Second High-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation

Opening Remarks at Second High-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation

March 20, 2019

As prepared for delivery.

Your Excellency, the President of Argentina (also President of the Conference),

Your Excellency, the President of the General Assembly,

Your Excellency, the Secretary General of the United Nations

Your Excellency, the President of the Economic and Social Council,

Your Excellency, the President-designate of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation,

Distinguished Heads of State and Government,

Honorable Ministers,


Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a privilege for me to address this opening session of the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation.

I would like to thank the Government of Argentina for hosting us in Buenos Aires, for their warm hospitality, and for their longstanding unwavering support to South-South cooperation.

It is also a great honour to serve as the Secretary-General of the conference given the historic timing. I would like to thank Member States for their confidence.

Approximately 40 years ago, Argentina hosted the Conference on Technical Cooperation Among Developing Countries. That landmark meeting adopted the Buenos Aires Plan of Action which not only highlighted the importance of South-South cooperation in addressing challenges confronting the developing world, but also called on the UN system to implement its recommendations. As has been mentioned explicitly in the Plan, it “is not a read once and put away document”.

The conference comes at a fitting time - few would have predicted that in the 40 years since BAPA, developing countries would be accounting for such levels of global economic output. Intra-South trade is higher than ever - accounting for more than one quarter of all world trade, while foreign direct investment outflows from the South represent one-third of global Foreign Direct Investment flows.

Today, solutions created in the South are delivering lasting results around the world. There is so much critical, concrete work happening on the ground every day. They range from:

- a vital exchange of expertise on resilient climate-resistant rice production between Colombia and the Dominican Republic;

-to a South-South exchange where Cameroon learnt from Ethiopia about how best to implement the HIV Safety Net Programme;

-to an Australia-China-Papua New Guinea Pilot Cooperation to tackle malaria;

-to an online platform pioneered in Bangladesh which allows millions of people to access free public services online thus negating the need for the poorest to travel – that knowledge is now being shared and replicated in a range of other countries.

South-South cooperation: a critical element to achieve 2030 Agenda

Forty years on from BAPA, South-South cooperation continues to play an indispensable - and ever growing - role in today’s development landscape.

There has been evolution of the substantive focus on South-South cooperation, from technical and economic cooperation to embracing the three dimensions of sustainable development - economic, environmental and social.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda welcome the increased contribution of South-South cooperation to poverty eradication and sustainable development.  

Given its scope and ambition, it is clear the implementation of the 2030 Agenda requires the mobilization of all types of partnerships and resources that should be utilized coherently towards common objectives.

Developing countries, regardless of size or level of development, have accumulated capacities and experiences which offer cost-effective solutions which may be adapted by other developing countries (even countries of the north) to their unique circumstances.

UNDP firmly committed to South-South cooperation

The United Nations Development System is enhancing its support for South-South and triangular cooperation, including through the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, proudly hosted and supported by UNDP over the last four decades.

The promotion of South-South cooperation as a central element of global development cooperation – and its proven ability to deliver results on the ground - is something which we at UNDP takes very seriously.

Accordingly, we have been increasing our efforts to better support; and further promote South-South cooperation as an important complement to traditional development cooperation.

Here, I want to appreciate the acknowledgement of UNDP’s support to UNOSSC and the recognition of our, “commitment in the promotion of South-South approaches to sustainable development” in the final draft Outcome Document of this Conference.   

At this moment, I would like to highlight the renewed UNDP offer on South-South and Triangular cooperation which rests on several compelling comparative advantages such as the fact that we have trusted local partnerships in 170 countries.

Moreover, UNDP’s six signature solutions bring a multidisciplinary approach to keeping people out of poverty, strengthen governance, enhance crisis prevention and recovery, promote nature-based solutions for development, ways to close the energy gap, and the advancement of gender equality.  

The overall challenge is to identify the right lessons and then tailoring them to specific contexts so they can have the best possible development impact. The approach is about connecting more countries and finding better ways to share – UNDP can offer the platform to do just that.

UNDP has a long history as a trusted knowledge broker, partnership facilitator, and a capacity-development supporter for South-South and triangular cooperation

UNDP is the partner of choice for South-South cooperation. It works to support a range of innovative projects which have the ability to be replicated and translated to other environments easily.

For example, Youth Connekt is a multi-dimensional programme, which was developed in Rwanda in 2012, with the aim of connecting young people to their role models, peers, resources, technologies, skills and economic opportunities. UNDP and its partners are scaling-up the approach across six countries in Africa. We are seeking to create 10 million jobs for youth and to close the gender gap.  The model also has great potential to translate to a range of other countries across the world.

Looking ahead, UNDP is examining how to better connect countries be it be it labour markets, finance, education etc. and it keenly recognize how technology and innovation plays a vital role – the new UNDP Accelerator Labs which are being established in 60 developing countries to quickly scale-up local solutions are a reflection of this thinking. We hope that these local solutions can be replicated in other countries.


UNDP is just one cog in a wider machine which works in tandem with the UN System, Regional Commissions and other partnerships to strengthen support to South-South cooperation even as we look at ways to revitalize the UN development assistance frameworks.

We also strongly believe that the UN System-wide South-South Cooperation Strategy that the UN Secretary-General has called for will bring even more coherent and coordinated support by the UN system.

South-South and triangular cooperation is critical as, on spite all the efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda and its goals, persistent development challenges remain – and they need to be addressed with a joined-up approach.

All stakeholders committed to leveraging the potential of South-South and triangular cooperation are here in Buenos Aires so we can seize this opportunity. We must strengthen and build upon the commitments for South-South cooperation established here four decades ago to address the cross-cutting challenges before us and t leave no one behind.

In sum – I want the conference to provide strong momentum for concerted and cooperative action, through partnerships among all stakeholders, to bolster the role of South-South cooperation and for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.