Webinar: Regional, Sub-regional and Interregional Organizations in the Global South as Actors in Responding to COVID-19

July 6, 2020

15 July 2020 – UNOSSC and UNDP Seoul Policy Centre (USPC) jointly organized a webinar, bringing together actors from regional, sub-regional and interregional organizations to share their experiences and responses on:

  • Support regional, sub-regional and interregional organization are providing to their member States in responding to COVID-19
  • Implications of COVID-19 on regional, sub-regional and interregional cooperation and integration
  • Role of these organizations in promoting South-South cooperation to respond to COVID-19
Click here to download the Summary of Discussion.

The socio-economic impacts of the novel COVID-19 pandemic are echoed in countries and regions all over the globe. The geographic, economic, and political circumstances of the countries have been defining the response packages. However, each country has a different starting point and an initial response to the pandemic considering the time-shifted outbreak of the virus. Hence, most countries acted individually to combat COVID-19 by implementing emergency response strategies such as nation-wide lockdowns. Consequently, borders have been closed and supply chains have been disrupted.

In this nationalist wave of approaching the pandemic, it soon became clear that there is an urgent need for international cooperation and global solidarity in order to tackle this crisis together and not leave anyone behind.  International organizations, including the United Nations, have called for joint approaches and cooperation on the international and regional levels. The WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that “this is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat – a dangerous enemy. When we are divided, the virus exploits the cracks between us.”

Regional approaches provide one option of international development cooperation, which have been highly demanded as a discussion topic during the webinars of the UNDP Seoul Policy Centre´s and UNOSSC’s previous webinar series on COVID-19 and the possible implications for international development cooperation. Fundamental crises like this can also bear high potential to create new initiatives for regional, sub-regional and interregional cooperation. It is encouraging to see responses from many such cooperation organizations and mechanisms in the form of joint statements and regional sub-regional and interregional strategies for knowledge exchange, analyzing best practices and collective research and initiatives to deal with this pandemic which knows no borders. The Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been establishing platforms for knowledge exchange to engage with other countries and regional organizations through video conferences. Other organizations such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and MERCOSUR introduced emergency funds to stimulate research processes and technologies, while the EU contributes by providing financial support packages. Africa Union (AU) has come up with the Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 outbreak and has also set up an African Union COVID-19 Response Fund to mitigate the social, economic and humanitarian impact of COVID-19 in all African countries. Interregional mechanisms such as g7+, highlighted the concerns of countries dealing with COVID-19 that are already fragile and in conflict situations, making threats is even more alarming.

Given the role of regional, sub-regional and interregional organizations in supporting and collaborating with international institutions and governments, they offer important lessons to ensuring the global coordination needed to recover from the crisis. This includes working across borders to share best practices for mitigating the spread, coordinate fiscal measures and boost trade.

The BAPA+40 Outcome document has mentioned the importance of sub-regional, regional and interregional organizations for the promotion of transparent, sustainable and accountable development practices, and for enabling more partnerships, with a view to promoting and scaling up best practices to benefit developing countries.

In this context, the aim of the webinar was to contribute to a global and regional exchange of experiences that could increase understanding of the challenges and solutions, improve the effectiveness of cross-disciplinary responses, and leverage cooperation amongst countries, including through South-South and triangular cooperation.

Following is the detail of speakers:

  • Ms. Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director, UNOSSC (Moderator)
  • Mr. Jorge Chediek, Director of UNOSSC & Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation New York, United States (Opening Remarks)
  • Mr. Fadi Abdullah Farasin, Assistant Director-General, Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Centre for Islamic Countries (SESRIC), a subsidiary organ of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) (Panelists)
  • Mr. Habib Ur Rehman Mayar, Deputy General Secretary, g7+ Secretariat & Executive Director of g7+ Foundation (Panelists)
  • Ms. Sara Hamouda, SDGs and Agenda 2063 Expert, African Peer Review Mechanism, African Union (Panelists)
  • Dr. Azeema Fareed, Principle Medical Officer, Commission on Science & Technology for Sustainable Development in the South, (COMSATS) (Panelists)
  • Prof. Santiago Fiorio Vaesken, Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Officer, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay (Panelists)
  • Mr. Stephan Klingebiel, Director of USPC, Republic of Korea (Concluding Remarks)