UN’s annual South-South Cooperation Day sets the tone for the UNGA

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Many countries observed last week’s annual UN Day for South-South Cooperation. This special day acknowledges the progress in economics, society, and politics achieved by southern regions and nations in recent years, while also emphasizing the United Nations’ initiatives to foster technical collaboration among developing countries.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized the significant role of South-South cooperation in shaping a more promising future in a world confronted with interconnected challenges and urged developed economies to fulfill their responsibilities.

From its inception, international collaboration has stood as a core principle of the United Nations (UN). The growing disparities in income, GDP, and human development among nations from diverse regions have underscored the heightened significance of South-South cooperation, the principal aim of which is to promote partnerships among developing nations. This led to the establishment of the United Nations Development Programme in 1965. In 1974, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation was founded and tasked with coordinating a range of collaborative initiatives.

Guterres highlighted that solidarity and robust partnerships among developing nations can pave the path toward a fairer and more sustainable world, spanning areas such as climate action, poverty alleviation, healthcare, education, trade, and digitalization.

In his message marking the UN Day for South-South Cooperation on September 12, Guterres underscored that through South-South cooperation, Global South countries can exchange knowledge, skills, expertise, and resources. By working together, they can more easily reach their sustainable development goals, addressing challenges like climate disruption, global health crises, supply chain disruptions, and humanitarian assistance.

Guterres stressed that while South-South and triangular cooperation serve as crucial complements to cooperation with developed countries, they should not substitute or diminish the responsibilities and commitments of the Global North. He emphasized the duty of developed economies to collaborate constructively with Global South economies to reduce inequality and forge pathways to a sustainable future for all.

Other institutions such as the International Labour Organisation celebrated the UN’s SSC Day, joining forces with the administrations of Brazil, China, and India to initiate fresh initiatives and reconfirm past agreements.

The Brazilian government has backed a project titled “South-South Cooperation for Social Justice in the Global South,” while the Chinese government has funded a programme centred on “Public Employment Services and Skills Development in ASEAN.” The United Nations India Fund is injecting renewed momentum into a Caribbean initiative, which is transitioning into its second phase, concentrating on skills enhancement, and addressing climate change concerns.

In the lead up the United Nations General Assembly, arguably the UN’s biggest week, scheduled for September 19 to 26, most world leaders who will take the stage to voice their primary concerns or contributions towards a more equitable world, have already met in some capacity, at the G20 in New Delhi, the G77 in Cuba, at the BRICS Summit in South Africa besides bilateral meetings and new (and sometimes unlikely) partners emerging in triangular cooperation.

According to the UN “The 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly marks a crucial milestone in the journey towards achieving the 2030 Agenda and the urgent need to put the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) back on track”. At a time of heightened tensions globally, and in light of increased divisions between North and South, the United Nations has a tall order ahead of it, to be relevant to the Global South, to the North, and to enhanced cooperation among all.

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