On 15 December 2020, nineteen participants participated in a face to face retreat at Anantara hotel in Bangkok. An additional sixteen participants joined the meeting online. The participants were drawn from UN agencies and intergovernmental institutions. The one-day Retreat was organized by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)’s regional office in Asia and the Pacific.
In the opening session, Mr. Denis Nkala, UNOSSC Regional Coordinator for Asia-Pacific, delivered welcoming remarks. “Today we have convened this retreat to exchange knowledge about what we are doing, the changing environment around us, and how South-South cooperation can be deployed to achieve transformation and respond to development challenges in the region. In particular, we will try to seek cooperation among UN entities and partners, which is at the heart of the UN reforms,” he said.
Mr Nkala proceeded to make a presentation on the history of South-South and triangular cooperation, how their relevancy had been shown in the pandemic and how South-South Cooperation can be deployed under the UN reforms happening at regional and country level. He emphasized that the principles of South-South Cooperation, solidarity and empathy were exactly what was required in response to the pandemic. Surveys done and transactions facilitated by the Office had shown that almost every responding country to the survey had received assistance from others in the global South. The trust fund resources managed by UNOSSC under IBSA and the India-UN Partnership fund had been repurposed to support other countries respond to the challenges of COVID-19.
Mr. Christophe Bahuet, UNDP Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific and Director of Bangkok Regional Hub, underlined three premises of the significance of South-South Cooperation in the region. Firstly, he said, a sense of cooperation is absolutely central to the national development of countries in the region. Secondly, the Asia-Pacific countries are not only recipients of South-South cooperation, but they are also increasingly providing development cooperation assistance in a very structured and institutional way. Thirdly, South-South cooperation is a central part of the work in the United Nations Development System, and that is reflected in the Common Countries Analyses (CCA) and in the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks (SDCF).
In the follow-up session, Professor Shahbaz Khan, Director of the UNESCO Office, pointed out that in the context of pressing planetary and socio-economic challenges, sustainable and innovative digitalization solutions can deliver positive impact on SDGs for society in a high quality, relevant and efficient way. He proceeded to give examples of the essential role of digitalization in post COVID-19 pandemic recovery and aspects of development ranging from culture, education and science and technology.
The retreat touched on critical issues such as the role for South-South and triangular cooperation in digitalization in the South, South-South and Triangular cooperation in the scope of COVID-19 response, and information on resources for South-South cooperation. Each session was followed by rigorous discussion. The participants had opportunities to share their initiatives, opportunities, and challenges.
Fourteen institutions, namely, the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP), the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS), FAO, ILO, the International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation under the Auspices of UNESCO (ISTIC), Partners in Population and Development (PPD), UNCDF, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCAP, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNV and World Food Programme took up the opportunity to present their perspective on South-South cooperation or to express appreciation for the Retreat.
At the end of the retreat Mr. Nkala and Mr. Arya summarised the main points of agreement as follows: