Photo: Experts discuss Good Practices of South-South Cooperation for Implementation of the SDGs: Development through Transformation Credit: UNOSSC - Photo: 2017

South-South Cooperation Holds the Key To Beating Global Development Challenges

By Jacques N. Couvas

ANKARA (IDN) – “Solutions for the South by the South” was the recurring theme that resounded throughout the duration of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 (GSSD Expo) from November 27 to 30, 2017 in Antalya, the largest Turkish city on the Mediterranean coast.

This landmark event of the United Nations (UN) system solely for the global South was held in the lead up to the Second High-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation to be convened in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in March 2019. The Conference will mark the 40th anniversary of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA+40) for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries. A High-Level Forum of National Directors-General for Development Cooperation discussed during the Expo insights and proposals for the preparatory process of the 2019 conference.

Coordinated by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and hosted by the Turkish government, the GSSD Expo provided a powerful platform for all development actors and stakeholders to celebrate South-South and triangular cooperation success, share knowledge and lessons learned, explore new avenues for collaboration, and initiate new partnership efforts.

More than 800 participants from public and private sectors, academia and civil society representing 25 UN organizations and 120 countries attended the 9th annual GSSD Expo under the official theme: “South-South Cooperation in the Era of Economic, Social and Environmental Transformation: Road to the 40th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA+40).”

As Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) said during the Development Cooperation Symposium in Buenos Aires in September, “BAPA+40 will happen against a backdrop of a global South that is economically empowered and has developed important capabilities.”

He added: “There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism. South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalization of the global partnership for sustainable development.”

The GSSD Expo addressed in 37 plenary sessions and side events, including 11 thematic solutions fora and three leadership round tables, numerous global development challenges, such as climate change, peace-building, private sector engagement, innovation, big data, youth employment and women’s empowerment.

And this with a view to assisting the stakeholders to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set in the United Nations’ ‘2030 Agenda’ endorsed by the international community in September 2015.

58 booths and initiatives, such as the South-South Global Thinkers Initiative, provided a window of opportunity to share know-how and to build bridges and partnerships between national governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations in the development area.

The significance of South-South cooperation is underlined by the fact that developing countries are expected to account for 55 percent of global GDP by 2025, with Africa becoming by far the fastest growing region. But the UN is concerned: in spite of such growth, actual and projected, many local populations do not seem to benefit in tangible terms. Use of new technologies in industry remains behind the rest of the world and unemployment is still higher than the globe’s average.

Hope is rising, though, for Africa. The Chinese have engaged in the ‘Industrialisation and Job Creation for Africa Initiative’ launched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in order to provide manufacturing know-how, use of technology and data gathering, mass construction, smart city-planning, and a range of effective solutions to improve life conditions in fast expanding urban areas, including in utility management and healthcare.

China is also helping national governments to attract foreign direct investment, in an effort to make Africa the next low-cost manufacturing hub for global markets. The aim is supported by the UNDP and has in the past couple of years also caught the interest of the Turkish government among others.

UNDP’s strategy is to encourage African governments to cooperate and to share the knowledge acquired through exposure to partnerships with China and other expert players in development. Ethiopia, for instance, is already sharing experiences through South-South modalities with Rwanda and Senegal.

Three emerging economies, India, Brazil and South Africa, which have already reached a more advanced development stage, have volunteered to jointly drive the exchange of resources, technology, and ideas needed to help countries of the global South move forward. The three countries launched launched on the inauguration day of the Expo the latest report of the India, Brazil and South Africa Facility for Poverty and Hunger Alleviation (IBSA Fund), providing data on the progress made by their collective effort.

IBSA Fund has been managed by UNOSSC since 2004 and is supporting projects through partnerships with local governments and institutions to promote food security, access to safe drinking water, and fighting the spread of, and finding solutions towards treating HIV/AIDS.

The Fund is currently working on restoring hospitals and improving medical facilities in the State of Palestine and in Sudan, and training 2,000 unskilled and semi-skilled workers in Fiji, among other projects on creating awareness among local populations in remote geographical areas on hygiene, safety, and domestic accident prevention.

