Helen Clark: Statement at the opening of the Intersessional Meeting of the United Nations High-level Committee on South-South Co-operation

Mr. President 


It is a pleasure to welcome you to this special intersessional meeting of the High-level Committee on South-South Co-operation.

I would like to acknowledge the President of the High-level Committee, His Excellency, Ambassador Abulkalam Abdul Momen, for his continued leadership, and acknowledge all the Bureau members of the Committee for their commitment to advance the South-South agenda. I also take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the good work of the UN Office for South-South Co-operation hosted by UNDP.

South-South and Triangular Co-operation are on the rise

A few weeks from now, world leaders are due to gather at the Special Summit on Sustainable Development at the UN in New York to agree on an ambitious and transformational development agenda.

South-South Co-operation will undoubtedly play a vital role in implementation of the new global agenda. This is evident from the increasing exchanges across the South over the past decade. The numbers speak for themselves:
– Investment in South-South Co-operation broadly doubled between 2006 and 2011, and is estimated to be roughly ten per cent of the total public financing flows for development;
– Since 1990, South-South trade has grown tenfold – more than twice the rate of growth of overall world trade;
– In 2013, South-South migration stood at 37 per cent of the global migrant flows, which was larger than South-North migration at 35 per cent. South-South remittances also increased, accounting for 34 per cent of global remittance flows.

South-South Co-operation has become increasingly important as a source of innovation, knowledge, expertise, and solutions to development challenges. It encompasses in-kind, financial, and other forms of assistance which, in important ways, are unique to this form of co-operation.

Recognizing the importance of South-South and Triangular Co-operation in the implementation of the post-2015 global priorities, UN Member States are looking to the UN development system to contribute to it effectively and efficiently. The UN development system must be able to respond with the speed and dynamism which countries need to engage in and benefit from South-South and Triangular Co-operation.

The Secretary-General’s report on “Further mainstreaming and co-ordination of South-South and Triangular Co-operation in the United Nations system”, which we will discuss today, takes stock of the progress made and proposes measures which can further strengthen our work.

United Nations Development System steps up its efforts

The UN development system fully recognizes the importance of South-South Co-operation as an instrument for human and sustainable development.

South-South and Triangular Co-operation are now included as a strategic priority in the UN Development Group’s current work plan. To strengthen our inter-agency mechanisms in support of South-South Co-operation, we have established a new task team to guide and support the mainstreaming of SSC across the UNDG – the Task Team on South-South Co-operation of the UNDG’s Sustainable Development Working Group.

Across the board, UN organizations are increasing their engagement with South-South and Triangular Co-operation. Many have integrated South-South Co-operation into their strategies, budgets, and programmes; have helped facilitate South-South policy dialogues, the exchange of knowledge, and research and analysis; and are providing the capacity support needed to build strong institutions and forge innovative South-South and Triangular Co-operation partnerships. For example:

– In 2014, according to a survey conducted by UNDESA, twenty out of 22 participating entities had integrated South-South Co-operation into their strategic plans and frameworks.

– In the same year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reported an eighty per cent increase in its activities related to the generation and sharing of good practices across the South – compared with the year before.

– From 2012 to 2014, FAO engaged with some fifty partners to strengthen and broaden partnerships which included triangular arrangements with governments, research institutions, civil society, and the private sector.

UNDP’s long-term commitment to SSC and Triangular Co-operation

UNDP has made South-South and Triangular Co-operation central to its way of working, including by placing it at the heart of its new Strategic Plan. UNDP’s global and regional programmes prioritise support for South-South and Triangular Co-operation; the modality has been fully integrated into the guidelines for UNDP’s Country Programme Documents; and project modalities have been revised to make us more flexible in promoting such programming.

UNDP has also put in place mechanisms to measure, monitor, and report on results of its engagement with South-South Co-operation; and have stepped up its contributions to South-South knowledge sharing across its work.

Last year, 469 UNDP projects across 133 countries mainstreamed South-South and Triangular Co-operation – that was twice the total of the year before. Examples include:

During the Ebola crisis, in a partnership with the Government of South Africa, UNDP supported the deployment of autoclaves for the safe disposal of medical waste in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In Jamaica, UNDP supported the Government to establish a risk reduction management centre based on Cuba’s Risk Reduction Management model.

UNDP is working with the Governments of China and Denmark to support energy-related projects in Ghana and Zambia.

A new and comprehensive UNDP corporate strategy aimed at expanding the organisation’s work on South-South Co-operation is near completion. It has been informed by feedback and ideas from Member States and experts from the Global South. UNDP’s Executive Board will be briefed on the draft strategy at an informal session in mid-September.

Pivotal to UNDP’s new strategy and its stepped up engagement in SSC is UNDP’s hosting of the UN Office for South-South Co-operation. The Office plays an important role in strengthening system-wide efforts on SSC. UNDP highly values its hosting role, which works in synergy with its broader role as a knowledge broker, a builder of capacity, and a facilitator of exchanges between developing countries.

Looking ahead, we see considerable added value in an Office which can strengthen the global knowledge base on South-South Co-operation substantially, facilitate and deepen dialogue, improve the scope and quality of support provided to inter-governmental bodies such as this Committee, and boost UN system-wide coherence, coordination and collaboration. These will all be high priority tasks for the incoming Director of the Office to address.

UNDP is committed to supporting the Office in its work co-chairing the UNDG Task Team on South-South Co-operation. That role enables the Office to engage more effectively with the wider UN development system, including with the work of UN Country Teams. For example, as part of the Task Team, the Office is now an integral part of joint planning to map and identify South-South initiatives which can contribute to implementation of the new UNDAFs being prepared.

Measures to strengthen the Office have been taken, including safeguarding its budget from reductions to UNDP’s core resources. UNDP is committed to supporting the Office to mobilize the financial and human resources it needs to fulfil its mandate.

Looking ahead

More can be done to strengthen the UN’s capacity to support South-South and Triangular Co-operation. The Secretary General’s report calls for concrete actions to enhance our collective efforts, including measures to build on UN system-wide assets at the global and national levels, and the further strengthening of the UNOSSC.

As the international community moves towards the launch of the post-2015 development agenda, this meeting of the High-level Committee offers Member States a good opportunity to guide us on the recommendations of the Secretary-General.

There is no doubt that South-South and Triangular Co-operation will play a powerful role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as a complement to and not a substitute for traditional ODA. It will help reinvigorate and expand partnerships for development, building on the experiences, knowledge, and innovation of countries of the South.

In closing, I take this opportunity to thank the outgoing Director of the UN Office for South-South Co-operation, Mr. Yiping Zhou for his leadership and tremendous efforts to raise the profile of South-South Co-operation and wish him well for the future. I also welcome Jorge Chediek, formerly UN Resident Co-ordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Brazil, as the new Director. He will take up his appointment in October. UNDP looks forward to continuing to work closely with the Office under Jorge’s leadership and with Member States to deliver on a strong UNDP strategy to support South-South Co-operation and in support of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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