The g7+: Strength Amid Fragility- South-South Cooperation and Development for a New Century

Sep 11, 2020 | News, UN Day for SSC 2020

September 12 is the International Day of South-South Cooperation (SSC).

Lessons from the g7+ show how voluntarism, cooperation, and solidarity are raising the voice of the global south in the international peace and development agenda.


Development for a new era

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that more than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by conflict and fragility.The development needs of such populations require special attention. Many affected countries have moved beyond being passive recipients of aid and together, are creating development models that reflect their unique challenges. The idea of developing states – the ‘Global South’ – helping each other, gained prominence in the 1950s. It was further formalised with the establishment of the United Nations Office of South- South Cooperation (UNOSSC) as a special unit within the United Nations Development Programme in 1974.

In the 21st century, lessons from the challenge of meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) saw the establishment of new institutions supporting SSC. These include the g7+ group of nations – formalised in Dili, Timor Leste in 2010.

Comprised of 20 nations experiencing conflict or transitioning to sustainable development, the g7+ provides a way to raise the voice of member nations in international forums and to share development experiences. In its brief history, the g7+ has achieved several success stories that demonstrate the versatility of the organization.

In 2012, g7+ member state Guinea-Bissau faced political instability following a coup d’état. Contested political legitimacy of the transitional government required new elections but traditional development partners were unable or unwilling to support elections to resolve the crisis.

As a fragile nation with substantial experience in holding free and fair elections, Timor Leste lent electoral management support via its Ministry of State Administration to Guinea Bissau. This helped Guinea Bissau hold free and fair elections for a fraction of the originally estimated $40 million. 

Many rural communities face challenges in acccesing basic services and utilities such as water, electricity, and education. Photo: Alex Ray/UNDP

[nectar_single_testimonial testimonial_style=”small_modern” color=”Default” quote=”“The support provided by our brothers, the people of Timor-Leste, was truly decisive. They knew the process well and successfully addressed the problems which arose on several occasions during the electoral census…,” ~ H.E. Rui Duarte Barros, Prime Minister of the Transitional Government of Guinea Bissau (2012-2014)”]

The resulting peaceful elections and reinstatement of a constitutionally legitimate government saw the international community commit €1 billion to Guinea Bissau at a donors conference in March 2015.

In response to emerging crises in some g7+ member states, and the increased capacities of fragile states to support each other, in 2013 the g7+ formally launched Fragile- Fragile (F2F) cooperation as a flagship programme. The significance of F2F goes beyond individual acts of cooperation however to how the values and principles it affirms relate to the global peace agenda.

Peaceful and transparent elections are one of the major achievements of Timor Leste. Photo: Rochan Kadariya/UNDP

[nectar_single_testimonial testimonial_style=”small_modern” color=”Default” quote=”“The g7+ was the very first intergovernmental organization to take an interest in the crisis in the Central African Republic,” ~ H.E. Florence Limbio, Minister of the Economy, Planning and Cooperation of the Central African Republic (2014-2016)”]

Parliaments at the centre of governance

This is particularly clear in the commitment of F2F in pursuing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions – as it constitutes a precondition for progress on other SDGs.

To continue working on SDG 16 the g7+ is developing a new Parliamentary Assembly initiative, being led by the national parliaments of Sierra Leone and Timor Leste. Timor Leste has hosted the g7+ Secretariat since 2010, and the Ministerial Forum (the highest decision-making body of the g7+) is currently held by H.E. Momodu Lamin Kargbo, Minister of Finance and Economic Development of Sierra Leone.

While institutionally separate from the g7+, the Parliamentary Assembly’s work will increase parliamentary understanding and awareness of the key challenges affecting the resilience, peace and development of g7+ members. 

It will also support the primary goal of raising the voice of the g7+ countries in the development and peace agenda, by further aligning their stances and coordination on key issues.

The Parliamentary Assembly initiative is important to accrue gains in improved governance practices among members of parliament from parties supporting the government as well as those in opposition. As members of parliament also have more direct contact with citizens, an assembly of g7+ parliaments will enable dialogue and voicing of interests that more accurately reflect the diversity of domestic political positions.

In a world with increasing gaps between citizens and their representatives, this advance among g7+ Parliaments shows their willingness to resist this trend.

Parliaments also:

  • Inform and shape the development of government ideas and are potential partners for international organisations seeking to help a country meet its policy goals.
  • Play a key role in financial oversight and fighting corruption
  • Protect human rights and strengthen the justice system, and create opportunities for genuine dialogue within the formal political process.
  • Promote inclusive government by advocating for consideration of gender equality and under-represented groups in policymaking.

Peaceful and transparent elections are one of the major achievements of Timor Leste. Photo: Rochan Kadariya/UNDP

To support the dialogue of the Parliamentary Assembly a ‘Virtual Secretariat’ is being established with the support of the UNDP Parliament Project in the National Parliament of Timor-Leste.

Although the Virtual Secretariat was agreed to prior to the emergence of Covid-19, in the current context, where movement constraints are severely limiting, the Virtual Secretariat will provide a cost-effective, shock-resilient and versatile way to maintain information flows and cooperation among disparate nations.

Peaceful and transparent elections are one of the major achievements of Timor Leste. Photo: Rochan Kadariya/UNDP

Virtual Secretariat is structured to represent the principles of inclusivity and gender equality. It includes a women’s caucus – to collaborate on addressing gender inequality by including a gender perspective in decisions adopted by the Assembly – and youth caucus, assembling parliamentarians younger than 40 to build networks across g7+ member states to collaborate on addressing challenges that youth face.

The Virtual Secretariat is to be incorporated in ‘South-South Galaxy’ – an online platform powered by artificial intelligence being established under the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation. South-South Galaxy will help fragile states publish development solutions and needs, exchange knowledge, foster partnerships, access research, and engage in capacity building.