Photo: United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation Director Jorge Chediek closing the Global South-South Development Expo 2016 on 3 November 2016 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Credit: SUSSC - Photo: 2017

Mainstreaming South-South Cooperation in the UN System

Interview with Jorge Chediek, Director of the UN Office for South Cooperation (UNOSSC)

NEW YORK (IDN) – South-South and triangular cooperation forms an integral part, complementing North-South Cooperation, of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by Member States of the United Nations on September 25, 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.

How is the UN Office for South Cooperation (UNOSSC) – as the global and United Nations system-wide focal point for South-South cooperation – engaging in advocacy, policy development, knowledge sharing and innovative programmatic activities? Ramesh Jaura, Editor-in-Chief and International Correspondent of IDN, flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate group, asked UNOSSC Director Jorge Chediek this and related questions in an e-mail interview. Read the Q&A in full:

Q: The United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation mainstreams South-South cooperation across the United Nations system and throughout the international development community. Could you please highlight a few aspects of how this has been done until now?

A: As the global and United Nations system-wide focal point for South-South cooperation, UNOSSC engages in advocacy, policy development, knowledge sharing and innovative programmatic activities.

Through our policy and advocacy programme, we have produced numerous reports including the report of the United Nations Secretary-General on South-South cooperation and the Report of the Administrator of UNDP. The reports inform Member States on recent trends and developments occurring in South-South cooperation, as well as progress in implementing resolutions and decisions of intergovernmental bodies.

UNOSSC has also supported many United Nations organizations in the development of corporate strategies on South-South cooperation. These strategies have enabled United Nations organizations to incorporate South-South and triangular cooperation into their activities, ensuring that these modalities become a core way of doing business.

As a result, many United Nations organizations and agencies have established dedicated budgets, teams and offices that are working specifically to mainstream South-South cooperation in their programmes.

In response to calls by Member States for coordinated United Nations support to South-South cooperation, UNOSSC led in partnership with the United Nations Development Group, the establishment of a South-South and Triangular Cooperation Task Team. This task team seeks to ensure that the full capacity of the UN System is brought to bear in a coordinated and coherent manner towards supporting developing countries’ engagement in South-South activities.

As part of its advisory services to partners, UNOSSC is implementing a capacity development initiative that provides assistance in strengthening of basic legal frameworks and project management tools. Our work also facilitates the anchoring of South-South cooperation in the national development plans and foreign policy strategies of developing countries.

UNOSSC facilitates multi-agency collaboration and the exchange of best practices. The annual United Nations system Expos organized by the Office in collaboration with various organizations have been venues for a multifaceted dialogue on South-South collaboration.

Launched in 2008, the Expos have connected more than 150 countries, with participation by more than 5,200 development practitioners from 30 United Nations agencies and over 100 other institutions. The Expos have showcased and promoted over 600 best practices from this broad spectrum of partners.

Q: How do you propose to foster South-South and triangular cooperation in the changed global development environment against the backdrop of the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals?

A: South-South and triangular cooperation were identified among the means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly with regard to capacity development and the application of science, technology and innovation to development.

In fact, Member States have recently emphasized the role of South-South cooperation in the context of the 2030 Agenda, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development, and the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In order to prioritize our efforts to be more responsive to the requests of Member States and the United Nations system, UNOSSC is working in three focus areas moving forward: advocacy, knowledge-sharing, and innovative demand-driven programming.

UNOSSC, in partnership with the UNDG Task Team, recently conducted a mapping exercise of effective South-South and triangular cooperation initiatives that are contributing towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The results – 61 good practices from 31 contributing institutions – are highlighted in the publication Good Practices in South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Sustainable Development. Illustrations of the solutions compiled include the International Labour Organization’s work on social protection floors that is spreading across regions, and the transfer of good practices on school feeding programmes from Brazil to other parts of the world. This is a living document that is being expanded.

We leverage each partner’s capacities and comparative advantages, recognizing that all have something valuable to contribute. For example, in 2016 UNOSSC, in partnership with the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, launched the Southern Climate Partnership Incubator. Initial seed funding was received from the Government of China. The initiative aims to facilitate networking and accelerate access to green technologies by developing countries on favourable terms.

UNOSSC has also recently launched the South-South in Action publication series. Through this series it is encouraging countries themselves to publish homegrown experiences that have led to the achievement of their own development goals, and, in turn, those of other countries. South-South in Action gives Governments and partner organizations full ownership of the narrative of their undertakings.

The first volume of the series, jointly published by the Royal Thai Government and UNOSSC, was launched in New York in January 2017. Since then, the publication has also been launched in Cotonou and Geneva.

Q: Will the United Nations Conference in Buenos Aires on the 40th anniversary of BAPA draw a new roadmap?

It is too early to tell. The outcome of the High-level United Nations Conference that is to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action would be decided by deliberations of Member States. We are looking forward to an agreement by Member States on a modalities resolution to provide guidance in this regard.

UNOSSC is forging strategic partnerships with national governments, academic institutions, private sector and civil society organizations. These partnerships will support the preparations and facilitate the convening of events that will provide substantive inputs in the lead up to the Conference.

In this regard UNOSSC has recently signed Memorandums of Understanding targeted at deepening South-South exchanges with, among others, the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States; the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States; the South Centre; the Union for the Mediterranean; and the Centre for New Structural Economics at Peking University.

UNOSSC is also working closely with UNDP on a Global Coalition of Think Tank Networks for South-South Cooperation. The Coalition is building partnerships with major centres of excellence to exchange knowledge and conduct collaborative research that will help us to scale up South-South and triangular cooperation for sustainable development.

Q: The Trump Administration has announced intention to cut UN funding by about 40%. What would this mean for South-South cooperation?

A: This prospect is, of course, of great concern for all those engaged in development activities carried out by the United Nations. With respect to South-South and triangular cooperation, we are confident that the United States and other countries and partners will continue to support this very valuable work. [IDN-InDepthNews – 20 March 2017]

Photo: United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation Director Jorge Chediek closing the Global South-South Development Expo 2016 on 3 November 2016 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Credit: SUSSC

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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