Enhanced Collaboration Crucial to Address Changing Geopolitical Landscape, Resource Constraints, Delegates Stress
BUENOS AIRES, 22 March — Concluding a landmark conference on the crucial role of South-South cooperation in the planet’s sustainable development, representatives of 160 countries today adopted a sweeping outcome document calling for stepped-up collaboration against the backdrop of resource constraints and a shifting geopolitical landscape.
By the terms of the “Buenos Aires outcome document of the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation”, heads of delegations and other officials — gathered on the third and final day of the Conference, also known as “BAPA+40” — cited significant changes in international politics and economic relations, which create conditions conducive to promoting South-South cooperation, pursuing sustained economic growth and building national and collective self-reliance. They noted that, while North-South cooperation remains the main modality for development cooperation, recent decades have seen South-South cooperation expand its scope, facilitate regional integration and provide innovative approaches for collective action.
Acknowledging that developing countries continue to face serious challenges, as well as new and emerging ones, participants recognized the need to enhance capacity-building in developing countries through enhanced resources and expertise, at those countries’ request. In that regard, they renewed their commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, reaffirmed the General Assembly resolution endorsing the 1978 Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries and welcomed other international agreements.
Noting with concern increases in debt levels around the world, participants called on borrowers and creditors to address challenges linked to debt sustainability as a matter of priority, in order to prevent a negative impact on long-term development and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. They also recognized that the shortage of resources continues to hinder the expansion of South-South and triangular cooperation, and underscored the need to further mobilize resources from all sources — public, private, domestic and international.
By other terms of the outcome document, participants recognized that South-South cooperation should not be seen as official development assistance (ODA) and stressed that it is not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North-South cooperation. They further acknowledged the need to enhance the development effectiveness of South-South and triangular cooperation, while acknowledging its voluntary, participative and demand-driven nature.
Participants further called on both developed and developing countries, and all relevant stakeholders, to promote South-South and triangular cooperation policies and activities, and ensure a more holistic and coherent approach to sustainable development. They also called upon multilateral, regional and bilateral financial and development institutions to consider increasing financial resources and technical cooperation for those purposes, while stressing the need to reinvigorate the United Nations role within existing resources and with the approval of respective Governments.
They urged the United Nations development system to enhance assistance to developing countries in seeking potential cooperation partners in strategic areas in line with national development policies, and to continue to support regional and subregional organizations in promoting sustainable development practices.
Jorge Faurie, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina and President of the Conference, said in closing remarks that the meeting brought about a renewed spirit of support for South-South cooperation. Noting that the world has reached a particularly delicate moment in its history — with many tensions emerging from the unsatisfied demands of peoples of the world — he spotlighted the importance of multilateralism. In that context, he urged participants to turn today’s outcome document into a road map for years to come and to translate their commitments into tangible progress.
Achim Steiner, Secretary-General of the Conference and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), noted the broad interest in the Conference among countries, partners and the public at large. Urging participants to harness the new understanding and partnerships reached in the last three days to double down on their achievements, he declared: “We will all leave this Conference with much homework to do, but also many opportunities.” Those including tackling climate change, reducing inequalities and improving cooperation in trade, he said, adding that the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved without mutual support, inspiration and a “push in the right direction”.
María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, said the Conference’s outcome document reflects the evolution of South-South cooperation. However, that instrument must adapt to today’s evolving realities, she said, added that technology is critical to advancing education, trade, agriculture and medicine, and — if not properly used — can further deepen inequality. Citing positive examples in Latin America and the Caribbean and elsewhere, she said the global South has emerged stronger in the 40 years since the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action and that solidarity can bring an even brighter future in the years to come.
Prior to adopting the outcome document, the Conference concluded its general debate, with representatives of States, regional groups, United Nations agencies and civil society organizations sharing their perspectives on the role and future of South-South cooperation.
António Vitorino, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), welcomed that the Conference’s outcome document correctly highlights the significant changes taking place in international political and economic arenas. One of those changes is international migration, he said, which has implications for all countries in areas such as health, education, labour, trade and development. Calling for the expansion of existing agreements on migration in the context of South-South cooperation, he pointed out that migration between developing countries now exceeds that from South to North.
Jehangir Khan, Director of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, said the devastating effects of terrorism and violent extremism are borne most heavily by developing countries, with 10 nations from the global South accounting for a full 84 per cent of all deaths from terrorism in 2017. In that context, he said efforts to prevent terrorism are closely linked with those aimed at delivering on the 2030 Agenda. Indeed, the factors and underlying conditions that often lead young people to be lured by terrorism are those specifically targeted by the Sustainable Development Goals, including poverty, inequality, unresolved conflicts, food and water insecurity, corruption and lack of rule of law.
Several Government representatives called for a broad rebalancing of the multilateral system, as well as fresh perspectives on the role of the global South. In that vein, Nigeria’s representative declared: “If conducted in an atmosphere of trust and sincerity, South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to the establishment of a fair and equitable international order.” Noting that Nigeria responds to the needs of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries — including by sharing its own expertise and deploying its professionals to provide assistance abroad — he said such projects are challenging long-held perceptions of Africa as solely a recipient of aid.
