South-South Cooperation

  • Nepal delivered well when it was provided with an opportunity to present their case as a recipient country
- Swaran Singh

Mar 28, 2019-

Last week (March 20-22) saw delegations from over 160 countries and nearly 4,000 participants from non-governmental organisations holding extensive four-day long deliberations at the Second High-Level United Nationals Conference on the ‘South-South Cooperation’ (SSC) in Beunos Aires, Argentina. This was also called BAPA 40 to commemorate their 1978 Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries that was signed by 138 and had come to be the corner stone of the SSC.

The evolution and future of the SSC

Their deliberations last week not only reflected how the world of the 1960s and the 1970s of the Global North’s transferring of technology and models of development to Global South is long gone, they also successfully adopted a final document that most aptly reflects the evolution and future of the SSC; especially its inching beyond its so-called genre of ‘triangular’ cooperation where traditional donor nations and multilateral institutions facilitated SSC projects through funding, training, management and technology sharing. SSC, of course, no longer shuns Global North. Instead, SSC is increasingly seen as their integral strategic partners in accelerating implementation of global ‘Agenda 2030’ for Sustainable Development Goals and towards strengthening of norms-based multilateralism in international relations.

As an idea, SSC had begun in the 1950s as a show of solidarity amongst newly decolonised developing nations in the southern hemisphere seeking collective self-reliance through sharing of their limited capacities and ideas towards their nation building efforts. The Non-Alignment Movement had been a major force in promoting SSC and their 1992 Indonesia summit was dedicated exclusively to this theme of SSC where they adopted the ‘Jakarta Message: Collective Action and the Democratisation of International Relations.’ Over the years, however, SSC deliberations continued to be influenced by ideas and aid-injections from the Global North.

The last few decades, however, witnessed an unprecedented rise of several of these nations of the Global South, with China being its prime example. This has enabled nations of the Global South to emerge as celebrated development models–the Bangladesh Model being the latest—and  also as major donor and investors even for the developed Global North. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has become an example of this role reversal in developmental partnership and even the World Bank recognises how China has uplifted over 800 million citizens out of poverty in the last four decades of reform and opening up.

As its leading development agency, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)—with offices in 170 countries—has been the key catalyst in SSC’s over 500 projects worth $20 billion in 120 countries. Countries like China and India have since come to be its major partners in promoting SSC. UNDP had opened office in India in 1951 and in China in 1979 and both these countries have contributed to the changing genre of SSC. Taking the lead in 2016 China, for instance, had set up a $3.1 billion China SSC Climate Cooperation Fund and another $2 billion Fund for SSC Fund for post-2015 Development Agenda. China’s Belt and Road Initiative—that is today active in over 70 countries—contains elements of the SSC as also its evolving new formats and trajectories.

Likewise, the last decade has also seen India extend its Lines of Credit of about $25 billion that involve the transfer of technology and skills to more than 60 nations of the Global South. These cover both traditional sectors like agriculture, rural development and education as also emerging new frontiers of blue and digital economies. India’s initiatives include climate mitigation through International Solar Alliance, disaster relief (like providing Indian navy services during the devastating cyclone-hit Port Beira in Mozambique) or long-term projects like the Indian Space Research Organisation’s GSAT-9 geostationary communication and meteorological South Asian satellite that was launched in May 2017 for all South Asian countries, except Pakistan that has not joined this initiative.

Building on partnerships

Over the years, development partnerships in the SSC have broadened to include grant assistance, lines of credit, technical consultancy, disaster relief, educational scholarships and capacity building, etc. India’s Technical and Economic Cooperation programme provides over 13,000 training slots that are open to 161 countries. India’s Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme provides free market access to all the Least Developed Countries’ exports. Since 2017, India-UN Development Partnership Fund provides financial support for developing countries’ Sustainable Development Goals projects.

Given the remarks Pusha Kamal Dahal  made on January 25 regarding “imperialist US” and its “intrusion” into the internal affairs of Venezuela, or Nepali delegation’s interactions—led by foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali—gaining traction and visibility at its most recent visit to the US,  Nepal delivered well when it was provided with an opportunity to present their case as a recipient country that was transforming rapidly.  The speech by the foreign minister underlined Nepal’s commitment to becoming a middle-income country by 2030 as he sought increased levels of investments and cooperation for strengthening national ownership of Nepal’s development projects. This move outlined his government’s transformative programmes—like the Comprehensive Social Security Programme, the Nationwide Heal Insurance Programme, the Prime Minister’s Employment Programme—aimed at ensuring people’s prosperity and happiness, while at the same time it urged that the SSC’s poverty alleviation must encourage employment generation through higher levels of investments in education and innovation where Nepal can be an important incubator model for several other developing countries.

To quote Peter Peng Li of Ningbo Nottingham Business School, it is the disruptive innovations happening at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ of world populations that will be transform and determine the future trajectories of shared future of humankind. This means that the potential of the SSC model seems pregnant with system shaping capabilities.

- Singh is professor at School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

Published: 28-03-2019 21:57

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