Helen Clark: Opening Statement at the Conference on International Development Co-operation: Trends and Emerging Opportunities -Perspectives of the New Actors co-hosted by UNDP and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA)

19 Jun 2014


Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator

Opening Statement
at the
Conference on International Development Co-operation:
Trends and Emerging Opportunities - Perspectives of the New Actors
co-hosted by UNDP and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA)
Istanbul, Turkey

UNDP is very pleased to be a co-host with TIKA of this conference on International Development Co-operation: Trends and Emerging Opportunities - Perspectives of the New Actors.

We are especially pleased to be meeting in Istanbul where UNDP is about to complete the relocation of its Regional Centre for Europe and the CIS. We greatly appreciate the support of the Government of Turkey for UNDP’s work within this country and at the global and regional levels, including for UNDP’s Istanbul International Centre for Private Sector in Development.

At the outset, let me also acknowledge the significant and growing contribution of Turkey to the global development agenda overall, both as an important funder and partner, and in global development discourse. UNDP has recently partnered with Turkey on a regional post-2015 consultation, and on high level consultations on the role of law and of what the private sector can contribute on disabilities in the emerging global development agenda. We are pleased to be working with TIKA on strengthening its capacity in South-South co-operation – an area which is very relevant for our discussions here today.

This conference provides a good opportunity to examine the role of South-South and triangular co-operation in accelerating development and thereby improving the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world.  My comments will focus on the new development actors in the Global South, but let me also acknowledge the critical roles played by philanthropy, NGOs, civil society, and increasingly the private sector too.

The Forum is timely – the ideas and evidence discussed here can feed into the meeting of the UN Development Co-operation Forum in July, which is focused on how to “Bring the future of development co-operation to post-2015”.

South-South Co-operation

South-South co-operation, understood as a mutually beneficial partnership based on solidarity, equality, and shared development experiences, is growing fast.  Southern innovations and experiences are often seen as the most relevant to the challenges faced by other developing countries.

Among trends we are seeing in the Global South, the following stand out:

•    The share of South–South trade in world commerce has more than tripled over the past three decades to over one quarter of the total. South–South foreign direct investment grew at a rate of twenty per cent a year between 1996 and 2009, and now accounts for thirty to sixty per cent of all foreign investment in the Least Developed Countries. Recent Chinese and Indian joint ventures and startup manufacturing investments in Africa could foreshadow a significant expansion of such activity.

•    Southern countries and their development banks are making substantial investments in infrastructure in Asia and Africa.  For example, Turkey has supported Somalia’s transport sector, including by helping rehabilitate Mogadishu airport.  China recently announced plans to support building a rail link in Kenya between the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa and Nairobi. The plan is to extend the links from Nairobi to Kampala, Kigali, Bujumbura, and Juba. Exim Bank of China will finance ninety per cent of the first stage, estimated at $3.8bn, with Kenya financing the remaining ten per cent.  Modern rail linking the coast to the hinterland will be a big boost for the region.

•    In the health and social sectors, we see the large scale manufacture of lower cost medicines for HIV and other medical conditions in large emerging economies like India and Brazil. We see knowledge sharing across the world’s regions on cash transfer schemes which aim to boost incomes of the poor and health and education status.

•    We see more co-operation on citizen security in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Colombia, for example, has provided training to other nations’ security forces on fighting transnational drug trafficking and others forms of organized crime. Sub-regional organizations like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) are driving regional dialogue on strengthening citizen security.

•    The South is now a significant producer of low-carbon technologies and innovation. In renewable energy, Brazil is a hub for the production and use of biofuels, while China and India are leaders in the supply of solar power technologies.  Taken to scale with lower costs of production, these technologies can help drive the transition to green economies across the Global South.

Towards a Post-2015 World – new actors and big challenges

Tackling the major global challenges, from poverty and high levels of inequality to climate change, infrastructure deficits, and illicit financial flows, requires the full engagement of the widest possible range of development actors. It will be important to understand how collaboration can enhance middle-income countries’ efforts to curb inequalities through inclusive growth and innovative social policy. At the same time, we also need strengthened collaboration for countries in more challenging situations, including the Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States, Landlocked Developing Countries, and countries emerging from conflict. Let me briefly address each of these:

Middle-Income countries

•    South-South co-operation offers a good framework for collaboration between middle-income countries. For example, China and Thailand have established a Joint Action Plan on China-Thailand Strategic Co-operation (2012-2016), to deepen co-operation on issues such as water resources management, renewable energy, education, and human resource development.

•    In 2013, eleven Middle Income Countries met in Beijing to share their experiences of planning and implementing development co-operation. This conference was supported by UNDP and the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (CAITEC). Following additional consultations, there is now a proposal which has broad support from Middle Income Countries for the establishment of a Network of Southern Think-tanks (NeST). This will be a voluntary initiative, led and driven by think tanks in the South, to deepen the understanding of South-South co-operation’s contribution to global development.

Least Developed Countries

•    In line with the Istanbul Programme of Action, South-South co-operation is helping to build the productive capacities of LDCs. As well, targeted collaboration is supporting LDCs to engage in trade, attract investment, and participate in production networks and value chains serving growing markets throughout the Global South.

