Promoting South-South Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific

10 September 2018

Each year, 12 September marks South-South Cooperation Day, a day to commemorate and leverage synergy among developing countries in fostering sustainable development, including the 2030 Agenda. South-South cooperation promotes solidarity among developing countries pursuing similar development paths by allowing them to learn lessons from each other. The newer concept of triangular cooperation involves two or more developing countries in collaboration with a third party, usually a developed country or a multilateral agency. Partnerships forged from South-South cooperation will be crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

South-South cooperation was born in Asia and the Pacific – at the Bandung Conference, over sixty years ago. At that time, key countries of the South that had gained independence from colonial rule, resolved to help others become independent. Now, many developing countries in our region have achieved remarkable economic development and technological progress and could provide technical assistance, innovation and development finance to help other countries of the South attain sustainable development.

South-South and triangular cooperation has been at heart of ESCAP’s work since its inception. It has driven ESCAP’s technical assistance, informed its analysis and underpinned much of its inter-governmental work. It has helped strengthen regional cooperation, and in doing so, powered trade, investment, technology transfer and economic growth. It has helped contribute to building a resilient and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.

The Multi-Donor Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness under ESCAP has scaled up early warning systems for natural disasters and facilitated information-sharing among the countries of the South. Drawing on regional expertise and good practices, the Fund supported 26 projects and directly benefitted 19 countries in the region. The Fund was initiated by Thailand after the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami with a death toll over 225,000, and provided expertise and the seed funding of US$ 10 million. Since then, the Fund has attracted other donors and expertise from the South, including India, Turkey and several other developed countries.

ESCAP’s Asia Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade (ARTNeT) has facilitated partnerships among developing countries to develop scalable solutions and analyses to harmonize trade and investment policies for enhanced regional competitiveness. ARTNeT has worked with reputable research institutes across the region, including India and Thailand, to train senior policy makers and researchers in least-developed countries.

ESCAP regional institutions further promote South-South and triangular cooperation. The China-based Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization (CSAM) works on enhancing the resilience of the region’s agricultural systems and food security against intensifying natural disasters and the impacts of climate change. The India-based Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT) supports the transfer of green technologies through South-South co-operation.

These regional efforts have aligned with the broader strategy in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to reinvigorate South-South cooperation and set new milestones for the international community, including the United Nations. Complementing the North-South cooperation, South-South and triangular cooperation has become an important modality to deliver SDGs.

Bringing together the governments and other stakeholders from the region and ensuring the effective use of South-South and triangular cooperation, the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development (APFSD) is the main inter-governmental platform for ESCAP to oversee the implementation of the Regional Roadmap for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific. It provides a platform to exchange knowledge, good practices, homegrown approaches and technical cooperation among countries that share similar characteristics.

The diversity in levels of development across the region provides unique opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation between countries and learning from each other’s development experience. The vibrant landscape of Asia and the Pacific includes China and India--the region’s economic powerhouses--several high-income official development assistance providers, middle-income developing countries that have become important emerging actors on the international development cooperation scene, as well as some of the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world.

To ensure effective and demand-driven development cooperation to support the 2030 Agenda, ESCAP, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation and the Thailand International Cooperation Agency convened the Regional Consultation on South-South Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific. The meeting established the Forum of Director Generals of Technical Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific or the “DG Forum.” The Forum is expected to play a vital role in shaping the region’s perspectives and promoting innovative partnerships and approaches to make South-South cooperation more effective and demand-driven.

The 2019 Second United Nations High-level Conference on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40) will mark the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries and represents an important milestone in shaping the future of South-South and triangular cooperation. BAPA+40 will be a chance for the international community to review South-South accomplishments and reinvigorate and leverage South-South cooperation to accelerate progress towards 2030 Agenda. At ESCAP, we are keen to work with all our partners to achieve just that.