The representative of Belize said that, in its 37 years of independence, his country has seen a social and economic transformation resulting in large part to its South-South and triangular partnerships. “Ironically, even as we are witnessing this remarkable growth, we are seeing a parallel stagnation and even decline in ODA and the erection of barriers that make access to concessionary financing difficult for middle-income small island developing States,” he said, adding his voice to other delegations demanding that international cooperation transcend the use of per capita income as the sole measure of development.
In other business, participants adopted a draft resolution on the credentials of the representatives attending the Conference; a text thanking the people and Government of Argentina for serving as host; and the draft report of the Conference itself, which was introduced by Rapporteur Sven Jürgenson (Estonia). In addition, the chairs of three interactive panel discussions held on 21 March presented summaries of those discussions (see Press Release DEV/3391).
Also speaking were the Foreign Minister of the Gambia, as well as delegates of Fiji, Italy, Switzerland, Ethiopia, Guyana, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chile, Colombia, Senegal, Rwanda and Kiribati.
Representatives of the Latin American Economic System, Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), International Chamber of Commerce, Pacific Islands Development Forum, Ibero-American Conference, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Fund for Agricultural Development (on behalf of the United Nations Rome-based agencies), International Labour Organization (ILO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Volunteers, Economic Commission for Europe, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), International Trade Centre, International Trade Union Confederation, Conferencia Internacional Sindical, Oxfam and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) also participated.
GENE WAQANIVALU BAI (Fiji), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said South-South and triangular cooperation have undergone major transformations since the first meeting in Buenos Aires four decades ago. Middle-income countries have emerged as the new donors and technical assistance providers to developing countries, and South-South and triangular cooperation have been identified as key modalities for delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “We are gathered here today to reflect, review, learn, enhance and strengthen our cooperation,” he said, adding that there is a growing consensus that challenges faced by developing countries can only be solved if they work together to find solutions. Fiji, like other small island developing States, is economically vulnerable and ecologically fragile, and its sustainable development is seriously compromised by the effects of climate change and natural disasters. Indeed, the latter threaten to set back hard-earned development gains. Noting that small island developing States are also vulnerable to increasing debts, he spotlighted the importance of accessing climate finance for adaptation and mitigation, and expressed hope that new partnerships through South-South and triangular frameworks will focus on climate-related challenges.
LUIGI DE CHIARA (Italy) said that, during the last two days, delegates have presented varying definitions of South-South cooperation, adding that further deepening the understanding of the mechanism could greatly increase its benefits. Italy remains committed to contributing 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to official development assistance (ODA) for developing countries. Regarding triangular cooperation, Italy is eager to support projects among equals and on a peer-to-peer basis. South-South and triangular cooperation, in its many forms, can be essential for the exchange of ideas, knowledge and skills, and can produce results beyond traditional North-South cooperation modalities. Turning to initiatives aimed at fighting corruption and promoting transparency, he noted that Italy is organizing a preparatory conference in May on implementing Sustainable Development Goal 16 — peace, justice and strong institutions.
EDIKA VOKRAL (Switzerland) said South-South and triangular cooperation are important parts of the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, which requires the mobilization of resources, funds and expertise. Those instruments are critical to tackling the many global challenges of the future, she stressed, calling for diverse approaches, innovative concepts and shared principles and values. South-South and especially triangular cooperation are concrete partnerships that should promote collaboration beyond single projects and help bring forward joint proposals and initiatives. For example, in 2018, her Government held a workshop in South Africa on climate, environment and disaster risk reduction integration guidance, which led to a trilateral partnership between Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe on that topic. Switzerland will remain committed to pursuing triangular cooperation, as well as sharing and building on its experiences, she said.
FLOR FORTUNA DIBACO (Ethiopia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that the promotion of South-South investment is imperative for economic growth and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. “Investment brings more than finance,” she stressed, noting that South-South cooperation is a collective endeavour of developing countries based on the principle of solidarity and national ownership. As clearly stated in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, South-South cooperation is an important element of international cooperation for development. It must serve as a complement, not a substitute, to North-South cooperation, which should remain the main channel of international development cooperation. Noting the recently concluded African Continental Free Trade Area, she called on the United Nations to continue to support developing countries in deepening South-South trade and regional economic integration.
AMEH FORBES JULY (Guyana) said the last 40 years have demonstrated that the global development community has grown from “token transactions” under the rubric of technical cooperation among developing countries to major systems of intra-South trade, technology transfer and capacity-building. Citing crucial progress achieved, he said none of it would have been possible without the cooperation of development partners from the North and pivotal trailblazers from the South, all sharing financial and knowledge resources. As a middle-income country, Guyana has seen declines in both poverty and ODA financing levels, and is now working to maintain its growth trajectory. “The development community will not be exhausted in its call for continued North-South cooperation” and for the promotion of the 2030 Agenda, he said, echoing other speakers in stressing that South-South cooperation is not an adequate replacement. While shouldering their responsibility, countries of the South also call upon multilateral, regional and bilateral financial and development institutions to consider increasing their support to promote South-South exchanges, he said.
FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe) expressed gratitude to all who have provided aid to his country as it reels from the carnage of Cyclone Idai. He also stressed that South-South cooperation is complementary to and not a substitute for the responsibilities and capabilities of donor countries. As ODA plays a distinct, vital role in the development of countries of the South, such assistance should be readily available and target countries with inadequate resources and capacities to implement the 2030 Agenda. South-South cooperation can address the development challenges because of shared values and similar development contexts among countries of the South, which are open to knowledge-sharing and technology exchange. Noting the merits of triangular cooperation, he underscored the need for innovative ways of mobilizing more resources to enable developing countries to implement the 2030 Agenda. Greater collaboration is essential in trade, finance and infrastructure. The role of the United Nations remains critical, he said, stressing the importance of sharing of best practices, lessons learnt and other pertinent information. Cyclone Idai has left an unprecedented trail of destruction in Zimbabwe and has exacerbated the plight of the people in need of medicine, shelter and food, he added.
MURTADA HASSAN ABUOBEIDA SHARIF (Sudan), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, reaffirmed the importance of South-South cooperation and its unique history and role in partnerships for sustainable development. It is an expression of solidarity among Southern countries that fosters self-reliance — collectively and individually. It must continue to be guided by the principles of national sovereignty and ownership, independence, non-conditionality and non-interference in domestic affairs. It complements North-South cooperation. Sudan has contributed to South-South exchanges in such fields as agriculture and education. It will enhance these efforts in food security and nutrition, he said, stressing: “We have significant capacities and comparative advantages to play a significant role in this regard.” Sudan has also benefitted from such approaches in energy, infrastructure and education.
JUAN PABLO LIRA (Chile), stressing that needs and goals have changed, said innovative ways must be found to overcome development barriers by involving more key stakeholders in managing cooperation, and by determining the role of Southern countries at the United Nations and in the definition of global policies. In 2018, Chile’s cooperation agency carried out more than 150 projects and directed technical cooperation throughout Latin America. It provided 762 grants to professionals and students from various regions to attain master’s degrees, diplomas, international courses and internships. Also in 2018, Chile implemented 18 triangular cooperation projects, including with Germany, Spain, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Portugal, Thailand and international organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Union. Noting that its cooperation seeks to foster gains in countries of the same or lower development level as Chile, he said various funds have been created for that purpose. Indeed, South-South cooperation unleashes a multiplying effect of best practices and institutional competencies that can be repeated.
PIUS OSUNYINKAMI (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed that South-South cooperation should continue to be guided by the principles of respect for national sovereignty, equality and mutual benefit, and non-interference in the domestic affairs of States. “If conducted in an atmosphere of trust and sincerity, South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to the establishment of a fair and equitable international order,” he said, recalling that Nigeria established a directorate charged with responding to the needs of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, including by sharing its own expertise through the deployment of professionals to recipient countries. Such projects have challenged the commonly held perception that Africa is only a recipient of aid. Warning that downside risks such as illicit financial flows now impede economic development and drain valuable resources, he said ending that social ill will be one of the most cost-effective strategies to implement the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and called on States to scale up cooperation to that end.
MARCELA ORDONEZ (Colombia) said the added value of South-South cooperation is forged at myriad regional levels as the process is an effective way to share experiences, best practices and solutions directly based on demand. Colombia prioritizes working through regional organizations, as well as measuring the value of South-South cooperation. Colombia has also developed a model to determine the contributions of such partnerships in order to better evaluate its costs and benefits, she said. South-South cooperation projects must be sustainable and the concepts underpinning them understood by local populations. Results must be clear, concrete and tangible. She welcomed the inclusion of new partners, including the private sector, civil society and academia, in triangular cooperation. Promoting creative industries to bolster development is a major focus for the Government through its “Orange Economy” initiative. South-South cooperation is indispensable in addressing the migration crisis facing Colombia and the region.
PATRICK ANDREWS (Belize), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the rapid growth of South-South cooperation solidifies its important role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. In its 37 years of independence, Belize has experienced a social and economic transformation greatly due to its South-South and triangular partnerships. “Ironically, even as we are witnessing this remarkable growth, we are seeing a parallel stagnation and even decline in ODA and the erection of barriers that make access to concessionary financing difficult for middle-income small island developing States,” he said. International development cooperation must include a multidimensional perspective that transcends the use of per capita income as the sole indicator to measure development, he stressed. Small island developing States seek to become “champions of ambition” by collaborating with each other more, adapting to climate change and enhancing their representation in climate change processes.
ABDOULYE BARRO (Senegal), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said South-South and triangular cooperation should be encouraged and supported, directed towards more sectors and focused on technical and other forms of capacity-building. Doing so will help countries better address climate change and improve education, especially for girls, and he requested greater solidarity on that front. Access to water and sanitation, especially in rural areas, must be ensured, which is particularly important in addressing health crises and caring for those with non-communicable diseases. Greater focus must also be placed on terrorism, which is eroding development efforts in the Sahel, and on cybercrime. He described shared projects in Senegal, for building ports, roads and dams, highlighting the “Rivers Plan” as an example of a shared river project that includes Mauritania and Mali. The Dakar-Bamako corridor has much daily traffic, and soon, another project will be launched with Mauritania to exploit cross-border gas and oil resources. Other frameworks, such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), enable greater cooperation, he said, noting that Senegal also partners with China, Turkey, Morocco, Brazil and Argentina to build quality infrastructure.
