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DEVELOPMENT: South-South Cooperation Key to MDGs

IPS Correspondents

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5 2010 (IPS) - Member states meeting here Thursday called for the immediate implementation of development commitments made during the Nairobi high-level U.N. conference on cooperation between developing countries.

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark addresses the 16th session of the High-Level Committee for South-South Cooperation.  Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark addresses the 16th session of the High-Level Committee for South-South Cooperation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark highlighted the importance of the Nairobi meeting on South-South cooperation in sharing information, technologies, and experiences across the South.

The Nairobi outcome document calls for concrete measures to mainstream support for South-South and triangular cooperation in the U.N.’s work.

“I can assure you that we in UNDP have received that loud and clear message,” Clark said. “We have long proudly hosted the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation and fully supported its work.”

On the heels of Thursday’s General Assembly High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation (HLC) meeting, focal points of South-South cooperation at 29 U.N. agencies met Friday at headquarters to discuss follow-up to the Nairobi conference.

“South-South cooperation is an expression of solidarity that has proven its relevance by a rapid growth,” said Ambassador Abdullah M. Alsaidi of Yemen, the chair of the Group of 77 developing countries.

“Cooperation across the South has been transformed by the growth of the emerging economies,” Clark explained.

The share of global GDP generated by low and middle income countries has grown from 15 percent to 25 percent over the last 50 years according to UNDP estimates, and analysts predict that emerging markets will outperform developed markets over the course of the next decade.

“Strengthening of regional integration and improved networking among members of regional blocs and organisations has a multiplier effect to South-South cooperation,” said Ambassador Zachary Muburi-Muita of Kenya, who was elected president of the HLC meeting here.

“The emerging economies in the South are attracting international attention and will increasingly acquire the muscle to influence the course of economic growth and development,” said Ambassador Gyan Chandra Acharya of Nepal, stressing that the recent successes of the developing world are in danger of being reversed and are not being felt equally across countries or regions.

Despite the gains achieved through trade and finance, delegations noted the deepening economic asymmetries among developing countries, particularly in regard to the least developed countries (LDCs) and landlocked developing countries.

The HLC stressed that the current financial, food and energy crises have exacerbated the vulnerabilities of developing countries that lack the capacity to withstand shocks.

There is an “implementation gap” that has been looming over the recommendations of the major U.N. conferences in the economic and social areas, delegates agreed.

It is only with “political will towards fulfilling the commitments that parties have undertaken in Nairobi that we can make real progress,” an Egyptian delegate stressed.

“South-South cooperation is immensely important at this time for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other internationally agreed goals, and for tackling climate change,” said Clark.

Clark urged delegations to take a particularly close look at the gender aspects of achieving the MDGs.

“Progress is lagging behind particularly on MDG5 on maternal health; on MDG3 on empowering women; and on MDG2 with respect to gender parity in access to education,” Clark said, “To achieve the MDGs and indeed other internationally agreed development goals, women have to be an equal part of the equation.”

In order to effectively implement the Nairobi outcome with demonstrable results, stakeholders need to identify “quick wins” whose implementation should be devoid of unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy, said Muburi-Muita.

The government of Brazil and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) have signed agreements on South-South cooperation to prevent and combat child labour and to promote good practices and lessons learned in Latin America and Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa and Asia.

“This is an excellent example of how member states are able to engage entities of the U.N. system through a South-South and triangular partnership in support of their national development strategies,” according to the ILO delegation.

The HLC stressed local ownership of solutions as a key component of South-South cooperation.

“Now, as UNDP positions itself to be of the greatest possible relevance and support to developing countries in the 21st century, we see facilitating South-South exchanges of experience and knowledge as absolutely central to what we do,” Clark explained.

A growing priority of the U.N. will be to share experience on climate change adaptation and mitigation. This could include sharing knowledge on growing drought-tolerant crops, on reforestation, or on providing low-cost access to clean energy and transport technology.

Clark emphasised that a very wide range of developing countries make contributions to South-South cooperation. In the recent weeks “we have seen least developed and low-income countries, along with middle-income and net-contributing countries, digging deep into their pockets for Haiti,” she said.

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