Helen Clark: Opening Statement at the 19th session of the High-level Committee on South-South Co-operation

I am pleased to welcome you to the 19th Session of the High-level Committee on South-South Co-operation.

Allow me to express my gratitude to H.E. Ambassador Masud Bin Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, and his predecessor, H.E. AK Abdul Momen, for leading the High-level Committee during its 18th session. My special thanks also go to Argentina, Liberia, New Zealand, and Ukraine for their excellent work on the Bureau.

I would also like to congratulate H.E. Ambassador Richard Nduhuura, Permanent Representative of Uganda, and other members elected to serve on the Bureau of the 19th session of the High-level Committee. We look forward to working closely with you.

South-South Co-operation: a critical element of global development co-operation

The 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, and the associated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted last September here at the UN, acknowledge the critical role South-South Co-operation is playing in global development. Likewise, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda welcomes the increased contribution of South-South Co-operation to poverty eradication and sustainable development, not as a substitute for but as a complement to North-South co-operation.

Achieving the SDGs is a multi-trillion-dollar challenge which will require far more than grant aid – important as that is. Trade, investment, technology transfer, knowledge exchange, innovation, and capacity development across the Global South will be crucial.

All developing countries, regardless of size or level of development, have accumulated capacities and experiences which offer cost-effective solutions which may be adapted by other developing countries to their unique circumstances.

South-South Co-operation is very important as a source of innovation and expertise, and of solutions to development challenges. It encompasses in-kind, financial, and other forms of assistance and partnerships, adding to the diversity of financing for development. In that diversity, we see significant new financing mechanisms from within the South, and across North and South.

o Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – the BRICS countries – established the New Development Bank last year. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was also launched last year, with 57 countries as founding members. These banks promise to be important new sources of development financing.

o Multimillion dollar funds have also been created to finance cross-border infrastructure projects in Asia, including the ASEAN Infrastructure Fund of the Asian Development Bank and China’s Silk Road Fund.

– Regional integration is on the rise, and is a dynamic contribution to South-South Co-operation:

o Intra-African trade is growing, but mostly within sub-regions. From 2010 to 2013, overall export trade between African countries grew by fifty per cent. The recent decision by members of the African Union to abolish visa requirements for all African citizens in all African countries by 2018 is another boost to intra-African co-operation.

o Latin American and Caribbean countries have been strengthening their regional co-ordination mechanisms, including through CARICOM, CELAC, and UNASUR. MERCOSUR also continues to move towards economic integration in its region.

– Inter-regional South-South initiatives are growing in number:

o The China-Latin American and Caribbean Countries Co-operation Plan (2015-2019) is, among other things, about increasing trade in both directions to US$500 billion per annum and raising the stock of reciprocal investment to at least US$250 billion in ten years.

o At the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2015, China announced major plans to boost co-operation with Africa in the coming three years, including in the areas of industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure, and poverty eradication. China committed to providing US$60 billion worth of loans and grants to Africa over that time period.

o According to the IMF, the value of India’s exports to Africa increased by over 100 per cent from 2008 to 2013. The value of India’s imports from Africa also grew dramatically over the same period – by over eighty per cent. Indian private investment in Africa has also surged.

– Specific sectors are also benefiting from growing South-South and triangular co-operation. For example,

o According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), South-South trade in the field of renewable energy is growing faster than global and North-South trade in that area. It further estimates that global trade in environmental goods and services will grow to around US$1.9 trillion by 2020. This will offer countries of the South unprecedented opportunities to drive their green economy transitions.

o South-South Co-operation is also making significant contributions to the development of social policy, including on access to social services. Prime examples are Brazil’s and Mexico’s experiences with cash transfers. These have been shared with many countries in Latin America and other regions, with the goal of lifting people out of poverty and improving food security and access to health care, education, and other services.

Overall, the rising prominence of South-South Co-operation over the past two decades reflects the fast changing geopolitical and geo-economic landscape.

A Firm Commitment to the promotion of South-South and Triangular Co-operation

Against this backdrop, the United Nations system is redoubling its efforts to promote South-South and Triangular Co-operation, including in support of implementation of the SDGs and other internationally agreed goals.

Many agencies have already included the promotion of South-South and Triangular Co-operation in their respective strategic plans or frameworks. As a result, the past two years have witnessed a shift from ad hoc to more systematic support in areas such as policy co-ordination, research and analysis, capacity development, and funding. With the guidance and leadership of the High Level Committee, we aim to do more, and to do better.