MATHILDE MUKANTABANA (Rwanda) called South-South cooperation a defining element for the success of the 2030 Agenda, as it cuts across the spectrum of Sustainable Development Goals, from sustainable agriculture and fishing to infrastructure and affordable energy. Noting that South-South and triangular cooperation have been central to Rwanda’s development plans, she said both should be driven by national priorities, rather than cut-and-paste solutions imposed from the outside. Rwanda requires mutual transparency and alignment of all development projects with national priorities, which is important for ensuring that partners “deal with us on equal footing and are also held accountable”. Gender equality and women’s empowerment have become a hallmark of the national development agenda, with the world’s highest percentage of women in Parliament, at more than 60 per cent — a success that has had a trickledown effect on other sectors. Stressing that Rwanda considers South-South cooperation a cornerstone for creating more effective multilateralism, she said the African Union’s Agenda 2063 also places strategic partnerships in the areas of trade, investment, infrastructure, technology transfer, climate change and migration among its priorities — a sign that Africa is a vital player in strengthening South-South cooperation.
MAMADOU TANGARA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Gambia, said that international funding, private sector participation and technical support remain critical for his country to successfully implement the 2030 Agenda. South-South cooperation is essential as it is built on solidarity and mutual respect. The United Nations development system must remain a knowledge hub of South-South cooperation. A comprehensive South-South strategy promoted by the United Nations will help developing countries harness the benefits of South-South exchange. Women and young people cannot be left behind, he said, expressing concern about youth unemployment. “We must generate employment opportunities through vocational and skills training,” he added. The Gambia is seeking to consolidate its development gains and achieve macroeconomic stability, even with its high debt burden. Continued support from development partners remains critical.
ANTÓNIO VITORINO, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the Conference’s draft outcome document correctly highlights the significant changes taking place in international political and economic arenas, which create conditions conducive to the promotion of South-South cooperation. One of those changes is international migration, which has implications for all countries in areas such as health, education, labour, trade and development, among others. Existing agreements on migration should be expanded in the context of South-South cooperation, he said, pointing out that migration between developing countries now exceeds that from South to North. In addition, the experiences of developing countries in migration governance are vital to promoting safe, orderly and regular migration. “Lessons from the developed world are also critical, but in some cases may not be directly transferrable,” he said, adding that, since migration is now featured in various multilateral development frameworks, as well as in the 2018 Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, South-South cooperation is likely to be a crucial means of implementation.
JAVIER PAULINICH, Latin American Economic System, stressed the importance of involving the private sector, local government and civil society in South-South cooperation. Digital platforms can facilitate the supply and demand of cooperation mechanisms. He noted the contributions of several Latin American and Caribbean cooperation programmes, including one coordinating networks for ports and logistics. Such mechanisms continue to strengthen technical and institutional capacity in the region. Over the last two years, the secretariat of the Latin American Economic System has developed a regional and international cooperation strategy. It has also established excellent partnerships with the United Nations and other international organizations, from a Latin American and, therefore, “global South” perspective.
JOSE FUENTES, Fund for the Development of Indigenous Peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, said that the Conference is an opportunity for indigenous people to contribute solutions to many pressing global challenges. The very survival of indigenous cultures speaks to their ability to adapt. Indigenous peoples have immense potential to contribute to society as a whole. Their traditional knowledge has already benefitted such sectors as agriculture and medicine. The rights of indigenous peoples must be promoted at the political, ecological and social level.
JORGE MOREIRA DA SILVA, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said that South-South and triangular cooperation connects all continents and contributes to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in innovative ways. His Organization is collecting data, project experiences and tools on “who is doing what, where and how”. It also aims to increase engagement in innovative modalities that bridge different ways of working to ensure that no one is left behind.
ISABEL FRANCO, International Chamber of Commerce, said South-South cooperation is important for achieving the 2030 Agenda and programmes governing it should be determined by Southern countries and cover their needs. She encouraged Governments to make the most of private sector capacities and resources, emphasizing the importance of harnessing the knowledge of businesses at the local level. The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation is an example of how collaboration with private partners can foster development, bringing together sectors and communities to carry out commercial reforms in line with World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements. She recognized the fundamental role of multilateral governance frameworks to support South-South cooperation, encouraging Governments to adopt bold national climate action plans for 2030 and strengthen collaborative efforts to foster inclusive economic growth.
FRANCOIS MARTEL, Pacific Islands Development Forum, said the it is a unique Pacific voice in the regional architecture under a multi-stakeholder governance system, which was set up to challenge the colonial order preceding it. Over three years, the Forum has made efforts to develop South-South partnerships to help Pacific islands with lessons learned and technology transfer. It launched the first Pacific South-South in Action publication. In March, with the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, the Forum held the first Pacific consultation for cooperation in Fiji, attended by representatives of the public and private sectors, and 8 of the 12 Pacific small island developing States. As South-South cooperation is increasingly relevant for implementing 2030 Agenda, he reaffirmed its role for Pacific islands, stressing that the Forum is ready to support the outcome document to be endorsed today.
