Helen Clark: Speech at Dialogue on Regional Co-operation as a Driver of Growth and Stability

Oct 28, 2013

Speech by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark
Dialogue on Regional Co-operation as a Driver of Growth and Stability
Monday, 28 October 2013, 3:00 - 4:30
Conference Room 6, North Lawn Building

It is a pleasure to participate in today’s dialogue on “Regional Co-operation as a Driver of Growth and Stability”. I thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Ambassador Čolaković for their leadership in organizing this event.

This past July I had the pleasure of visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina, and learning of the importance attached there to strengthening regional co-operation with neighboring countries. This same message – of regional co-operation, collaboration, and reconciliation – was a key theme of the Secretary General’s visit to Western Balkans countries last year.

UNDP believes that regional integration can be a powerful source of inclusive and sustainable growth.

Around the world, we see regional co-operation having contributed to strengthening regional stability and growth in trade, incomes, and jobs. Larger and more efficient markets have been created, which in turn have attracted new capital. The experiences gained by businesses in regionally integrated markets can help prepare them to tap into and compete in larger markets further afield.

Regional co-operation at the level of the European Union has seen countries establish increasingly closer co-operation over decades, including by establishing an internal market for the movement of goods, services, labour, and capital.

From the perspective of UNDP, the importance of regional co-operation in the Western Balkans cannot be over stated.

As a development partner we have witnessed how growing co-operation in this region has advanced political dialogue and neighborly relations between countries, thereby fostering greater tolerance, stability, and reconciliation.

We have seen how regional co-operation has contributed to countries’ efforts to tackle their development challenges – be it through promoting inclusive growth and increased standards of living, or improving citizen’s and communities’ security through co-operation on the rule of law. In many sectors, such as trade, energy, and transport, the limited size of individual countries in the region means that strong cross-border co-operation is a vital option for moving forward.

During my visits to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro, I sensed a genuine recognition that regional co-operation is fundamental to rebuilding the previously strong social, cultural, political and economic, ties which were often fragmented by the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.

Beyond that, from my discussions with government officials and other stakeholders, I noted a clear understanding that regional co-operation can help resolve trans-border challenges related, for example, to environmental degradation, joint use of energy resources, limited infrastructure, and challenges to the rule of law and democratic institutions posed by organized crime.

As has been the case elsewhere in transition Europe, aspirations to join the European Union are an important impetus for increased regional co-operation in the Western-Balkans – particularly through exchange of knowledge and experience on EU accession. The EU itself promotes   co-operation and integration in the region as being conducive to economic development and competitiveness, and a basis for political co-operation and good neighbourly relations – all of which can help the accession process.

Recently, EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Füle, in his address to the European Parliament on the launch of the 2013 Progress Reports,  emphasized that improved relations between the enlargement countries themselves on the one hand, and between the enlargement countries and EU members on the other, is one of the requirements for moving ahead with enlargement.

Around the world, UNDP is working to support regional co-operation and integration, including through technical advisory services, analytical work, and capacity building for regional institutions and national counterparts.  

Some examples of our work in transition Europe include:

•    provision of advisory services to EU accession countries in the area of rule of law and local and regional development, drawing on the expertise and experience of new EU member states;

•    strengthening of economic and business ties between the member states of the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation and facilitating business to business contacts;

•    facilitating increased regional co-operation on small arms and light weapons control throughout South Eastern Europe in partnership with the Regional Co-operation Council (RCC);  

•    supporting transitional justice initiatives, working with judges, prosecutors, civil society groups and researchers across the region, to build the capacity and systems needed for effective victim and witness support, including by addressing the legacy of gender-based violence.

•    hosting the Secretariat for the Electronic South Eastern Europe (eSEE) Initiative, which aims to better integrate SEE countries into the global knowledge-based economy.

•     supporting countries in the Western Balkans to deal with environmental hot spot problems to improve the local environment and quality of life for citizens living in and around polluted areas.  

Looking beyond the 2015 target date for the MDGs, it is clear that the success of the post-2015 development agenda will depend on strong collective action at all levels – the national, regional, and international. Through regional co-operation, countries can share experiences and identify and tackle development challenges which are not confined by borders.

Today’s meeting offers an important opportunity to consider ways to strengthen such collaboration further as a means of advancing human development within countries and across regions.

Once again, I thank Bosnia and Herzegovina for their foresight in organizing this important forum, and look forward to hearing from the Foreign Minister on his country’s perspectives on regional co-operation.

Thank you

UNDP Around the world