2 May 2019

UNAI Hosts Panel Discussion on South-South Cooperation and the UN Development System

2 May 2019 - International development cooperation has been experiencing critical changes with the entrance of rising powers, mostly from the Global South. The rise in the scale and scope of South-South Cooperation (SSC) has contributed to the urgent need to revisit development aid and aid effectiveness debates.

The rise of the Global South has also become visible at the United Nations. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda welcome the increased contribution of SSC and recognize its importance for collective efforts to address pressing sustainable development challenges.

On 25 April 2019, a panel discussion entitled South-South Cooperation and the UN Development System, organized by the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), brought together prominent scholars of the International Studies Association (ISA) and experts from the United Nations system, to discuss the role of the Global South in the UN development reform.

After welcoming remarks by Mr. Ramu Damodaran, Chief of UNAI and Mr. Joel Oestreich, representative of ISA, H.E. Mr. Martín García Moritán, Permanent Representative of Argentina delivered keynote remarks on the role of South-South Cooperation as a development tool and its great potential for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

“The countries in the Global South have accumulated a range of expertise, good practices and development solutions that are not only benefiting themselves but also other countries,” noted Ambassador Moritán. “Through South-South and triangular cooperation, these homegrown development solutions have proven to be cost-effective and when adapted to similar contexts, they have the power to bring about scaleup responses and results.”

Ambassador Moritán introduced the results of the BAPA+40 High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation that took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 20-22 March 2019, highlighting the formal inclusion of triangular cooperation as “an important step forward”. He also lauded the paramount importance of the UN Development System in supporting research institutions with knowledge development and sharing on South-South and triangular cooperation initiatives, as an “enabler for partnerships” that contribute to the building of human and institutional capacity in developing countries.

The panel discussion continued with a historical overview of the United Nations and South-South Cooperation by Janine Pickardt of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library of the United Nations. Ms. Pickardt also introduced the Development Research Guide provided by the UN Library that highlights key events and documents related to the concept of development within the UN, which is available in English, French and Spanish.

Following the presentation by the UN Library, Professor Emel Parlar Dal from Marmara University (Istanbul, Turkey) discussed the strengths and limitations regarding South-South Cooperation. According to Professor Dal, the major strengths of SSC are its ability to enhance efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to facilitate the sharing of best practices between countries of the Global South, as well as the financial burden sharing with Northern donors.

However, SSC has its deficiencies, such as the lack of a clear and harmonized evaluation framework, which created obstacles for accessing greater amounts of data and attributing clear evidence that donor contributions accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. The fragmented nature of development initiatives in SSC and the lack of transparency in the implantation of aid projects have increased corruption and could decrease the long-term sustainability of financial resources given to aid projects. Her suggestion was that the Global South should take effective steps to regularly report on development aid effectiveness, and to increase the amount of statistical data to raise the importance of SSC’s role in achieving the SDGs.

Professor Paulo Esteves from the International Relations Institute of the Pontifical Catholic University (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) went on to share his comments on the BAPA+ 40 outcome document, which aims to foster self-reliance in the Global South, but also indicates the challenges and deadlocks the G77 face as a group within the UN and the international system. He suggested that more description of the contributions of SSC for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda should be added to the document.

Senior Researcher at the German Development Institute (Bonn, Germany), Silke Weinlich, examined how SSC and multilateral cooperation can work together to improve development and the goals of the UN. Ms. Weinlich argued that current trends are indicating declining multilateralism, but SSC can transcend national interests and help pull resources for common interests and achieving global goals, therefore SSC and multilateral organizations have an important role in achieving the SDGs.

Ms. Weinlich also pointed out that every UN agency has an overarching strategy regarding SSC, but funding for these aid activities are primarily from Western countries. The current path SSC is heading on leads to an unclear status in UN Development system. She called for greater southern providers of development funding, increased multilateralism, and decreased bilateralism regarding SSC policies.

Finally, student representatives Eunice Kamami of Drexel University (United States) and Itishree Singh of Amity University (India) talked to the participants about what South-South Cooperation means to the young generation. Ms. Kamami shared her experience growing up in a diverse community in Illinois, traveling to her country of birth, Kenya, visiting Uganda and working for a nonprofit organization that facilitates exchange opportunities for medical students from countries of the Global South. For her, South-South Cooperation is not only about economic and technological cooperation, it is also about knowledge exchange. Ms. Singh saw South-South Cooperation as a framework for collaboration among the countries of the Global South in political, economic, cultural, social environmental and technical fields, opening doors to employment opportunities for millions of people. "More and better South-South Cooperation is essential to build a better world that leaves none of us behind," concluded Ms. Singh.