next months, when the negotiations on the outcome document for the second UN conference on South-South Cooperation will begin in New York.

The issue of financing for development, for instance, including the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development and the longstanding commitment of developed countries to provide 0.7% of their GNP as ODA for developing countries for development cooperation, which was included in a similar resolution adopted on the modalities of the first UN High-level Conference held in Nairobi in 2009, and also reaffirmed in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, was opposed in the final text. In fact, it must be said that a particular developed country had requested to delete almost one third of the original text or even more, also pushing strongly for the hosting country to provide finance to cover all costs.

The conference which commemorates an issue so dear for developing countries, which represent over two-thirds of the membership of the United Nations, should be entirely financed with extra-budgetary resources, according to reservations added to the draft text circulated to Member-States during the negotiating process. Even the participation of the Secretary-General of the United Nations should be funded by the conference host.

As per UNCTAD XIV, this attitude shows the precarious state of north-south relations and also, it poses a serious risk for the future of multilateralism as a driver for a more sustainable and inclusive agenda for development so necessary to overcome the longstanding challenges of poverty and development and to prepare for the global crisis in climate, in the economy and health, among other challenges.

Developing countries, under the umbrella of the G77 and China, must be united and work in close coordination during the negotiations, which will take place from November 2018 to February 2019. They also need to make sure that the longstanding conceptual framework and principles on South-South Cooperation adopted in several G77 and China meetings will be maintained and enhanced in the final outcome text to be adopted in Buenos Aires.

Also, in recognizing the important role of innovative forms of cooperation such as Triangular Cooperation, it is important to highlight that such a cooperation should not be seen in the top down approach which reined most of the traditional cooperation over past decades and did not lead to the expected results of promoting a true path of development and inclusion of the South in the global economy and international relations.

In fact, triangular cooperation should perhaps be renamed to “Trilateral Cooperation” as recently stated by a delegate of an active developing country in South-South Cooperation who said that trilateral means that all are in equal footing – the donor country, the provider in the south and the recipient country – while triangular cooperation means that one of the three will always be on top.

This is not good for a true philosophy of South-South cooperation for development cooperation based on solidarity among peoples and countries, national well-being, collective self-reliance and mutual benefit. An interesting point for a good reflection on the way to BAPA+40.

In the preparations for the upcoming Second UN High-level Conference on South-South Cooperation, the UN Secretary-General was requested to provide all necessary assistance to the preparatory process and the High-level Conference. This also includes the preparation of a “comprehensive report, consistent with the overarching theme of the Conference, no later than August 2018, reviewing the trends in South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation, including the progress made by the international community, in particular the United Nations, in supporting and promoting such cooperation and identifying new opportunities, as well as challenges and suggestions to overcome them.”

The resolution A/71/318 in its paragraph 3 also requests the Secretary-General “to prepare a background note, by the end of January 2018, including proposals for the overarching theme of the High-level Conference, taking into account the important role of South-South and triangular cooperation and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and sub-themes for the interactive panel discussions, for the consideration of Member States.”

Important to note also that the resolution stresses that “South-South cooperation, as an important element of international cooperation for development, offers viable opportunities for developing countries in their individual and collective pursuit of sustained economic growth and sustainable development.” However, it cannot be seen as a substitute for, but rather a complement to North-South cooperation.

The complementarity issue is a key element that should be in mind of all negotiators involved in the process towards the outcome document as well the role of developed countries as the key drivers of development cooperation and their commitments made in several internationally agreed development goals and which still remain to be fulfilled. While the Agenda 2030 is universal, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and financing for development must be on the table and not deleted or reduced as it has been occurring in a number of recent UN outcomes negotiated.

In this very same vein, it is also valuable to remind that the conceptual framework and the set of principles for South-South cooperation contained in the Yamoussoukro Consensus on South-South Cooperation which constitutes the very foundation of South-South Cooperation must be respected.

The conceptual framework and set of principles presented below are an important reminder for future work towards a successful outcome of the UN Second Conference on South-South Cooperation that could set the basis for a true agenda for the international community to work together, respecting its differences and making necessary changes in order to create a suitable and inclusive environment for all to achieve the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

* Adriano José Timossi is a Senior Programme Officer of the Global Governance for Development Programme (GGDP) of the South Centre. This article first appeared on 5 September 2017 in SouthNews, a service of the South Centre to provide information and news on topical issues from a South perspective. [IDN-InDepthNews – 6 September 2017]

Photo: Addis Ababa Financing for Development Conference 2015. Credit:

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate

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