Think20: Bhopal Declaration Asks Developed Countries to Fulfil SDG Commitment & Seeks Enhanced South-South Cooperation

February 16, 2023

Representatives of G20 countries pitched for South-South cooperation and asked developed nations to fulfil their commitment towards funding progress towards the SDGs in the developing countries in the ”Bhopal Declaration” during a recent Think20 event in Bophal, India. The event was organised by the Research and Information System (RIS) for Developing Countries in collaboration with the Madhya Pradesh government, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other organisations in Bhopal as part of India’s G20 presidency. The theme of the event was: ”Global Governance with LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment), Values and Wellbeing: Fostering Cooperation in Framework, Finance and Technology”.

South-South cooperation refers to the technical cooperation among developing countries in the global South. ”The world is passing through turbulent times of multiple crises – including on food security, fuel and health. Post-COVID recovery has become uncertain and prolonged, and progress towards the SDGs has and slowed down drastically across many countries of the world,” the declaration issued at the end of the two-day event said. The Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of interlinked objectives designed to serve as a ”shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet now and into the future”.

The declaration made certain recommendations, saying,”developed countries urgently need to fulfil their commitment towards funding SDG progress in developing countries, especially Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The recommendation said the G20 should promote and act on the voices of the South, encompassing a wider spectrum of global governance, access to financial resources, frameworks for dealing with climate change, resolving debt and macro-economic instability and related areas. ”South-South cooperation should be need-based, demand-driven and respect the sovereignty of the partner countries,” it said, adding the global South should increasingly play a role in the formulation of a framework for global governance.

The Declaration said G20 could consider establishing a network of researchers and advocacy groups to build databases, document best practices, and share expertise for collating inputs for the new development paradigm.

The transformation of economic systems is required for achieving the SDGs. Further, there are high linkages between such transformation and sustainable development, the Declaration said. It also emphasized that the diversification of Global Value Chains (GVCs) is necessary, but with special and differential treatment to developing countries exporting nations. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in services, infrastructure sectors and logistics could facilitate the effective participation of countries in regional GVCs.

The Declaration also emphasized that service sectors such as IT, business consultancy, financial services, healthcare, tourism, etc. possess a tremendous potential for trade, investment and job creation, calling for concerted action by the G20 countries. The declaration further said traditional medicine, especially Indian systems of medicine like Ayurveda, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) could form a strong pillar of the ‘One Health’ approach. There is an urgent need to launch the G20 forum on traditional medicine and take AYUSH and all traditional medicine-based global industries forward. A Forum on Traditional Medicine (FTM) needs to be constituted by G20 for collaboration and cooperation on strengthening traditional medicine, it said. The declaration said the G20 along with developing countries should prioritise ”child budgets” and focus on early childhood development (ECD) and invest in universal social protection benefits for children – particularly in the early years of childhood. These are simple, scalable and sustainable steps in achieving both wellness and oneness as societies and fulfilling the human capital potential of future generations and are the new vision of the Indian presidency of the G20. It demanded effective measures to prevent child abuse, child labour, and inherent bias against the girl child. The increasing climate-related catastrophes like cyclones and floods have necessitated building climate-resilient infrastructure, the declaration said. ”G20 should facilitate sharing of expertise and facilitate replication of the success stories on financial inclusion, self-employment through income-generating activities, women entrepreneurship, enrolment of a higher number of girl children in schools and effective participation of women in various fields of excellence e.g. sports, defence, space in developing countries,” it said. There is a need to have a gender data network by G20, it said. It is an opportune time for G20 countries to engage in discussions to evolve a comprehensive measure of Well-being based on sustainability principles.

Shri Devare, former ambassador and chairman of the Research Advisory Council (RAC) at RIS, presided over the concluding event. According to him, several ideas on global finance architecture were proposed during the event. ”There were also views expressed that G20 could play a contributory role in the tragedy that is happening in the Russia-Ukraine war, which has implications across the board,” he said. Talking to reporters, George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, said the G20 vision of ”One Earth, One Family and One Future”, should prioritise brain power or cognitive capacities of individuals and nations. ”We know that investments in early childhood and adolescence can be a powerful driver of inclusive economic growth. The world needs to advance cognitive development, which necessitates a new development model. We know with India in the lead of G20, this new model will emerge,” he said. Around 300 delegates and experts, including 94 foreign guests from various countries, took part in the conclave which began on Monday.

India assumed the G20 presidency for one year on December 1, 2022. The G20, or Group of 20, is an intergovernmental forum of the world’s major developed and developing economies.

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