The Third United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, held in Brussels in May 2001, emphasized the importance of South-South cooperation in capacity-building and setting best practices, particularly in the areas of health, education, training, environment, science and technology, trade, investment and transit transport cooperation.

The International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Monterrey, Mexico in March 2002, specifically encouraged South-South cooperation, including through triangular cooperation, to facilitate exchange of views on successful strategies, practices and experience and replication of projects. Further, it urged the strengthening of South-South cooperation in the delivery of assistance.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in August 2002, adopted a Declaration and an Implementation Plan that specifically endorsed South-South cooperation and strong regional and subregional action.

With the aim of mobilizing global awareness of, and support for, South-South cooperation for inclusive development, the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution 58/220 of 23 December 2003, proclaimed the 19th of December as the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, with the first such United Nations Day held on 19 December 2004. The event has since served as a vibrant platform for the international community to celebrate achievements; share development successes; explore new avenues for collaboration; forge innovative and inclusive partnerships; and launch concrete collaborative schemes towards achieving internationally development goals (IADGs), including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), under South-South, East-East, East-South, public-private, and North-South-South triangular arrangements.

In December 2011, the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Second Committee, decided that, beginning in 2012, the observance of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation would be changed from 19 December to 12 September, to mark the day in 1978 when the United Nations Conference on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries adopted the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.

The world has undergone a major economic and political transformation in the last two decades. The changes, particularly in the South, have been more rapid than at any time during a similar span in world history. Relationships within the South and between the South and the North have taken on entirely new dimensions. Key current issues such as the environment and climate change, energy and food security, global poverty, the linkage between growth and equity, and migration are today more global than North-South in nature.

Many countries in the South have built up significant financial and technical capacities. They have begun to transfer some of these resources, on concessional and non-concessional terms, to other countries in the South in the context of an inclusive approach to the management of global problems, spreading the benefits of globalization more widely, creating new markets, and building a broader foundation for sustainable economic growth. In recent years, building on a long history of assistance and other cooperation among developing countries, several Southern countries have become significant partners for development cooperation. A new dimension is clearly being added to development cooperation, particularly for Africa and the Southern countries that remain specially disadvantaged, particularly the least developed countries (LDCs), the landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and the small island developing States (SIDS).

In order to fully harness the vast number of available Southern development solutions to help address old and emerging Southern challenges, the United Nations Secretary-General, in his report to the sixty-second session of the General Assembly (A/62/295), among other things, called upon the international development community, including the United Nations system, to help scale up the impact of South-South cooperation by

(a) optimizing the use of South-South approaches in achieving the IADGs, including the MDGs;
(b) intensifying multilateral support for South-South initiatives to address common development challenges;
(c) fostering inclusive partnerships for South-South cooperation, including triangular and public-private partnerships;
(d) improving the coherence of United Nations system support for such cooperation; and
(e) encouraging innovative financing for South-South and triangular cooperation.

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