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No. 183, 12 July 2019
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BAPA+40 is an Impetus to the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

By Yuefen LI

The United Nations Second High-level Conference on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40) not only gave an impetus to the further expansion of South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTrC) but also to the attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Currently, the main task is how to implement the outcome document of BAPA+40.

La deuxième Conférence de haut niveau des Nations Unies sur la coopération Sud-Sud (BAPA+40) a permis d’insuffler un nouvel élan dans le cadre à la fois du processus d’élargissement de la coopération Sud-Sud et de la coopération triangulaire (CSST) et de la réalisation des objectifs du Programme de développement durable à l'horizon 2030. Le principal enjeu aujourd’hui réside dans la mise en œuvre des recommandations formulées dans le document final du BAPA+40.

La Segunda Conferencia de Alto Nivel de las Naciones Unidas sobre la Cooperación Sur-Sur (PABA+40) impulsó no solo la expansión de la cooperación Sur-Sur y la cooperación triangular (SSTrC, por sus siglas en inglés), sino también la consecución de la Agenda 2030 para el Desarrollo Sostenible. Actualmente, la tarea principal consiste en determinar  cómo aplicar el documento final del PABA+40.


The United Nations Second High-level Conference on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40) held in March 2019 in Argentina was meant not only to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA) but also to give further impetus to the already fast expanding South-South cooperation (SSC) which has been acknowledged as an important tool for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The conference took place at a challenging time when the international system has been at a troubled phase of rising geopolitical tension, deliberate weakening of multilateralism by some countries and increasing protectionism, as well as an emerging tendency to retreat from globalization and to adopt inward-looking policies,[1] or deglobalization. The preparatory process and the BAPA+40 conference itself have provided the international community with a good opportunity to review the changing and still evolving dynamics and increasing importance of South-South cooperation.
SSC has gone through ups and downs. It was only a trickle by volume in the1950s and 1960s. The 1970s saw an increase of SSC which was mostly in the form of technical assistance programs. The debt crisis and the imposition of structural adjustment programs on some countries in the 1980s dampened SSC as countries were preoccupied with their own crisis resolution. However, the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s led to increasing financial cooperation among the Southern countries which further discovered the strength of collective self-reliance to counter financial instability.[2] A decade of almost synchronized economic expansion before the 2008 global financial crisis was a period of fast expansion of SSC in volume, partners and modalities covering the political, economic, social, cultural and technical domains. The post-crisis period has witnessed how some emerging developing countries have gained stature in the international cooperation landscape as their scale of South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTrC) has reached an extent which cannot be overlooked, though far behind North-South cooperation. Its potential has been appreciated more keenly with rising nationalism and trade protectionism in some countries.
The fast expansion of SSC is not only because a number of emerging economies have made important progress in catching up with their peers in the North, but more importantly as a demonstration of solidarity among the South. The proximity in historical background and development stages has made SSC not only more cost effective but also more responsive to development problems. The diversity among the Southern countries has provided many opportunities to forge effective partnerships to benefit from each other’s experiences while promoting economic growth. Mutual benefits enjoyed by both SSC providers and recipients have initiated a snowballing effect of SSC activities. The horizontal partnership relationship is a reflection of the SSC principles of peer-to-peer learning and mutual benefit, which make SSC more attractive at a time when Official Development Assistance (ODA) has been diluted and declining in the context of declining multilateralism.
The BAPA+40 Outcome Document includes important future areas of work which should help realize the full potential of SSTrC in the context of Agenda 2030. Currently, development partners have been actively engaging in designing ways to fully and effectively implement the Outcome Document including enhancing partnership among institutions in their common endeavor to promote SSTrC. For instance, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the South Centre and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) have already started to discuss their partnership in implementing some selected areas indicated in the outcome document. These partnerships will build bridges, overcome divergences and consolidate the ongoing development-oriented cooperation, which may, to some extent, fill in the gap left by the weakening multilateralism.
Three years have passed since the adoption of the 2030 agenda, however progress made in some areas are limited.[3] It is of utmost importance to maximize South-South cooperation and leverage global partnerships to implement the BAPA+40 Outcome Document to support countries and the international community in achieving the noble goals of the 2030 agenda. While acknowledging SSTrC as a fundamental tool for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), North-South cooperation should also be scaled up as it constitutes the major part of development cooperation. If not effectively done, our aspiration of leaving no one behind would be elusive.
[1] Bank for International Settlements, “Globalisation and deglobalisation”, BIS Papers No 100 (21 December 2018).
[2] Yuefen LI, Financial cooperation among developing countries (South Centre, forthcoming).
[3] United Nations, The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018.
Author: Yuefen LI is Senior Advisor on South-South Cooperation and Development Finance of the South Centre.

This article was published in the Islamic Development Bank (ISDB)'s SDGs Digest, July 2019.

* The views contained in this article are attributable to the author and do not represent the institutional views of the South Centre or its Member States.

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