Message by Mr. Carlos Correa, Executive Director, South Centre: Enhance SSC in the Era of COVID-19 & the Recovery Process

September 11, 2020

Message by Mr. Carlos Correa, Executive Director of South Centre on the 2020 UN Day for South-South Cooperation

12 September 2020 – On the occasion of the 42nd anniversary of the United Nations (UN) South-South Cooperation (SSC) Day, we should celebrate the great achievements made over the years, highlight the immense challenges ahead in flattening the curve of COVID-19 and recover better through leveraging South-South and Triangular cooperation (SSTrC).

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown the vulnerabilities of the Global South including very fragile health systems, narrow fiscal space, heavy debt burden, huge digital divide and lack of sufficient infrastructure for hygiene and sanitation. In the absence of effective therapies to prevent or treat COVID-19 and a vaccine, observing hygiene and social distancing have to play a vital role in preventing the spread of the virus. However, easy access to clean running water and soap, the lack of adequate housing and social protection in informal settings are still challenges in many developing countries even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

While many developed countries have spent trillions to bail out enterprises and provide social protection to the poorer sections of the society, very few developing countries could afford similar stimulus packages. This has risked many more people and families falling back into poverty.

However, in this testing time, many developing countries have also put in place timely, sound and meaningful policies to counter the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic fallouts. Southern solidarity was demonstrated during the crisis. Many Southern countries have provided vital support to other countries of the South. Meaningful exchange of national experiences has been conducted among the Southern countries to the benefit of policy makers.

The South Centre, being an intergovernmental think tank for the South, has published research and policy papers for raising awareness and advising countries on the available options. Webinars have been organized covering health, intellectual property rights, taxation, trade, responsible investment for development, among others.

On SSTrC, the South Centre has conducted research, capacity building and advisory work to assist the developing countries.  Based on the field experience of Reverse Linkage and advisory work of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the South Centre has worked closely with IsDB in developing a framework called “National Ecosystems for South-South and Triangular Cooperation”.  A webinar will be co-organized to mark the UN South-South Cooperation Day by the IsDB, the South Centre and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) on 15 September on “South-South & Triangular Cooperation in the Context of COVID-19: Lessons, Experiences and Insights for the Future of Development”.

While still trying to resuscitate economies to contain the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global South has already started to map how to build their resilience after the crisis and achieve a more equitable, greener and better world. The importance of SSC cannot be over-emphasized in the recovery process. One question being asked by the Southern countries, the United Nations and many practitioners is whether there will be new characteristics of South-South cooperation in the post COVID-19 era. This is a question we have to explore further in a context of significant changes in the global economy and the weakening of the multilateral system. SSTrC can provide a unique tool to address the emerging ‘techno-nationalism’ and the efforts by some developed countries to increase their autonomy in critical areas and engage in competition rather than cooperation with the rest of the world.