Helen Clark: Remarks at the opening Plenary of the 17th Session of the High-level Committee on South-South Co-operation

May 22, 2012

President of the High-level Committee on South-South Co-operation,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 17th session of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation.

At the outset, I wish to recognize the leadership the Republic of Kenya has given to the High-level Committee during its presidency in the past two years. I acknowledge the important work of both Ambassador Zachary Muburi-Muita and his successor Ambassador Macharia Kamau. Allow me also to acknowledge the representatives of Albania, Canada, the Philippines, and Suriname for their dedicated service on the Bureau during the 16th session of the Committee.

I also convey my congratulations to Antigua and Barbuda and to you, Mr. President, and the new members of the Bureau, who will lead the work of the High-level Committee for the coming two years. I wish you success in guiding deliberations during this session, and in advancing South-South co-operation during your tenure.

The past decade has witnessed the fast rise of the Global South and growing prominence of South-South co-operation for development. Countries in the South maintained an average annual GDP growth rate of 4.8 per cent over the past decade. In 2010, developing and emerging economies recorded average growth of 7.3 per cent, which was significantly greater than that of economies in the North. South-South flows of finance, technology, and trade have also grown significantly. These trends contributed to progress on achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in many countries. Undoubtedly the dynamism of the South will continue to be reflected in strong development outcomes.

Acknowledging the fast changing global context, UNDP’s 2012 Human Development Report will focus on the rise of the global South, not only in terms of geopolitics and economic power, but also as a source of innovation, knowledge, and solutions to development challenges. The policies, skills, and technical expertise originating from countries in the South are often the best suited to meeting development challenges faced by others in the South.

Multilateral organisations are increasingly including South-South co-operation within their strategies, policies, programmes, and projects, giving priority to documenting and disseminating best practices in development across the South. Actors beyond governments and multilateral organizations are also engaged.

The UN development system fully recognizes the importance of South-South co-operation for development. We see our organisations taking new steps to further this agenda by creating and strengthening centres of excellence in the South, and using new technologies and web-based platforms in support of South-South Co-operation.

UNEP’s South-South Co-operation Exchange Mechanism is to be launched this week. UNDP’s Teamworks platform enables rapid dissemination of best practice and Southern exchange of development solutions. It connects people to innovation and best practice which can be adapted to other settings.

Facilitating South-South exchanges of experience and knowledge is central to what UNDP does. Through our universal presence, we have the capacity to link countries and communities to knowledge, best practice, and lessons learned.

Over the course of the past two years we have signed new partnership agreements with a number of emerging economies in the South which seek to support the sharing of knowledge and innovation across the South.

Our policy centres also play an important role in this work. For some years now through the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth in Brasilia, a partnership with the Government of Brazil, we have facilitated efforts to make Latin American experiences of cash transfers and social protection known to other regions. We have also established the Seoul Policy Center for Global Development Partnerships, participated in the establishment of the International Poverty Reduction Centre in Beijing, and, recently, with the support of the Government of Turkey, established the International Center for Private Sector in Development in Istanbul.

Initiatives by other UN Development Group members include:

• UNESCO’s International Centre for South-South Co-operation in science, technology, and innovation in Malaysia;

• the ILO Inter-American Centre for Knowledge Development in Vocational Training in Latin America and the Caribbean; and

• the South-South co-operation centres established by UNIDO in China, India, Brazil, and other middle-income countries to facilitate industrial development.

Such initiatives are all testimony to the commitment of the United Nations system to support South-South co-operation.

In 2010, UNDP organized the Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference in Ethiopia to discuss breakthrough approaches emerging from the South in reducing poverty, accelerating broad-based growth, and advancing progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa. China’s experience in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and how that was achieved is of considerable interest.

Sharing experiences of innovation and lessons learned also extends beyond the realms of economic and social policy to the desire of countries in political transition to hear from others which have faced similar challenges. In June last year, UNDP was pleased to sponsor a forum in Egypt which shared experiences between participants from Arab states, Latin America, South Africa, and Indonesia. There have been a number of exchanges of experiences around organizing elections, both supported by UNDP and independent of it.

UNDP is pleased to host the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation. In its role as a UN system-wide facilitator and co-ordinator of South-South co-operation, the Special Unit continues to facilitate the sharing of experiences and good practices in South-South co-operation among UN agencies. It works in synergy with UNDP’s broader knowledge management and co-ordination roles across the UN development system at the country level.

The Special Unit has encouraged South-South co-operation to become part of the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks. It has established service platforms to document, showcase, and exchange Southern development solutions. The Special Unit also makes available to United Nations’ specialized agencies, funds, and programmes its multilateral support architecture, which can facilitate links between governments, the private-sector, civil society partners, and Southern centres of excellence.

At the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), next month, a spirit of solidarity and commitment to joint action and joint solutions to global challenges is needed. Deliberations during this 17th session of the High-level Committee, can highlight South-South approaches to sustainable development, and on accelerating progress towards achieving the MDGs.

The framework provided by the Millennium Development Goals has been particularly useful because it has had specific, time-bound targets, is easily communicated, and has engaged a wide range of stakeholders to achieve shared development objectives. As discussions are held on the post-2015 development agenda, it will be important to build on the characteristics of the MDGs which have made them successful.

In closing, I thank once again the President, the Bureau, and the Special Unit for South-South Co-operation for the work they have put into preparations for this session of the High-level Committee, and wish you all most fruitful deliberations.

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