Professor Shahbaz Khan, Director and UNESCO Representative to the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea
On 14 September 2021, the Asia-Pacific Regional Office of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), convened a virtual event for the Commemoration of the UN Day for South-South Cooperation. The Official date for the UN Day for South-South Cooperation was on Sunday, 12 September and hence the event was rescheduled for 14 September. The commemoration constituted two segments, an opening session with reflections from the United Nations Secretary-General, the President of the United Nations General Assembly and local messages from the Director-General of the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA); and representatives of the co-organising institutions, UNESCAP and UNDP. The second segment was a meeting of the intergovernmental organisations in Asia-Pacific. The organisers had invited 28 such intergovernmental institutions. Apart from the moderators of the three breakout groups, all the speakers were from the invited intergovernmental organisations. Of the 198 registered prospective participants, about 125 joined the meeting.
This virtual event on the commemoration of the UN Day for South-South Cooperation was designed to be a networking platform for regional and subregional intergovernmental organizations and groupings in Asia and the Pacific, to discuss the latest developments in South-South and triangular cooperation at the global and regional levels; to exchange ideas, experiences, good practices and lessons learnt; to showcase successes, address challenges, and explore opportunities/solutions to further strengthen South-South and triangular cooperation. There were three thematic-focused discussions on the topics of, (i) Climate change and green recovery, (ii) digital transformation, and (iii) SMEs Recovery and entrepreneurship.
These thematic areas, juxtaposed with the COVID-19 pandemic, were also identified by all the opening session speakers as key challenges facing the global community. Mr. António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, in his video, suggested that the principles of South-South Cooperation including solidarity and empathy are necessary to meet today’s challenges. H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the General Assembly candidly insisted that “Countries of the Global South need to be helped”. Earlier, Mr. Adel Abdellatif, UNOSSC Director a.i., had spoken on the same theme and related his discussions with a Minister in the Region on the need for a mechanism to provide vaccines for the Global South.
The plenary report back from the breakout groups reinforced the perception that these global mega-issues are even more important for Asia-Pacific. Several institutions had reported on their roles under the three themes within the context of COVID-19 recovery. The Climate Change and green recovery group, spear-headed by three speakers out of four coming from the Pacific, underlined that COVID is a transitory challenge while climate change is “there to stay”. They emphasized that the region should not be preoccupied by the pandemic to the extent of forgetting the real problem for the Pacific.
On digitalization, the report back showed that very interesting presentations had taken place and that the scope of the action required “a Galaxy for Digitalisation” for sharing experiences. The group noted the increasingly important role of ICT Ministries and how governments need to mainstream digitalisation to all areas (not only education and health sectors), by using the whole of government approach. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) shared the example of how to use satellite technology in the Pacific islands to connect hospitals, schools etc. The breakout group suggested that South-South Cooperation needs to bring frameworks from more developed to less developed countries in cyber security and cybercrime.
The last group discussed measures that countries have put in place for the recovery of the SMEs. Despite Government efforts, surveys taken by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had shown that whatever had been provided was not “enough”. The representative of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) laid out the challenges for his region, including a lack of harmonized policies and security. In reference to one of the members of ECO, he indicated the huge challenges ahead and that his organization welcomed support from other regional institutions to resolve some of the challenges.
In closing the meeting, Mr. Denis Nkala, the Regional Coordinator of the UN office for South-South Cooperation in Asia-Pacific, noted how the themes discussed had resonated with the urgent calls for action from New York and furthermore, how interlinked the three themes are. “They can be looked at as individual challenges or cross-cutting challenges”, he said.
On the way forward, ESCAP expressed the desire to see the Intergovernmental Platform sustained and UNESCAP and UNOSSC will discuss if this can be part of the Pacific Director Generals Forum.
The participants were also introduced to three initiatives supporting South-South cooperation, the South-South Galaxy, the United Nations Systemwide South-South and triangular cooperation Strategy and the South-South profiles of leaders in the Pacific and their views on South-South cooperation.
South-South Cooperation Day 2021 in Asia-Pacific: Opening-Breakout Session 2 Digital Transformation
South-South Cooperation Day 2021 in Asia-Pacific: Breakout Session 1 Climate Change
South-South Cooperation Day 2021 in Asia-Pacific: Breakout Session 3 SMEs and Entrepreneurship