UN conference agrees better ways for Global South countries to work together on sustainable development

UNOSSC/Rodrigo Atanes UN officials at the closing ceremony of the 2nd High Level Conference on South-South Cooperation in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


The Second High-Level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation, known as BAPA+40, concluded on Friday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a political declaration agreed by more than 160 Member States renewing the global commitment in the promotion and investment in this type of collaboration between countries.

“The Conference has brought the necessary momentum and provided us with a roadmap for South-South and triangular cooperation,” said Achim Steiner, the Administrator of the UN Development Program UNDP and Secretary-General of the Conference, during the closing ceremony.

“If we reflect on the changes that have taken place in the global economy, in development, in human wellbeing since the signing of first BAPA 40 years ago, it’s clear that there are no limits to what we can achieve when we combine forces. We have forged new partnerships for current and future concerted efforts and seen the spectrum of opportunities available to us”, he added, inviting Member States to double down on the achievements of the last 40 years to solve some of the greatest challenges of our time.

South-South cooperation refers to the technical cooperation among developing countries in the Global South. It is a tool used by the states, international organizations, academics, civil society and the private sector to collaborate and share knowledge, skills and successful initiatives in specific areas such as agricultural development, human rights, urbanization, health, climate change etc.

Triangular cooperation is collaboration in which traditional donor countries and multilateral organizations facilitate South-South initiatives through the provision of funding, training, management and technological systems, as well as other forms of support.

The outcome document recognizes that South-South and triangular cooperation contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions, asi it shares a comprehensive vision of development, including economic, social and environmental aspects.

It furthers acknowledge the importance of triangular cooperation, when a third party, either a developed country or an organization assists a South-South exchange with resources, or expertise.

The political declaration also calls to enhance the development effectiveness of those two types of cooperation and notes that they are increasingly taking different and evolving forms in a broader scope that when the Buenos Aires Plan of Action was established in 1978.

An example of multilateralism

The President of the UN General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, also addressed the closing ceremony, underscoring the positive role of multilateralism in achieving “outstanding results” through cooperation.

“Our efforts have been worthwhile, the final document reflects the evolution of South South cooperation and constitutes a path into the future. It opens up a range of possibilities to further expand the horizons of solidarity collaboration, also with other developed countries and other central actors. The triangular cooperation incorporates us as strategic partners, it also includes a mechanism of voluntary reports that will allow us to measure the impact of these cooperation modalities”, she said.

Mr. Espinosa highlighted that South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation help to accelerate the implementation of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development by eradicating poverty and hunger, ensuring more health services, quality education, promoting environmental protection and by stopping discrimination and violence against women among other goals.

A successful outcome

¨Forty years after the conference which gave birth to the idea of South-South cooperation and later triangular cooperation, over 150 countries came back to Buenos Aires not only to celebrate 40 years of evolving a concept that today is part of the mainstream of development, but indeed to provide direction and future impulse,” Mr. Steiner told UN News, stressing his belief that the outcome of the conference was very positive.

“The model of development cooperation of the 1960s and 1970s which saw a world of the North transferring technology and models of development to the South is long gone. Much of the innovations that drive development today have their origins in the South” he added.

The UNDP chief also underscored that a global community of nations, particularly in the South depend on the world acting together to implement the Paris Agreement and protect biodiversity.

“Many of the opportunities today in this domain are in fact being developed in the nations of the Global South. They provide perhaps the best hope of transforming economic development into something else than just mining nature or polluting the atmosphere,” Mr. Steiner stated.

For his part, the Special Envoy of South-South Cooperation said that the outcome document brings countries together to commit to a broader scope of collaboration that goes beyond the technical aspects to address global issues.

“Not just technical cooperation but also financial, and economical, trade. We also called for the cooperation of new actors in the private sector, civil society organizations, and non-governmental organizations”, said Jorge Chediek.

“This conference will be a landmark moment after which more of what is being done already will be better informed and better systematized to show how South South-cooperation is a tool to build a better world”, he told UN news.

According to Mr. Chediek,  a great step was taken in the declaration by recognizing that South-South and triangular cooperation are essential elements of the international cooperation.

“They used to be in the margins. The document ratifies that they are central and essential”, the Special Envoy said.

A 160 delegations from member States and almost 4000 participants from non governmental organizations, UN agencies, and civil society participated during four days in BAPA+40.

The political declaration reached at the conference also calls to the Secretary General to report on the implementation of the agreements reached, which will be vital to attain the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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