MARTIN RIVERO, Ibero-American Conference, said the Buenos Aires Plan of Action reflects the nature of the international system, in which countries continue to work among peers. There is an historic political opportunity to underscore the values of cooperation. Processes started 40 years ago have only increased in need and the principles underpinning them must be reaffirmed. The Ibero-American Conference has been involved in South-South cooperation from day one. Ibero-America is the only region in the world with a regional report on South-South and triangular cooperation. “The impetus has come from each of our countries,” he said, built from the bottom up. However, a qualitative leap forward is needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda, which requires efforts to be more multilevel and multi-stakeholder. South-South cooperation must reach those in poverty, especially indigenous peoples, people of Afro-American descent, young people and women. Efforts must also centre on quantifying South-South cooperation, he said, noting that the Ibero-American report can serve as a basis for generating other regional reports.
ALEXANDRE CLAUDON, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said that the Federation is enriched by the diversity of the many local cultures it represents. Some of the world’s most pressing challenges will disproportionately impact the poorest and most marginalized. Developing countries already have considerable experience in dealing with these challenges. IFRC has capitalized on its extensive network to help other countries by sharing best practices and knowledge. However, developing countries have increasingly begun to assist each other through funding and technical assistance. South-South cooperation should be locally owned and integrated into global, regional and national policy.
ROBERTO RIDOLFI, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), speaking on behalf of the United Nations Rome-based agencies, drew attention to the evolving global development context and the challenges facing countries in the areas of agriculture and rural development. In the coming decades, population growth and greater global wealth is expected to lead to a higher demand for food — including animal products and processed foods — requiring more land and water for agriculture and higher productivity for animal feed. In 2030, Africa will have to feed almost half a billion more people than in 2015. Against that backdrop, South-South and triangular cooperation can help deliver better solutions to the rural sector and make progress towards achieving the goal of zero hunger. Meanwhile, that collaboration should also be harnessed to build agricultural and rural resilience to boost food security and nutrition, improving access of poor rural people to markets and strengthening inclusive agri-food value chains. Noting that South-South and triangular cooperation offers countries a way to strengthen multilateralism – which is today under threat — she said the United Nations Rome-based agencies work to leverage their combined mandates and strengths in support of the various global development frameworks.
FABIO BERTRANOU, International Labour Organization (ILO), said that, for decades, it has worked closely with regional initiatives. In 2018, ILO held a meeting to prepare for the Conference, during which key participants agreed on a series of challenges to address, including the need to ensure decent work for all. The current relevance of the topic is also underscored in the Secretary-General’s 2018 report on South-South cooperation. He noted various initiatives ILO has been involved with, among them a partnership with Brazil to curb forced child labour. ILO continues to harness the potential of South-South cooperation through its decent work country programmes.
MARTIN KRAUSE, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), highlighted the role of nuclear science and technology for development, which is contributing “quietly and efficiently” to improvements in human wellbeing. The massive body of knowledge accumulated through thousands of projects carried out with IAEA support have helped States build capacity to apply nuclear techniques and technologies in generating electricity, improving health, fighting cancer and increasing food production. South-South and triangular cooperation play a vital role in facilitating such exchanges, and IAEA’s four regional mechanisms — covering Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean — “are in fact a specific South-South cooperation modality”, he said, explaining that the Agency’s experience in institutionalizing mechanisms could be replicated. Applications of South-South and triangular approaches include IAEA’s work to develop pest-resistant varieties of wheat and efforts to prevent the spread of Ebola.
LUIS FIDEL YANEZ, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said that, for 70 years, the Commission has supported South-South cooperation stakeholders and carried out related analysis. It will meet on 23 April to follow-up on issues arising from today’s Conference. A new style of cooperation is needed which ensures the inclusion of all countries in transition in development systems and which allows countries to enter into equal partnerships. The ECLAC Committee on South-South Cooperation has established a network to strengthen national capacities for implementing and following up on the 2030 Agenda, she said, stressing that South-South cooperation is vital for achieving that global development framework.
MARIA MISOVICOVA, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said that the Commission is often referred to as “the first Parliament of Asia”, where countries agree on policy actions to address cross-boundary challenges in such fields as energy and trade. It was the first to articulate the idea for establishing a regional development bank, leading to the passage of the resolution that founded the Asian Development Bank. In 2018, with Thailand and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, ESCAP established a regional forum to improve the sharing of best practices and information among countries, regions and regional and subregional organizations. The forum will have an important role in translating the Conference’s outcomes for Asia.
RAFAEL MARTINEZ GIL, United Nations Volunteers, welcomed States’ decision to acknowledge volunteer groups in the Conference’s draft outcome document. Such a recognition reinforces the strong commitment by the General Assembly — through the adoption of a resolution in December 2018 — to encourage the meaningful participation and integration of all people in volunteer activities. The same resolution encouraged Governments, in partnership with the United Nations, the private sector, civil society and others, to integrate volunteerism into national development strategies. Noting that more than 100 Argentine volunteers are supporting today’s Conference, he added that up to 1 billion people worldwide volunteer in some form and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
SARANGOO RADNAARAGCHAA, Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), said the Commission shares knowledge and best practices through its extensive network. It provides technical cooperation with South-South and triangular components. More than half of the technical activities are clustered at the regional and subregional level, including in trade networks, energy initiatives and sustainable forest management. She recognized the value and potential of regional cooperation, stressing that the Commission would continue to share its experience and build stronger partnerships across the region.
