Adriana Erthal Abdenur (Igarapé Institute) and Florencia Gor (World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy) reporting from Buenos Aires, 20-22 March 2019.
Together First was present at the Second High Level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation, known as BAPA+40 after the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, issued in 1978. BAPA+40 marked four decades during which South-South Cooperation became increasingly institutionalized within the UN system, especially through the creation and initiatives led by the UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and the Reports of the Secretary-General on the State of South-South Cooperation.
“The Power of South-South Cooperation to Strengthen Multilateralism” ran alongside the conference, co-sponsored by Together First, the Governments of Uruguay and Uganda, FES Argentina, the UN2020 Initiative, WFM-IGP, the Stimson Center, the Workable World Trust, CIVICUS, and Instituto Igarapé.
This side event showed that SSC has expanded considerably within and outside the UN, becoming highly diverse both in terms of geographic scope and range of activities involved. However, it also made clear that within the UN, the development system remains at the fore, despite South South exchange also encompassing other areas such as humanitarian action, climate change initiatives, and peace and security. Although many UN system components engage actively with South-South Cooperation (SSC), there is still much work to be done in terms of institutionalizing it within the UN system through frameworks, dedicated staff and, most of all, political backing and adequate resources.
The Sustaining Peace vision promoted by UN leaders creates windows of opportunity for the UN to recognize and engage with the broader scope of SSC, especially as it relates to conflict prevention. However, in order for the UN to become an effective and legitimate arena for promotion of SSC more broadly, deeper reforms are needed that would help strengthen and mainstream SSC across the organization’s historic silos.
Framing those reforms within the scope of the UN2020 agenda, the panel highlighted the opportunity presented by the upcoming 75th anniversary of the UN to find synergies and explore the best ways to strengthen the institutional structure for SSC and triangular cooperation.
By recommitting to multilateralism, member states would guarantee a continuity for forms of cooperation that have proved not only efficient but indispensable in the road to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Participants highlighted that “South-South Cooperation is about common sense.” Its flexibility and simplicity are advantages, and recognizing its contribution to development and other areas through a comprehensive approach is vital for accomplishing the Agenda 2030. SSC thus should be regarded as an essential area for boosting multilateralism.
Speakers outlined some key moments and developments in the interaction between SSC, multilateralism and Official Development Assistance (ODA). They also stressed the importance of trusting and strengthening regional organizations and encouraged civil society to continue working alongside governments to generate consensuses. Further formalization of the civil society channels of participation in SSC was identified as a key demand.
As imperfect as the United Nations may be, it remains the most democratic and legitimate space to foster cooperation. Hence its architecture needs to be strengthened, including in the ways that SSC is addressed. National, regional and international consultations of multiple stakeholders should feed into a process for improving the UN system. Together First and the UN2020 Initiative are coordinating outreach efforts to engage and unite all sectors in these discussions. All citizens, and especially youth, should have a say in shaping the future of our global system.
On the road to the 2020 Leaders Summit, designed to take stock of the UN system and start a process of review and renewal, it is vital to understand the accomplishments of the last 40 years and the challenges ahead in order to improve the UN’s effectiveness on South-South Cooperation.