South-south cooperation holds the key to beating global development challenges | Sunday Observer

South-south cooperation holds the key to beating global development challenges

Countries in the South need to come together and help each other achieve meaningful development.

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) held from November 27 to 30, 2017 in Antalya, Turkey. Launched in 2008, it is an annual global event.

Some 800 delegates from 120 countries attended the Expo, hosted by the Turkish government and coordinated by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC). The official theme was: “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)” among developing countries.

A High-Level Forum of National Directors-General for Development Cooperation discussed the preparatory process of the Second UN High-Level Conference on South-South Cooperation. The Government of Argentina will host the Conference in March 2019.

In 37 plenary and side sessions the Expo covered a broad range of issues, aiming at assisting the stakeholders in the South-South movement to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set in the United Nations’ ‘2030 Agenda’ endorsed in September 2015.

As the global economy has shifted since the 1990s significantly towards less developed regions, the priorities have also changed for the UN.

It is now estimated that developing countries will account for 55% of global GDP by 2025, with Africa becoming by far the fastest growing economy. But the UN is concerned: in spite of such growth, actual and projected, the 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 the Africans, but it comes from unexpected benefactors. The Chinese have seized 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.

The Chinese are 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.

The UNDP’s strategy is to encourage African governments to cooperate and to share the knowledge acquired through exposure to partnerships with the Chinese and other expert players in development. Ethiopia, for instance, is already sharing experiences with Rwanda and Senegal. But experts feel it is too early to leave the Africa initiative to its own fate. 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.

These BRICS members 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.

The IBSA Fund is managed by the UNOSSC since 2004 and has supported for more than ten years 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 IBSA Fund is currently working on restoring hospitals and improving medical facilities in the State of Palestine and in Sudan, and training 2,000 unskilled or 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.

“The 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 the Brazilian representative at the Expo.

Explaining the scope of the South-South Development project, Jorge Chediek, UN Secretary General’s Envoy 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 breed of home-grown leaders is therefore essential.

The 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.

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 addicted to business creation and to learn how to bring transformational change to their respective communities.

“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 at the Expo Alanna Armitage, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

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.

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 be 30 to 60 individuals, who UNPFA believes have personality traits and qualifications to influence their respective communities when they return home.

Leadership is, however, not only looking upwards – towards creating prosperity. It is also looking down, at those in great need. Most communities below 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 this year alone 145 million people in desperate need, disbursing US$ 24 billion, of which 11 billion only came from donors’ contributions.

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

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.

– Third World Network Features