SAAD ALFARARGI, Special Rapporteur on the right to development in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the conceptual framework of South-South cooperation embodies many of the principles enshrined in the right to development. As South-South cooperation becomes more widespread and institutionalized, the world is faced with challenges that undermine the founding principles upon which such collaboration is based. South-South cooperation holds much promise for the future. To achieve effective South-South cooperation, policies and programmes should promote a holistic understanding of development that goes beyond economic growth; empower rights holders while supporting duty-bearers to meet their obligations; be guided by principles and standards derived from international human rights instruments; pay special attention to identifying and addressing discrimination and inequalities that impede the realization of the right to development; and be monitored not only in terms of its development, but also in terms of its processes. He also highlighted that a right to development perspective to South-South cooperation does not prescribe a single method of implementing South-South initiatives. The methods that are best suited for operationalizing such a perspective will depend on the sector, local needs, resource availability and the different actors involved.
URSULA MUELLER, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said much has changed in 40 years; walls have come down while others have gone up. Global challenges are more integrated while responses are more fragmented. In this context, it is more important than ever to come together to solve the world’s most complex problems, including climate change and mass migration. Some 139 million people around the world need humanitarian assistance. Violence, persecution and conflicts have caused 68 million people to flee their homes. The humanitarian community and the world are facing increasing challenges. “South-South cooperation can and does play a crucial role,” she said. Experts across the “global South” are leading operations and many Governments of the South are “building bridges”.
LIDIA BRITO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the world is witnessing a moment of change with an increasing number of developing countries helping each other. She noted the signing on Thursday of two important projects that would deliver technical assistance to Ghana and Togo. She also underscored the importance of the UNESCO networks based in countries, and their role in promoting research in development and science and technology.
RAUL SALAZAR, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said “nothing undermines sustainable development like disasters”, which kills and displaces millions of people. Women and children in vulnerable positions are disproportionately affected by natural disasters. “It is imperative to build up the resilience of the poor,” he stressed, adding that knowledge transfer is key in building capacity and strengthening resilience. Effective and meaningful partnerships are essential for disaster reduction. The Office remains strongly committed to this work and to promoting South-South cooperation.
DOROTHY TEMPO, International Trade Centre, said the 2030 Agenda cannot be achieved without economic transformations which feature trade and investment, noting that the Centre works to build such partnerships, as well as for the transfer of technology, to attain the Sustainable Development Goals. She cited joint efforts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Mozambique, as well as support for trade and investment in the Belt and Road Initiative. The Centre seeks to increase awareness of South-South business opportunities and enhance the global competitiveness of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises in the South. Between 2015 and 2018, these efforts lead to $160 million in new trade, reconfirming that “we are on the right path”. South-South trade and investment holds the key to global prosperity, which must be country-owned, aligned with international standards, tailored to country priorities and needs, and foster a healthy and productive work force.
JEHANGIR KHAN, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, said South-South cooperation is a priority for the Office, as the devastating impacts of terrorism and violent extremism continue to be borne most heavily by those living in developing countries. Ten nations accounted for 84 per cent of all deaths from terrorism in 2017, and all those were from the global South, he said, adding that efforts to prevent that phenomenon is closely linked with those aimed at delivering on the 2030 Agenda. Indeed, the factors and underlying conditions that often cause young people to be lured by terrorism are those specifically targeted by the Sustainable Development Goals, including poverty, inequality, unresolved conflicts, food and water insecurity, corruption and lack of rule of law. The Office of Counter-Terrorism is committed to harnessing the immense power and potential of the South to combat terrorism and violent extremism, encourages national ownership of counter-terrorism efforts and promotes an all-of-society and all-of-Government approach. It is also exploring ways to mainstream South-South cooperation into United Nations counter-terrorism capacity-building support and recently launched a global programme to promote the exchange of expertise and strengthen capacity in that area, beginning with selected countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America and the Caribbean.
TEBURORO TITO (Kiribati), associating himself with the statement by the Group of 77 and China, said that, since it was adopted 40 years ago, the Buenos Aires Plan of Action has yielded successes for providers and recipients of South-South cooperation. There are many success stories and good practices, but the Conference hardly heard about failures. “The real test is in the eating of the pudding,” he said, noting that Kiribati has just started to tap into South-South cooperation, with its first project under way, thanks in part to funding from UNDP. The second project, for work on the State House, is about to be implemented by the Pacific Islands Development Forum with funding from India. Kiribati’s New York Mission is also gearing up to maximize the benefits of funds provided through the United Nations Office for South-South cooperation, which it would like to use towards its 20‑year plan, a localized version of the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (Samoa Pathway), the 2030 Agenda and other frameworks for small island developing States. While his Government is unable to report on the success or failure of South-South cooperation, in the future, “we will have a story to tell”. Such reports must be based on how people on the ground feel about how the projects are carried out, he said, underscoring Kiribati’s need for quick funding to fix sea walls and related infrastructure.
GIULIA MASO BRIO, International Trade Union Confederation, noting that she represents over 200 million workers, called for a new social contract among Governments, businesses and workers, with decent work and business accountability at its core to ensure just transitions. The contract should be promoted through South-South cooperation among trade unions around the world. She urged Governments to be more ambitious, prioritizing decent work and climate justice in South-South and triangular cooperation, as well as to recognize trade unions as development actors, innovate through public financing and promote a rules-based trade system.
LAURA LOPEZ, Conferencia Internacional Sindical, noting that her organization is based in Brazil, said South-South and triangular cooperation advocate solidarity and horizontality. Southern countries have used their civil service, resources, time and energy to address the world’s most pressing challenges, experimenting and learning by doing. South-South cooperation should be considered effective in as much as it produces public goods and not simply private gains.
ENRIQUE MARURI, Oxfam, said it is important to focus on what works, who the change actors are and on collecting evidence. It is essential to place people at the centre of the discourse, with projects demonstrating clear changes to their lives, to determine who wins and who loses. Women must also participate more in public debates. More and better quality alliances that generate added value must be built. Inequality, a major gap, must be tackled, while tax systems must increase levies on businesses, not people. The fight for gender equality is essential, he said, calling the effects of global warming a major concern.
MARITA GONZALEZ, Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), called for the strengthening of the United Nations, adding that achieving the 2030 Agenda is essential for a better future. South-South and triangular cooperation must promote the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as effective accountability mechanisms. South-South and triangular cooperation at the national level should strengthen domestic markets and ensure that international legal frameworks are at the service of sustainable development. “The 2030 Agenda needs a lot more strength and coordination,” she stressed.
The Conference then adopted the resolution titled “Credentials of representatives to the second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation”, contained in the report of the Credentials Committee (document A/CONF.235/5).
The representative of the European Union said her delegation is attending the Conference to discuss South-South and triangular cooperation, which should focus only on how it contributes to achieving global goals. However, she reiterated that the presidential elections held in May in Venezuela were neither free, fair nor credible, and lacked legitimacy. She expressed full support for the National Assembly of Venezuela, a democratic legitimate body, whose powers must be restored and respected, including for the safety of its members. The solution to the crisis in Venezuela can only be a political, democratic and peaceful one. She strongly renewed the call for restoring democracy in Venezuela through the holding of free, transparent and credible national elections.
The representative of Peru, speaking on behalf of the Lima Group (Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and his own), as well as on Australia, Israel, United States, United Kingdom, among others, said that more than 50 countries around the world have recognized Juan Guaidó as President pro tempore of Venezuela.
The representative of the Czech Republic disassociated himself from consensus on the credentials’ resolution to the extent that the text approves the credentials submitted by the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
The representative of Venezuela said he deeply deplored attempts by delegations to deflect attention from the important topic of South-South cooperation and question the credentials of his delegation, and the constitutionally elected Government of President Nicolás Maduro. Bringing issues that belong in bilateral discussions into the forum endangers the rights of all United Nations Members.
He said Article 27 of the United Nations Charter prohibits interference in internal country affairs. There is no authority or power in international law or the Charter that enables a country or group of countries to designate national authorities of other sovereign nations. Appropriating those faculties is illegal. He reiterated that article 5 of Venezuela’s Constitution outlines that sovereignty cannot be transferred. Only Venezuelans themselves have the power to elect those governing them. He cited the International Court of Justice 1986 finding that, in international law, there is no right to interfere in internal State affairs. The recognition of political opposition violates the principle of non-interference, international law and the sovereign will of people. “What we’re seeing today is a first step of a campaign of aggression,” he said, escalated in the General Assembly and in disregard of Venezuela’s rights. Allowing this to happen would allow the enemies of peace to strike a blow to all that the United Nations represents.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he is deeply disappointed about the statements by the European Union and Peru expressing support to Juan Guaidó. “We cannot support these statements whose main goal is to delegitimatize the legitimate Government of President Maduro,” he said. These statements violate international law and are a blatant attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign State; they will not increase the legitimacy of Mr. Guaidó. Those who have spoken out against the legitimate Government of Mr. Maduro will not help the situation in the country. “We should demonstrate solidarity, not in attacking a country, but in tackling the challenges facing the world,” he stressed, condemning attempts at politicization.
The representative of Cuba also deplored attempts to politicize the debate of the Conference, reiterating Cuba’s full support to the Government of Venezuela and the constitutionally elected presidency of Mr. Maduro. He expressed his solidarity with the Venezuelan people who are subjected to constant external attacks. Mr. Guaidó was appointed by the Government of the United States, which is only interested in oil and not the well-being of the people of Venezuela. Cuba calls for the United Nations Charter and international law to be respected, particularly in regard to the sovereignty of States.
The representative of China said he supports the adoption of the report of the Credentials Committee. “We should maintain the authority and seriousness of General Assembly resolutions,” he stressed. China supports the Government of Venezuela in its efforts to maintain sovereignty and stability. He urged all States to abide by the principles of the United Nations Charter, including respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs and other norms of international law. Venezuela’s affairs should be and can only be decided by the people of Venezuela. Meanwhile, the international community must only take steps that will support the well-being and livelihood of the people there.
The representative of Bolivia said it is regrettable the Conference has been undermined by the statements made against Venezuela. The report of the Credentials Committee is relevant, he said, condemning attempts to challenge legitimately elected Governments. She appealed to Member States to abide by the principles of international law, including respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.