•    China, India and Thailand are among the fastest growing markets for LDC exports.  The Government of Malaysia is helping to develop information technology expertise for Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar. TIKA is providing assistance in education, health and other sectors in eleven LDCs,  including in Burkina Faso, Gambia,  Mauritania, Sudan, Senegal, and Yemen.

•    Neighborhood initiatives among LDCs are another important form of South-South co-operation which is being used to boost national development. For example, with UNDP’s support, Lao PDR shared its successful experiences of a radio programme serving  indigenous communities with Cambodia; and Uganda shared its experiences on sustainable land management with Tanzania - which informed the land management programmes in Kilimanjaro.

•    For Small Island Developing States, South-South and triangular co-operation are offering promising solutions to some of their most pressing concerns; for example, in strengthening climate resilience.

•    While there is no ‘one size fits all’ blueprint for making the transition to low-carbon and climate- resilient development, South-South co-operation can help countries shape their own, nationally appropriate paths to sustainable and inclusive development. Experience-sharing on disaster reduction and climate change adaptation and on “triple-win approaches” which advance the economic, social and environmental strands of sustainable development simultaneously, are important. Through the exchange of low-emission technologies and technical know-how, countries can lower the costs of sustainable solutions and strengthen their ability to access and deploy climate finance.

•    UNDP has initiated the Caribbean Risk Management Initiative (CRMI) to facilitate knowledge-sharing between Small Islands Developing States (SIDs) in the Caribbean and the Asia Pacific on management and mitigation of climate-related risks, including of hurricanes and rising sea levels. Exchanges between the relevant agencies in the Caribbean and Pacific regions are being supported, which is also helping to ensure well-co-ordinated SIDS positions in international fora on disaster risk management.

•    In November, the Second UN Conference on Landlocked Developing States will be held in Vienna.  It is a ten-year review conference, which will report progress on the Almaty Programme of Action  and lay out a new agenda to meet the specific needs of these states – not least in building capacity for trans-border trade and transportation.  There will be many opportunities for new development actors in supporting the new agenda.

•    For countries emerging from conflict, South-South co-operation creates opportunities to draw on the unique experiences of other countries which have faced similar challenges on the long and complex road to peace. Such countries bring invaluable insights on how to transform national institutions from within, to restore state authority, empower civil society, and revitalize economies. Liberia, for example, has co-operated with Botswana on the capacity development of the Liberian police force. At the global level, a g7+ “fragile-to-fragile” platform is being established with UNDP’s support, to share knowledge and expertise among fragile states on peacebuilding and state building.

Mobilizing Resources

It is important to affirm that South-South co-operation is not a substitute for Official Development Assistance, but rather, a vital complement to it.  High quality, catalytic, and predictable Official Development Assistance (ODA) will remain important for poverty eradication, especially in Least Developed Countries. Traditional donors must meet their longstanding ODA commitment to dedicate 0.7 per cent of their GNI to ODA, and, recognizing the central role for poverty eradication in LDCs, also meet the target of contributing 0.15 per cent of GNI to LDCs in particular. Future development co-operation must also take into account the fact that the majority of the world’s poorest people reside in middle-income countries.    

Financing needs for development, however, are vast, and will need to be met through a mix of public and private finance and other means, including carbon market mechanisms. While the MDGs have been perceived as largely a North-South, ODA-supported agenda, the SDGs will be a universal agenda for which diverse sources of financing will be even more important. 

In this context, South-South and triangular co-operation, can also offer new opportunities. A number of emerging economies are building up their development co-operation agencies: these include the Mexican Agency for International Development Co-operation and the South African Development Partnership Agency. Others are already very active in, or are expanding, their existing South-South co-operation, not only in the form of grants and loans, but also through trade and investment.

UN and South South Co-operation

Support for South-South and triangular co-operation by UN organizations and agencies has surged in recent years. Many have included South-South and triangular co-operation in their strategic plans; have sponsored South-South policy dialogues, the exchange of knowledge and experience, and research and analysis; and are supporting regional integration efforts - among many other initiatives. 

In UNDP, we are committed to promoting and strengthening South-South and triangular co-operation and have placed these at the heart of our work in our new Strategic Plan. We are committed to becoming a knowledge broker and to helping to identify, share, and adapt scalable and tested Southern solutions. We have been the proud host of the UN Office for South-South Co-operation for many years, and regard it as an integral part of our global operation.

UNDP’s International Policy Centres, established in Brazil, Kenya, Republic of Korea, India, Norway, Singapore, and Turkey, help identify and disseminate knowledge which can then be further transferred through South-South and triangular co-operation. These centres of excellence cover inclusive growth, sustainable development pathways, dry land development, global partnerships, democratic governance, public service excellence, and the role of the private sector in development. 


We will continue to support countries to engage in and benefit from South-South and triangular co-operation, and we are committed to engaging with new partners, including across the non-governmental actors, in the development and implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.

I wish this conference every success, and have every expectation that its deliberations will enrich the discussion at the UN’s Development Co-operation Forum in New York next month..