“The South is a font of ideas and actions that are helping to tackle the major challenges of our day.” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his message for the GSSD Expo
“No region of the world has a monopoly of wisdom or appropriate solutions.” – Juan Somavia, ILO Director-General, in his message for the GSSD Expo
From 22 to 26 November, the headquarters of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva turned into the UN Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) where a wide range of actors, including over 600 representatives of 150 UN Member States, as well as representatives from the UN System, civil society, the private sector and academia, were presenting and discussing – in various “Solution Forums” – innovative Southern solutions to emerging development challenges, including social protection and decent work, food security, climate change, HIV/AIDS, health and education. It did justice to the theme of this year’s GSSD Expo, which was “Solutions, Solutions, Solutions!”
The GSSD Expo consisted of a high-level segment, solution forums, a closing ceremony and an exhibition with booths and posters. The high-level segment featured various high-level speakers, such as Juan Somavía, Director-General of the ILO, Celso Amorim, Minister of External Relations of Brazil, Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General for UN Women and former President of Chile; Marius Llewellyn Fransmann, Deputy Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Yiping Zhou, Director of the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.
Delivering the message of UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon at the high-level segment, Juan Somavia underlined that cooperation among developing countries is essential to further advance their development. He noted that many developing countries had shown valuable efforts in job creation and poverty reduction by using homegrown solutions or by drawing on the innovations of others. He emphasized that these experiences need to be shared to further advance their developed. “The Global South-South Development Expo is a valuable opportunity to share information, generate new initiatives, showcase breakthrough technologies and explore what can be done to usher in a greener, more prosperous future,” he said.
Celso Amorim, in his statement, explained that the world as we see it today is largely based on prejudices and mental barriers. “There was no one from Mars or from the Moon that would see the world as necessarily the north being on top and the south being at the bottom. This is purely prejudice,” he stressed. In addition, he noted that he had great difficulty with “these nomenclatures in international cooperation, this idea of donor and recipients, in which donors give, including not only money but they also give orders; and recipients receive some money and a lot of orders. I think we should not be donors and recipients, we should be partners; we are partners fighting for the improvement of the world.”
As mentioned above, also various “Solution Forums” were held. A short overview is presented below:
- Solution Forum on Social Protection and Decent Work: the Forum showed that with the necessary political will and financial resources, southern partners can very well join efforts to advance social protection and decent work objectives in their countries and experience mutual benefits. In fact, the absence of conditionalities is seen as a great advantage in this respect. The Forum highlighted the importance of social protection and featured various best practice examples, such as the Bolsa Familia initiative in Brazil, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India, as well as initiatives in Vietnam.
- Solution Forum on Food Security: this Forum demonstrated good examples on how to tackle food insecurity through South-South cooperation. One example was FAO’s small-holder commercialization programme (SHCP) in Sierra-Leone, where Chinese experts were supporting Sierre Leone farmers with small-scale amongst others irrigation, rice production, beekeeping, and aquaculture. Other examples included Bioversity International’s South-South project between Honduras and Tanzania on improving banana yield in Tanzania; a community driven disaster reduction project (MERET) in Ethiopia, which included South-South exchanges with China, Bangladesh and the Philippines; and the project “New Rice for Africa” (Nerica).
- Solution Forum on Climate Change and Environment: this Forum featured various issues, including rural energy development in Africa, green jobs initiatives, as well as greening the tea industry in East-Africa. Participants recognized that engaging local NGOs and communities is key to achieve sustainable development. Of particular interest was the partnership between Benin, Bhutan and Costa Rica, which was financed by the Netherlands (with no conditionalities attached), and focussed on sustainable development, including sustainable production and consumption chains, the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecotourism. The partnership had let to creation in 139 new enterprises, 129 new services, 4,862 new green jobs, and more than 220 new products were brought to the market. It raised the question “how to raise more South-South cooperation with donor country assistance on the basis of climate justice?”
- Solution Forum on HIV/AIDS: the Forum highlighted the importance of religious leaders in fighting the stigma around HIV/AIDs, drug use and homosexuality. It was noted that religious leaders in, Arab States often do not appreciate views coming from Northern countries, however they are open to views from other leaders in the region. South-South cooperation is in this regard highly important. Further, the Forum discussed examples from Togo, Burkina Faso and Swaziland to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to become advocates of and to deliver results in HIV education and home-based care programmes. These examples are currently replicated in other countries in the region.
- Solution Forum on Global Health: the Forum addressed China’s Mother Safety programme which had increased the number of women delivering in hospitals, as well as reduced the incidence of measles, mumps and rubella from 56% to 25%. It also discussed the Kangaroo Mother Care programme in Colombia, which was now also being replicated in various African countries.
- Solution Forum on Education: this Forum emphasized that without international intervention, the existing knowledge divide between developed and developing countries was likely to be further widened by the new digital divide. In this regard, North-South-South initiatives to advance the use of information and communication technology (ICT) will be indispensable.
In total, the GSSD Expo showcased over 100 South-South partnerships and solutions to poverty challenges. It was reiterated that South-South cooperation needs to be demand-driven at all times; and programmes and projects need to be adapted to local circumstances.
The GSSD Expo concluded with the granting of the South-South Annual Awards to the Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes and Labour Inspections – Joint Action from Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay; Innovative South-South Partnerships to Achieve Results in HIV Response: Religious Leaders Addressing HIV-Related Stigma in the Arab Region; and South-South Cooperation: Benin, Bhutan and Costa Rica.
In addition, the Expo resulted in the signing of two Declarations of Intent. Brazil, India and South Africa signed a Declaration of Intent on South-South and triangular cooperation with the ILO in the field of decent work. The other Declaration of Intent was signed between Brazil and the ILO on Humanitarian Assistance.
For a more extended overview of the GSSD Expo, read the ILO report on the Global-South-South Development Expo 2010.
More information is also available online.