Helen Clark: Statement at the Opening of the 18th session of the High-Level Committee on South-South Co-operation

May 19, 2014

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Statement at the
Opening of the 18th session of the High-Level Committee on South-South Co-operation
United Nations, New York

Mr. President,
President of the General Assembly
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to the opening of the 18th session of the High-level Committee on South-South Co-operation.  I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the work of the outgoing Bureau and welcome and convey my best wishes to the new President of the Committee and all the new Bureau members. At UNDP, we look forward to working with you all over the coming two years.
Over the past two decades, the Global South has registered extraordinary economic growth and demonstrated considerable economic resilience in the midst of the slowdowns experienced by many industrialized countries.  There have been significant increases in South-South trade, which now accounts for more than 26 per cent of global merchandise trade; there is a rising middle class across much of the South; and there are increasing levels of innovation, manufacturing efficiency, and entrepreneurship in the South. The significant progress achieved in human development is well reflected in the Human Development Index.

Against this encouraging backdrop, this week’s session of the High-level Committee on South-South Co-operation is a good opportunity to take stock of achievements, draw lessons learned, and consider how innovation and progress can be shared across countries in the South to build strong and sustainable futures.  

Over the past decade there has been a significant lift in the quantity and quality of South-South co-operation and in its transformative impact. The value of sharing knowledge, experiences, and technologies can be seen across different sectors. For example,  

•    In trade and investment, Asia has exhibited robust South-South flows within the region and to other regions, with impressive technology advances in the mix of its goods and services.

•    Infrastructure across Asia and Africa is being improved as Southern regional and national development banks make significant investments.

•    Co-operation on security measures in Latin America and the Caribbean are providing regional responses to illegal drug flows.

•    The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is supported by a wide range of partners, North and South, including Brazil, China, and India. Promotion of agricultural productivity across the region has been a particular focus.

•    In the health and social sectors, we see the large scale manufacture of lower cost medicines for HIV and other conditions by countries like India and Brazil. Cash transfer schemes, which aim to boost incomes of the poor and health and education status, have been introduced by a number of countries in Latin America, and are being adapted and adopted in other settings.  

•    In renewable energy, Brazil has become a notable hub for the production and use of biofuel, while China and India are leaders in the supply of solar power technologies.

Clearly there is mounting evidence of the contribution of South-South co-operation to human development. Its expansion has coincided with the articulation and follow-up of the Millennium Development Goals, based on a common vision for a world without poverty and hunger, where people are educated and healthy, and the environment is protected. These goals have framed the global development agenda for the past fourteen years, and progress on them has seen improvements in the lives of countless millions of people.

Nonetheless, there is unfinished business on the MDGs. The next global agenda must aim to lift all people out of poverty, and ensure that there is no loss of priority given to the needs of the poorest people and the poorest countries.

South-South co-operation offers a good collaborative framework for helping to boost the productive capacities of Least Developed Countries in line with the Istanbul Programme of Action , by supporting LDCs’ capacities to trade, attract investment, and to participate in the production networks and value chains which are meeting the growing demand for goods and services of both the expanding middle class in the South and markets in the North.

Meeting national and international development goals will require renewed and inclusive global partnerships. There are major national and transnational challenges to sustainable development to be addressed – not least poverty and hunger eradication, energy poverty, infrastructure deficits, climate change, and illicit financial flows.

It is important to affirm that South-South co-operation is not a substitute for official development assistance, but rather, a vital complement. While we all welcome the growth of South-South co-operation, it is also important that donors meet their longstanding ODA commitment to dedicate 0.7 per cent of their GNI  to Official Development Assistance (ODA).

The efforts of a number of traditional donor countries of the North to embrace triangular co-operation must also be commended. Japan, for example, has rolled out plans to boost the role of the private sector in African development through triangular co-operation; and, thanks to support from Denmark, UNDP has been working with Zambia, Ghana, and China on the transfer of renewable energy technologies, critical skills, and innovative public-private partnership modalities from China to the two African countries. Germany has supported UNDP to promote knowledge exchanges on energy efficiency measures in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. The UN REDD programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation is a triangular and collaborative effort supported by advanced economies and tropical forest countries.

United Nations development system support for South-South and triangular co-operation.

Support for South-South and triangular co-operation by United Nations organizations and agencies has surged in recent years. Many UN organizations 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. South-South co-operation has been placed at the heart of our work in our new Strategic Plan. That plan anchors our support for South-South co-operation in two explicit ways: (a) by hosting the United Nations Office for South-South Co-operation we will continue our work to strengthen system-wide support for and co-ordination of South-South co-operation; and (b) by utilizing UNDP’s country and programme reach, we aim to provide a global operational arm for South-South co-operation which is accessible to the broader UN system.

Let me elaborate on each of these areas of support:

a)    The Secretary-General’s report before this High-Level Committee, on measures to further strengthen the United Nation Office for South-South Co-operation, presents a range of concrete measures and feasible actions. They include having a more strategic and focused work programme, strengthened system-wide co-ordination mechanisms, and dedicated funding and support for resource mobilization.  The Secretary-General also intends to designate the head of the Office as his Special Representative on South-South co-operation.

UNDP itself has adopted a mechanism to ensure the stable and predictable allocation of core resources to the Office - irrespective of whether there are any overall budget reductions for our organization. This shielding mechanism for the Office was approved by UNDP’s Executive Board last June. We are also committed to supporting the Office to mobilize additional non-core resources. Taken together, we are confident that all these measures will enable the Office to be in a good position to fulfil its mandate as it implements its Strategic Framework for 2014-2017.

b)    UNDP itself aims to step up its service as a knowledge broker which identifies, shares, and helps adapt scalable and tested Southern solutions. We will continue to support the capacity development which enables countries to engage in and benefit from South-South co-operation.

This 18th session of the High-Level Committee on South-South Co-operation is a good opportunity for Member States to guide the UN development system on how we can best support South-South co-operation. This is an important moment as the final push is made to accelerate MDG progress, and as discussion continues on the shape of an ambitious and transformative post-2015 agenda. The meeting is also an opportunity for all countries to re-commit to scaling up their own actions in support of South-South and triangular co-operation to advance human and sustainable development.

I wish the High Level Committee a very productive session this week.

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