Alexandru Cujba is Secretary-General of the South-South Steering Committee for Sustainable Development (SS-SCSD) and Director-General of the International Organization for South-South Cooperation (IOSSC).
- World leaders will meet at the United Nations summit from Sep. 25 to 27 in New York at a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly. This year’s summit is special in many respects.
It marks the 70th anniversary of the U.N. at a critical time for international peace and security, and the adoption of an ambitious new development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose timeline expires at the end of 2015.
A set of eight development objectives that focused on the sustainable development of countries in the global South, the MDGs were agreed to by all U.N. member states at the Millennium Summit, in September 2000.
They range from reducing extreme poverty rates by half and eradicating hunger, to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and achieving universal primary education. The U.N General Assembly was given the mandate to promote, support and document member states’ progress toward achieving the MDGs by the target date of 2015.
It’s not every day that the U.N. gets high marks for its work. And, to be fair, the MDGs have delivered mixed results in some key areas. But as the sun sets on this historic policy initiative and world leaders prepare to adopt the succeeding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the General Assembly should be commended for its role of spearheading the global development agenda over the past fifteen years.
By galvanizing unprecedented efforts by governments and the private sector to meet the needs of the world’s poorest, the General Assembly has assumed a leadership position unlike any other in its 70-year history. One of the U.N’s principal organs, it has not only put in place more reliable mechanisms to measure the evolution of the sustainable development agenda, it has also helped foster a new environment rich in potential for cooperation between the countries of the developing South.
To be sure, the promotion of South-South cooperation is hardly a new task for the General Assembly. The concept started in the 1960s as a broad framework for collaborations initiated, organized and managed by countries in the global South, promoting the exchange of resources, technology and knowledge among themselves.
By 1974, the idea had gained enough traction that the General Assembly set up the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation within the U.N. Development Programme to serve as clearinghouse for best practices and lessons learned. At the turn of the century, world leaders adopted the MDGs and Sep.12 was declared U.N. Day for South-South Cooperation.
New initiatives emerged, being propelled by developing countries, and partnerships with the private sector and civil society. But it wasn’t until Feb. 2010, with the MDG experiment in full swing, that the International Organization for South-South Cooperation (IOSSC) was launched at the 16th session of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation.
By then, it had become clear that the real value of cooperation between countries in the developing South lies not only in the sharing of best practices, but more in ensuring the application of such best practices and experiences. And so IOSSC’s tasked itself with supporting U.N. development efforts, exchange knowledge and best practices in the area of South-South and triangular cooperation and build partnerships between governments from developing countries and private sector companies.
Now in its fifth year, IOSSC is part of the South-South Steering Committee for Sustainable Development (SS-SCSD), an umbrella initiative launched during the 68th session of the U.N. General Assembly, with multiple programmes covering the worlds of diplomacy, politics, business, philanthropy and international development.
On Sep. 26, the South-South Awards, one of the organization’s flagship programmes organized in collaboration with Member States and U.N. agencies and programmes, among others, will take place at New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel, honouring the achievements and contributions of heads of state and government, as well as representatives from the private sector and civil society in promoting sustainable development in the global South.
This is a special year for the SS-SCSD and IOSSC, and the selection of award recipients reflects the importance of the occasion. Among them are the leaders of countries from the developing South that have realized important MDGs; a group of doctors who helped combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa; a philanthropist whose foundation distributes free hearing aids to people in poor countries; and a number of personalities from the world of entertainment and the arts who have championed various aspects of sustainable development through their work.
But the real star of the evening is likely to be the United Nations General Assembly, which is being honored for its leadership in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. The General Assembly should not rest on its laurels, however.
With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, which are expected to continue the successes of the MDGs, the General Assembly must remain true to the core mission of the U.N. development agenda and keep the focus firmly on the sustainable development of the countries of the global South.
More specifically, it should redouble its efforts to strengthen trade and commerce and technical cooperation between the countries of the global South, and provide new avenues for these countries to forge public-private partnerships to realize their development objectives.
We stand at a critical time today. The global economic and political landscape is undergoing a major shift. China has emerged as the world’s second largest economy, seven of the ten fastest growing economies are in Africa, and Southeast Asia continues on a growth unprecedented in its post-colonial history.
To all this, the international community is responding with increasingly new cooperation mechanisms and policy frameworks. With the SS-SCSD and IOSSC, and similar international institutions, in particular from the U.N. system, at their side, developing countries now have at their disposal additional means of promoting their development agendas not only to private investors and traditional multilateral funders, but – more importantly – to one another. And the General Assembly should continue to guide and inspire their efforts.