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DEVELOPMENT: South-South Cooperation at 30-Year High

Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 18 2009 (IPS) - As the United Nations commemorated its sixth annual ‘U.N. Day for South-South Cooperation’ Friday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon singled out the growing new ties among developing countries that go far beyond trade and investments: education, science, agriculture, medicine, health services and information technologies.

Inclusive partnerships are critical to achieve development goals, says U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  Credit: Bomoon Lee/IPS

Inclusive partnerships are critical to achieve development goals, says U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: Bomoon Lee/IPS

“Over the past 30 years, there has been an upsurge in South-South cooperation,” he said.

“The impact of development actors from the South continues to grow in spite of the global financial downturn, lending increased significance to the contributions of South-South cooperation to development,” Ban added, pointing out some of the significant success stories.

In Asia, Singapore is in the process of building a world-class biotechnology hub in the developing world.

In Africa, Rwanda is making efforts to become a state-of-the-art information-oriented society, while also working with Uruguay on the “One Laptop per Child” initiative, sharing practical information and experience.

The International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) is supporting innovative scientific research in the development of a preventive AIDS vaccine through a network of 11 research institutions and scientists in India, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia, according to the United Nations.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has established a Technology Exchange Forum which will facilitate the transfer of local and domestic technologies in engineering, pharmaceuticals, medicine, agriculture, bio-technology, agro-food and energy.

These technologies are to be shared among the OIC’s 57 member states, all countries of the global South, primarily in the Islamic world.

The government of Brazil has initiated a South-South programme to address the problems of child labour by financing projects in Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa.

Brazil has also provided a 300,000-dollar grant to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the first donor from the South to do so, for field programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean to help eliminate child labour in developing countries.

Qatar has taken a lead role in promoting South-South cooperation in the oil and gas sectors, bringing together some 42 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, as well as international organisations, to share and exchange experiences in effective hydrocarbon management.

India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) will provide a million dollars each annually for a Facility for Poverty and Hunger Alleviation in the world’s poorest nations.

The grant will also help support countries struggling to meet the U.N’s. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including a 50 percent reduction in extreme poverty and hunger, the achievement of universal primary education and the promotion of gender equality.

This new Facility is being actively supported by the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, within the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP).

According to the United Nations, the overall trend, prior to the current economic crisis, had been “a remarkable rise in South-South trade, finance and investment flows.”

South-South merchandised trade alone has grown with significant speed since 1995, on average by 13 percent each year, reaching 2.4 trillion dollars, or 20 percent of world trade, in 2007, while the annual rate of growth in world trade was only 9.0 percent.

A report jointly authored by UNDP and U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) released here says that UNDP country offices have reported an increase in South-South cooperation in all practice areas.

In 2008, UNFPA alone support some 189 South-South initiatives, including partnerships in the following areas: fistula repair; census management; population surveys; delivery of reproductive health services; HIV infection among women; gender-based violence; the use of database software; training, raising awareness of population and development issues; and gender mainstreaming.

The first Global South-South Development Expo (GSSDE), launched last year by the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, showcased over 60 “best practices” for South-South cooperation.

The 2009 GSSDE, held in Washington DC early this week, provided a successful forum for similar South-South experiences.

“I hope the outcome of this year’s Expo will lead to further partnership-building and solution-sharing towards meeting the international agreed development goals, including the MDGs, particularly for those countries in critical circumstances,” said Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar, president of the U.N.’s High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation.

Addressing the Expo early this week, Al-Nasser said: “We need to systematically connect practitioners to each other to initiate South-South cooperation in order to adapt and adopt South-South solutions.”

In early December, the United Nations hosted a high level Conference on South-South Cooperation in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

A plan of action – formally called the Outcome Document – adopted at the conference called for further strengthening of cooperation among the 130 developing countries that comprise the Group of 77.

Meanwhile, the secretary-general said Friday that the challenges facing developing nations – particularly food security, climate change, and HIV/AIDS – continue to obstruct its goals for advancement.

“Now, more than ever, is the time to focus on innovative South-South cooperation, as the challenges we face collectively can only be overcome together,” he added.

The theme of this year’s U.N. Day – “Innovative Solutions through Inclusive Partnerships” – highlights the cooperative self-reliance of developing countries.

Ban said the forging of inclusive partnerships is critical for creating the innovative solutions required to achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

“The complex problems that lie ahead demand the creation of an environment that offers opportunities for collective, broad-based collaboration that can generate sustained national, regional and global commitment”.

As such, he said, it was no surprise that inclusive partnerships were the core mechanism of the South-South success stories showcased at the 2009 Global South-South Development Expo.

“While the featured initiatives may have originated in different regions of the world, and addressed unique development challenges, they all hold in common the strong element of broad, inclusive partnerships” the secretary-general declared.

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