Commentary: The rise of South-South cooperation in the Guiana Shield

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Dr Henry MacDonald is the former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Suriname to the United Nations (from 2007 to 2017) and currently he is the President of the World Development Foundation (a New York- and Paramaribo-based nongovernmental organization)

By Dr Henry MacDonald

Recent visits by important global development players as China, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Brazil and soon countries like Ghana, the UAE, Iran, South Africa, the Gulf States and others to our shores, should be welcomed viewed in line with increased South-South cooperation efforts.

South-South cooperation is a new paradigm and concept used by policymakers and academics to describe the exchange of all resources (including financial), technology, and knowhow between developing countries.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) identifies and promotes South-South cooperation “as bold, innovative, and growing means to strengthen cooperation for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, the global plan of action for people, planet and prosperity to eradicate poverty”.

In recent years, the international community has experienced a changing face of official development assistance (ODA) and aid donors. Traditionally, aid and development assistance came from the developed countries (many of which were the former colonizers of Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America).

Over the past decade, institutions like the G-77 and China, NAM, OIC, the African Group, CELAC, ECLAC, UNASUR, ASEAN, the Arab League, ACS, CARICOM, AOSIS and many others, have been supporting a broader framework for development cooperation. Presently, as a result, various wealthier developing countries are taking a more prominent role in the donor line-up. The title that is being given to this change in support is South-South Cooperation.

South-South Cooperation is being used as a supplement of the longstanding North-South Cooperation and creates a broader framework for collaboration among countries of the South (Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean region) in the political, academic, diplomatic, financial, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains.

Developing countries nowadays share know-how, proficiency, skills, expertise and resources to meet their development goals through combined efforts. According to the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, “Recent developments in South-South cooperation have taken the form of increased volume of South-South trade, South-South flows of foreign direct investment, movements towards regional integration, technology transfers, sharing of solutions and experts, and other forms of exchanges.”

A very important aspect in this is that South-South Cooperation is being coordinated and steered by the developing countries themselves, with active participation by their governments, as well as public and private sector actors, academia, corporations, institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

It was the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) that introduced the term South-South Cooperation to the international development and diplomatic community.

The expression was introduced on 24th July 1994 but was not used as part of the nomenclature defining the purposes and aims of the organisation. Back than the, ACS was viewed as a part of a second generation, modern, outward-looking integration organization that should build a bridge between the English-speaking Caribbean members and their Spanish-, French-, and Dutch-speaking neighbors, creating what is now referred to as the Greater Caribbean.

At the heart of the ACS is still a strong illustration of South-South cooperation manifested within the organisation. From its inception until to date, the Association of Caribbean States continues to enhance cooperation and partnerships between its developing member countries and observer states.

Today, more and more developing countries, which almost all happen to be in the global south, are making the deliberate choice to turn towards each other, in order to advance their economic growth and development sustainably.

Important at this stage is still to assess the direct benefits for countries in the global south to link all their resources (including financial), expertise, technology and capabilities in one common pool. Also, what do developing countries hope to achieve through the strengthening of ties between themselves? And last but not least, how should populations in the small but resourceful developing countries be informed about the benefits of South-South cooperation, as well as the role of the media in this?

According to the United Nations Development Program, the following are the principal benefits for the southern developing partners:

• “fostering the self-reliance of developing countries by enhancing their creative capacity to find solutions to their development problems in keeping with their aspirations, values and special needs”;

• “promoting and strengthening collective self-reliance among developing countries through the exchange of experiences; the pooling, sharing and use of technical and other resources; and the development of complementary capacities”;

• “strengthening the capacity of developing countries to identify and analyze together their main development issues and formulate the requisite strategies to address them”;

• “increasing the quantity and enhance the quality of international development cooperation through the pooling of capacities to improve the effectiveness of the resources devoted to such cooperation”;

• “creating and strengthening existing technological capacities in developing countries, in order to improve the effectiveness with which such capacities are used and to improve the capacity of developing countries to absorb and adapt technology and skills to meet their specific developmental needs”;

• “increasing and improving communications among developing countries, leading to a greater awareness of common problems and wider access to available knowledge and experience as well as the creation of new knowledge in tackling development problems”;

• “recognizing and responding to the problems and requirements of the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States, and the country’s most seriously affected by, for example, natural disasters and other crises”; and

• “enabling developing countries to achieve a greater degree of participation in international economic activities and to expand international cooperation for development”.

The UNDP renders further that: “When approached and undertaken within the most optimal environment, this comprehensive methodology will lead to benefits such as the strengthening of the bargaining power of developing countries in multilateral negotiations; opening of additional channels of communication among developing countries; promotion and strengthening of economic integration among developing countries, on as wide a geographic basis as possible; increased knowledge of and confidence in the capacities available in developing countries; and the coordination of policies on development issues relevant to a number of developing countries”.

South-South cooperation has strongly come to life over the past decade. Development partnerships between Africa and for instance India have been progressing, since the first Africa-India Forum was launched in New Delhi in 2008, followed by the second in Addis Ababa in 2011 and the third in 2015, once again in New Delhi.

The One Belt One Road initiative, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is another international project initiated by the China. Its objective is to build trade routes between China and the countries in Central Asia, Europe and Indo-Pacific littoral countries. Obviously, this initiative is in China’s interest, but also in the interest of the rest of the world, according to various professionals.

Dominique de Villepin, former French prime minister, summarized this initiative as follows: “China’s plan to rebuild the Silk Road is a story that we can write together to be all winners of the new economic development”.

Meanwhile, because of the spectacular oil and gas findings in Guyana over the past three years, and the possibility of similar results in Suriname, a number of strong and substantial development partners from the south have been visiting Guyana and Suriname to promote increased cooperation.

For some years our two countries have been calling for increased South-South cooperation.

It is now our time to think, plan and strategize how to put our development policies on a faster implementation and transparent track.

There is an important role for everyone to play, namely politicians, academics, business people, religious organizations, the media, service clubs and other NGOs, as well as ordinary citizens.

Consequently, issues like corruption, good governance, accountability and leadership through integrity should become centerstage in our political and developmental agenda.

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