New Delhi : The ‘Conference of Southern Providers on South-South Cooperation : Issues and Emerging Challenges’, organized jointly by Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) in New Delhi on April 15-16 April 2013, proved to be a pioneering initiative which has promoted a much needed discourse on international development cooperation. This Report discusses the key features of the South-South Cooperation that emerged during the deliberations of the Conference of Southern Providers. It also puts together the key recommendations for moving forward towards intensive engagement of Southern partners on development cooperation and global development agenda.
I. Strengthening systematic collection and analysis of evidence
Evidence-based analysis offers a powerful tool for policy and strategy development and should be exploited with greater attention as it also helps to dispel the misconceptions about SSC. Authoritative evidence-based analysis of SSC is limited, which partially hinders the translation of good practices into international standards.
Currently, good data sets are available in some areas like trade and FDI, but are limited in the area of services and development cooperation or in countries with weak economic institutions. There is a need for a demanddriven and structured data collection and information analysis system in order to support the growth and impact of SSC, with a focus on developing corresponding support institutions. This challenge of data gathering and analysis limits the scope for evidence-based analysis.
Due to the diversity of SSC approaches, SSC is meant differently in different contexts. Broadly speaking, South-South trade, investment and development cooperation are all components of SSC which together contribute to a larger development compact.
II. Strengthening the evaluation of SSC programmes and projects
Evaluation has a central role to play in improving SSC projects for example through institution building. Several Southern providers have established or are planning to establish their own development cooperation agencies or specialized divisions across respective Ministries. With the scope and scale of South-South flows increasing, beneficiary countries also see the need to setup dedicated units to manage SSC. Evaluation can foster peer learning and help strengthen institution building.
There is also a need to assess the implications of SSC in order to harness the opportunities it offers. Think tanks and policy research institutions can lead the work in this area. They can develop evaluation frameworks and sharpen evaluation methodologies. In this regard, it is extremely important that the South should mobilise its own resources to strengthen research collaborations and information exchanges.
Prudent evaluation would require extensive and costly databases and techniques, which will be time consuming. New coalition among researchers, practitioners and policy makers at national and regional level would enhance the processes of partnership among countries. Student exchange programmes need to be strengthened among the developing counties, as this will improve people-to-people interaction and researchers can learn from the innovative ways of the host countries. Building a research base for SSC as well as creating a dedicated SSC fund for research can go a long way in maximising the potential of SSC.
III. Establishing platforms to address issues of common concern and interest
The changing development landscape and global norm-setting increasingly calls on Southern partners to coordinate on strategy, policy and operations. Such coordination must be anchored on an appropriate platform. The platform must be credible and inclusive. Existing institutions, including OECD/DAC, IBSA, BRICS, etc., either lack credibility or inclusiveness ; therefore, they cannot be the option. It was cautioned that the concept of a “Southern DAC” risks repeating the mistakes of the North in reaffirming a “give and take” relationship.
However, there is an urgent need for the South to develop such a platform. At national and regional level, mainstreaming of SSC into national and regional systems and processes will ensure that SSC targets its contribution to overall development and towards efficiently utilizing resources. The importance of working with region and country-specific instruments for self-assessment will lead to better socio-economic gains and political governance, which would intensify mutual commitment for development. The proposed Southern platform may help in linking up some of these initiatives.
IV. Strengthening multilateral and regional support
Multilateral and regional institutions play a very important role in creating a platform for knowledge management, which in turn must be further strengthened. The multilateral institutions assume the role of conveners, norm setters, capacity builders, delivery channels and connectors. In these roles, multilateral institutions should include SSC principles and absorb differentiated role for SSC. This conference discussed several instances where multilateral institutions have undermined specific features of SSC while evolving their work programme.
SSC can enjoy positive externalities through engagement with multilateral institutions by using the existing structures of multilateral institutions, which these institutions have created overtime, as well as including networks that can help Southern partners reach a wider audience and can further lead to higher dividends. This multiplier effect can enhance the effectiveness of Southern partners. Multilateral organizations play an important role, which is more than just providing funds. It was also agreed that the role of multilateral institutions should be more in terms of knowledge brokers or facilitators rather than their traditional role of knowledge providers.
They also help in breaking barriers between developing countries. In order to maximize the potential offered by multilateral institutions for SSC, a transformation of the relationship between Southern partners and multilateral institutions is required. The regional institutions can create a multi-level approach where all countries can articulate their views through a coordinating mechanism.
Support from regional and multilateral institutions for SSC is seen as inadequate. It was felt that there is a stronger need to tackle inefficiency in multilateral institutions in order to be more sensitive to the needs and the challenges of the South. Multilateral institutions are not yet geared up to meet the diversified needs of Southern countries, and practical challenges in terms of delivering needs are still to be addressed. Challenge for SSC in dealing with multilateral institutions needs to be highlighted. The lack of mechanism in SSC to use multilateral institutions is seen as an impediment to the communication line between multilateral institution and Southern partners.
Such a mechanism can address a variety of issues and challenges that Southern countries need to tackle. This issue is further aggravated by the lack of resources particularly the funds at the disposal of Southern Partners, which are not sufficient to create structures that can complement the mechanism and further facilitate the process. Legislative challenges and legislation formats of the partner countries are also seen as blocks to fostering relations and it was agreed that legal framework should be more accommodative to the needs of SSC.
V. Cultivating coherent response to the Post-Busan Process and other global processes
Based on historical trust deficit, there are concerns among the Southern partners that the proposed indicators and targets of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation may gradually become the norm for all development cooperation stakeholders, which eventually may result in the issuance of scorecards. South would benefit from discussing at least among them the implications of the new entity in order to formulate coordinated positions before the next meeting of the Global Partnership. This will be more beneficial than simply observing and silently consenting to the DAC agenda. It was felt that donors and Southern partners to some extent share common principles, but imposing the practices and standards of the North is not acceptable.
In principle, partners agreed that the South should shift from a reactive mood to a proactive approach to global processes. Adequate response from the South should be explored further in the follow-up consultations to this conference.
It is felt that the South will have a definite voice in setting priorities for the post-2015 global development agenda. The issue before the South is to ensure that this global development agenda should evolve within the framework of its own development cooperation principles. Therefore, there is need for adopting a coherent approach on a proactive agenda to shape South-South Cooperation in the post-MDG framework.
A smaller group of academics and think tanks from the South should get together to evolve future roadmap in this context. Such a consultation assumes further importance in light of the forthcoming Ministerial Meeting of Global Partnership.
The Delhi Conference of Southern Providers was seen as a timely and transformational event. The dialogue on the broad spectrum of SSC showed the potential to catalyze a more collaborative and intensive engagement of Southern partners on development cooperation issues, global partnership and global development agenda.
Moving forward, there was strong support for continued dialogue within the South with a view of concrete deliverables. In the meantime, it was emphasized that such dialogue should be driven, led and supported by Southern partners. A few areas have the potential to yield concrete results in the medium-term, including better evidence-based analysis as well as knowledge and information sharing among the countries. Effort is also required for improving multilateral support in terms of financial and capacity building that is functionally linked to regional support through political and knowledge exchange mechanisms. This may serve as a building block for strengthened coordination of SSC at global level and on the ground. Governments will use the meeting of Directors- General in Ethiopia on 7 June 2013 to discuss the practical steps.
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