UNDP’s promotion of South-South and Triangular Co-operation has risen steadily in recent years, from around 270 projects which utilized South-South Co-operation in support of development results in 2013 to around 690 in 2015. UNDP’s strategic plan prioritizes support to South-South and Triangular Co-operation. We have been developing, in close consultation with Member States, a corporate strategy on South-South and Triangular Co-operation, with the objective of expanding this work further. In promoting South-South and Triangular Co-operation, UNDP will continue to consult with programme countries and Southern think tanks and civil society organisations to ensure that our support is relevant to meeting countries’ needs and priorities.

Member States have also made it clear that they want the UN system’s support to South-South and Triangular Co-operation to be coherent and well co-ordinated across the organization. In response to that, the UNDG Task Team on South-South and Triangular Co-operation was established last year to promote more co-ordinated approaches to policy and programming work across the UN development system.

One of the Task Team’s first undertakings was to map good practices in South-South and Triangular Co-operation which can support SDG implementation. UNDP provided additional funding and technical support to the UN Office for South-South Co-operation (UNOSSC) to lead this effort.

The first compilation of good practices is available here today, and will also be accessible to you online. It documents over sixty successful sustainable development solutions implemented by a range of developing countries and their partners over time.

Allow me to highlight three examples:

– Nine African countries have been working with China on efforts to break their dependence on the export of raw materials by establishing special economic zones and/or industrial parks. The goal is to bring their processed products into regional and global supply chains. This is a good example of how South-South Co-operation can advance progress on SDG9 – on Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, as well as on Africa’s Agenda 2063 with its strong emphasis on accelerating the industrialization of Africa. UNDP has entered into a strategic partnership with the Made in Africa Initiative to support these efforts;

– Small Island Developing States in the East Caribbean have worked together to lower public health care costs significantly by pooling their resources and procuring medicines jointly.

– In Southern Africa, with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UNDP, Angola, Namibia, and South-Africa established the Benguela Current Commission in 2007 to promote the long-term protection, and sustainable use of the Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Cross-border partnerships like this to protect highly valuable, yet vulnerable, ecosystems are much needed around the world.

These examples and others documented in the publication show the powerful contribution South-South and Triangular Co-operation are making to sustainable development. We hope they will inspire many more such partnerships.

The UN Office for South-South Co-operation

In response to Member States’ calls for improved institutional arrangements for South-South Co-operation in the United Nations system , the Secretary-General has made a number of additional proposals aimed at strengthening the UN Office for South-South Co-operation (UNOSSC). These recommendations are outlined in the Secretary-General’s report to this Committee, and we welcome your guidance in taking them forward.

The Secretary-General has designated Mr. Jorge Chediek, the Director of UNOSSC, to serve as his Envoy on South-South and Triangular Co-operation. Mr. Chediek brings with him a wealth of experience gained from around the world as a former senior UN Resident Co-ordinator and UNDP Resident Representative.

Under Jorge Chediek’s leadership, the UNOSSC conducted a mid-term review of the implementation of its Strategic Framework for 2014-2017. It has now begun reprioritizing its current functions in line with the six priority areas identified in the Secretary-General’s paper before you (SSC/19/2). As a top priority, the Office is also implementing all the recommendations of the recent audit undertaken by UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigation. In line with UNDP’s firm commitment to transparency and accountability, the findings of the audit have been published online.

UNDP is pleased to host the UNOSSC on behalf of the UN system. We are committed to working closely with the UNOSSC to help strengthen its effectiveness in advancing South-South knowledge-sharing, research and analysis, and global policy dialogue, and in supporting relevant intergovernmental forums. We will also partner with the Office to improve Member States’ access to data on and analysis of the patterns, trends, flows, composition, partnerships, and impact of South-South and Triangular Co-operation.

We will also work more closely with the UNOSSC to facilitate the provision of technical expertise and advice to developing countries which wish to explore how to apply South-South and Triangular Co-operation to SDG implementation.

UNDP remains committed to maintaining the budget of the UNOSSC, despite the downward pressure on our core funding. The UNOSSC is very valuable to the entire UN system. For that reason, I ask Member States to consider providing more voluntary funding for its work, and to provide secondments of personnel to the Office.


As the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals roll out this year, this meeting of the High-level Committee offers Member States a good opportunity to discuss the critical role of South-South and Triangular Co-operation in these efforts, and on how the UN system can best support it.

In this regard, I encourage all delegations to attend tomorrow’s thematic debate on “The contribution of South-South Co-operation and Triangular Co-operation in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.

It is our hope that the deliberations of the High-Level Committee on South-South Co-operation this week will provide strategic policy guidance on how to strengthen United Nations system support for the advancement of South-South and Triangular Co-operation.

Source: United Nations Development Programme