“South-South Cooperation’s priority is to improve capacity in less developed countries of the global South to make the local population more independent to develop their own way for making their own region a better place,” said Miguel Griesbach de Pereira Franco, Minister Counsellor at the Embassy of Brazil in Ankara.

Explaining the scope of the South-South Development project, Jorge Chediek, Envoy of the UN Secretary General on South-South Cooperation and Director of UNOSSC, said: “It is about sharing with the spirit of solidarity and with the spirit of finding solutions to similar problems.”

Referring to UNOSSC’s role, Chediek added that, “South-South cooperation can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs through enhancing productive capacity, facilitating trade and investment, and sharing contextually-appropriate technologies.”

His remark is reassuring for international experts, who have been warning that unplanned introduction of high-performing technologies may have negative effects, in addition to positive ones, on Africa’s environment, ecosystem and social structure.

To those who know Africa, it is clear that substantive and sustainable transformation of the continent cannot rely on money and technology only. These have to be managed by competent and forward-looking individuals. A new bread of home-grown leaders is therefore essential.

The GSSD Expo addressed this challenge on November 28, when a new ambitious initiative was launched: ‘Scaling Up Southern Solutions for Sustainable Development Through Advanced Youth Leadership.’ It is unlikely that any participant or journalist would remember this title, so a shorthand name was attributed: ‘Youth for the South.’ That’s easy, and better.

The project is designed as a partnership between UNOSSC, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Financial Centre for South-South Cooperation, the Union for the Mediterranean, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), who will initially finance its activities. Additional partners are expected to join.

But ‘Youth for the South’ is not about seed funding or start up financing. It is about transferring the inspiration and skills required for young people to become adept at business creation and to learn how to bring transformational change to their respective communities and countries in practical ways.

“This initiative is going to help young people for two fundamental reasons: first, it is going to bring young people to the table – it is very important that their voice be heard in a national, regional and local level. Secondly, it will, at a personal level, really strengthen young people’s leadership by providing them with the skills and opportunities to build their own personal leadership [style],” explained Alanna Armitage, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, at the Expo.

In essence, the process will consist of field trips to more developed Southern countries, during which the selected high-potential young leaders will undergo on-site and on-the-job intensive training and will have interactive sessions with experts in the area of activity chosen. Knowledge-acquisition will be complemented with distance learning.

The areas of interest selected in the first phase of the project are agriculture and rural development, social protection, sustainable energy, and youth employment. The initial batch of trainees will number 30 to 60 individuals, who UNPFA believes have personality traits and qualifications to influence their respective communities when they return home.

The performance and progress of the candidates will be monitored by the initiative’s founders and staff of various UN agencies.

Leadership is, however, not only looking upwards – towards creating prosperity. It is also looking down, at those in great need. Most communities below the poverty level are in the South.

The UN’s humanitarian effort has intensified in the past two years, Ursula Mueller, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told participants on November 29.

The UN has helped 145 million people in desperate need this year alone, disbursing US$ 24 billion, of which only 11 billion came from donors’ contributions. “The funding gap remains wide,” emphasised Mueller, who would like to see better synergies between humanitarian and development agencies.

Weak fundraising may signal declining interest in preserving solidarity among rich and poor nations. Developed countries are still big donors, but are unlikely to match the expectations of the UN.

Meanwhile, less affluent members of the United Nations are keener to help fellow Southerners.

The paradox: in 2016, Turkey – also a developing country – was the world’s second largest humanitarian donor and most generous country in terms of ratio to its national income, spending US$ 6 billion on humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.

The fate of the world’s poorest in the countries of the South cannot be ignored, as the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, reflected: the 2030 Agenda’s central promise to leave no one behind will “be elusive if [these] 91 countries … remain at the bottom of the development ladder.”

With this in view, UNDP’s Magdy Martínez-Solimán called for South-South and triangular cooperation that “creates jobs, strengthens trade, improves technology, promotes regional integration and benefits all countries involved.”

‘No Poverty ‘ and ‘Zero Hunger’ are the two top goals among the 17 SDGs for 2030. The world is just 12 years away from the finish line. [IDN-InDepthNews – 06 December 2017]

Photo: Experts discuss Good Practices of South-South Cooperation for Implementation of the SDGs: Development through Transformation Credit: UNOSSC

IDN is the flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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