The representative of Nicaragua said his country bases its foreign policy on three main principles: respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs and the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Nicaragua strongly rejects attempts to politicize a conference that up “until now has been going smoothly”. Such attempts only damage Argentina’s efforts to host this gathering of nations. It is very unfortunate that this issue has been raised, he said, recognizing the Government of Mr. Maduro, as well as the delegation here that represents it. The legitimacy of the United Nations is damaged by “this unfortunate political ploy” by those who have decided to attack Venezuela in a meeting dedicated to South-South cooperation.
The representative of Iran said his delegation is shocked by the statements made against a legitimate Government. The motivation behind such statements at this final stage of the Conference can be seen only as an attempt to abuse the session for political gain. It also risks undermining and disrespecting the host country of Argentina and the United Nations. The statements constitute a rampant blow to multilateralism. He requested the delegations who made statements to withdraw their objections to the Credentials Committee report and allow for a smooth conclusion of the Conference.
The representative of Japan expressed his Government’s support to Mr. Guaidó and called for the holding of fair presidential elections in Venezuela as soon as possible.
The representative of South Africa supported the adoption of the report of the Credential Committee, condemning the crude manner in which the legitimacy of the Conference has been undermined. At its latest session, the General Assembly took a decision on the representation of Venezuela, which has been accepted. Venezuela held elections which were overseen by its National Council. South Africa remains deeply concerned by what is a clear attempt to circumvent Venezuela’s Constitution.
The representative of Syria said that the United Nations Rules of Procedure reaffirm that the Conference is not authorized to discuss the legitimacy of any Government, including the Government of Venezuela. Such a discussion could only occur in the General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Conference is on South-South cooperation. Bringing up the topic of legitimacy is a violation of Article 2 of the United Nations Charter. It is based strictly on political motivations and sets a dangerous precedent. He expressed regret that members of the European Union and Lima Group have engaged in such behaviour.
Participants, acting without a vote, then adopted the resolution titled, “Buenos Aires outcome document of the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation”, as contained in document A/CONF.235/3.
The representative of the United States, explaining her delegation’s position, commended both the Southern providers and recipients of development assistance. Pointing out that the outcome document emphasizes best practices for efficiency, accountability and transparency, she said all United Nations agencies, funds, programmes and regional commissions are bound to follow the highest standards in those areas. Clarifying the United States position on the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda — both of which are featured in the outcome document adopted today — she said those agreements are non-binding in nature and create no obligations under international law. With regard to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, she said much of the trade-related language created therein has been overtaken by events since 2015, and is now immaterial. With respect to the New Urban Agenda, she said each Member State has the sovereign right to determine how it conducts trade with other countries, and that includes, in some cases, withholding trade. Noting the United States intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change as soon as it is eligible to do so — unless the accord’s terms are renegotiated — she said that, while the United States values trade, it will always act in its own sovereign interest, including in trade matters. “We do not take our trade policy direction from the United Nations,” she stressed, adding that the Organization is not the appropriate venue for such discussions.
ACHIM STEINER, Secretary-General of the Conference and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), noted that the meeting welcomed over 3,800 participants — including the representatives of 160 Member States and a range of civil society, private sector and academic institutions — while 14 million people followed along on different online channels. That attention demonstrates the importance of, and broad interest in, South-South cooperation. “It is clear in all the statements made that there are no limits to what we can achieve […] when we combine the forces of South-South and triangular cooperation,” he said.
Urging participants to harness the new understanding and partnerships reached in the past three days to double down on what has been achieved over the last 40 years, he said many concrete examples of South-South cooperation emerged over the course of the Conference, from Mexico’s work to diversify corn products to Cuba’s fight against Ebola to Colombia’s work in reducing hunger in the Latin America and Caribbean region. “We will all leave this Conference with much homework to do, but also many opportunities”, including to tackle climate change, reduce inequalities and improve cooperation in trade, he said. Indeed, the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved without mutual support, inspiration and a “push in the right direction”, he stressed.
MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA GARCÉS (Ecuador), President of the General Assembly, said the Conference’s outcome document reflects the evolution of South-South cooperation and constitutes a “road map for the future”. Among other things, it highlights the importance of triangular cooperation, as well as appropriate measurements and indicators, and calls on participants to make the most of their efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change. Stressing that South-South and triangular cooperation must adapt to today’s evolving realities, she added that technology is critical to advancing education, trade, agriculture and medicine around the world, and if not properly used, can further deepen inequality. “The intelligent entry of Southern countries into this technological world is therefore crucial,” she stressed. Citing examples in the Latin America and Caribbean region and elsewhere, she said the global South has emerged stronger in the 40 years since the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action. Describing solidarity as a “love of peoples”, she said it can also bring about a brighter future for the entire world.
JORGE MARCELO FAURIE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina and President of the Conference, thanked attendees for their hard work and said the last three days have witnessed a renewed spirit of support for South-South cooperation. “We have reached a particularly delicate moment” in the world’s history, he said, pointing to rising international tensions — many of which have emerged from the unsatisfied demands of peoples of the world. Noting that multilateralism itself calls for compromise and mutual understanding, he said cooperation between nations should not depend on meetings or summits, but should rather be part of the everyday work of all countries. In that context, he called on participants to turn today’s outcome document into a road map for years to come and urged them to turn their commitments into tangible progress.