Dima Al-Khatib, the recently appointed Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), spoke with UN News’s Dianne Penn about the significant topics explored in this week’s meeting of the UN’s High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation. The central aim of this meeting was to scrutinise how South-South Cooperation can expedite recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and promote a sustainable future for everyone.
The conversations centred around the primary theme of socio-economic recovery from COVID-19, with delegates examining numerous sub-thematic areas. Al-Khatib explained that these encompassed health, economic and social protection, digital transformation, and significant shared concerns among nations such as debt relief and financial architecture. The key question under consideration was how economic growth can be stimulated in the Global South and how these countries can cooperate to advance their development.
Al-Khatib also emphasised the issue of a lack of financial resources and acknowledged the pandemic’s severe impact on global development. However, she pointed out that the crisis had created opportunities, particularly regarding digital transformation and inter-country solidarity, especially in overcoming the pandemic’s implications.
Discussing the commonalities and distinct characteristics of the Global South, Al-Khatib noted that climate change, amongst other issues, is not limited by geography. She further expressed that countries of the Global South, despite their diverse contexts and challenges, share a desire to cooperate due to their similar circumstances and potential for replicating southern-born and led solutions that have been successful elsewhere.
Al-Khatib outlined several successful examples of South-South Cooperation, drawing attention to the UNOSSC’s digital platform documenting best practices. For instance, the India-UN Development Partnership Fund has supported the establishment of 66 development projects in partnership with 51 developing countries, focusing on South-led and demand-driven initiatives. Highlighting a project in Timor-Leste that leverages information and communication technology to improve education and skills for remote students, she pointed to the positive outcomes of such cooperation.
The dialogue highlighted some considerable hurdles to the successful implementation of South-South cooperation. These encompassed emerging conflicts, difficulties in accessing funding, technological barriers, knowledge gaps, and capacity-building challenges. There have been calls from multiple countries for a review of the financial architecture and considerations for debt relief. Furthermore, there is a recognition that post-pandemic, the strengthening of institutions is pivotal for achieving resilient recovery from COVID-19 and its socio-economic implications.
Moving forward, the focus of the UNOSSC is to integrate South-South and Triangular cooperation at the national level and within development planning. This strategy involves fostering closer cooperation with the UN system at the country level.
Plans are also underway for the establishment of a ‘solutions lab’. This innovative concept aims to provide a platform to share experiences, incubate, and test ideas for solutions within the framework of South-South cooperation.
In addition, a commitment has been made to engage in capacity building at both the regional and local levels, drawing on best practices and lessons learned from various trust funds. The potential for fruitful collaboration with the entire UN system is recognised as an invaluable asset in achieving these aims.
The high expectations of member states underscores the pressing need for effective and innovative solutions. With the wealth of experience and knowledge that is available, the drive towards a sustainable future for all appears promising.