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Statement by Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury
Under-Secetary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries,
Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States
 
in the Second Committee of the
58th session of the UN General Assembly
on
Agenda item: 97(b): Economic and technical cooperation among developing countries
 
United Nations
21 October 2003

Last May at the thirteenth session of the High-level Committee on the Review of Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) held in New York, the Office of the High Representative presented a paper entitled: "Potential for South-South Cooperation in the Implementation of the Brussels Programme for the Least Developed Countries". Copy of the paper is attached with the text of this statement. My statement this afternoon is intended to highlight the relevance and potential for South-South cooperation for the most vulnerable countries of the international community - the small island developing states, landlocked developing countries, in addition to the least developed ones. Our paper in May had basically focused on the least developed countries, but we believe strongly that that focus on the potential of South-South cooperation is equally valid in the context of the development of the small island and landlocked developing countries. Like the Brussels Programme of Action, the Barbados Programme of Action for small islands and the recently adopted Almaty Programme of Action for the landlocked countries too underscore the importance of the South-South cooperation in their respective implementation processes.

Recent experience tells us that the areas of cooperation among developing countries - on many occasions supported by the developed countries through triangular cooperation - range from health, trade, agriculture to capacity and infrastructure building to human resource development, debt cancellation and sharing of technology. In our paper of May, we had shown clearly citing successful examples of South-South cooperation that benefited the Least Developed Countries. Such cooperation with LDCs covered significant areas as low-interest funds, establishment of joint ventures, increased market access, foreign direct investment, reduction in transport cost and trade facilitation and training in project planning and management. Potential in these areas for South-South cooperation would apply equally effectively for the other two vulnerable groups as well. Also in recent years, an increasing intensification in South-South cooperation in the social development areas have brought tremendeous benefit to the most vulnerable countries. Health, education, women's empowerment and population-related areas have shown significant results. For example, in recent years, we have seen that through South-South cooperation, activists from the developing countries came forward to share experiences and to establish networks with their counterparts from these vulnerable countries on management of HIV/AIDS programmes with special attention to the availability of low-cost-drugs.

The substantive as well as substantial contributions made by the regional and sub-regional organization in promoting South-South cooperation have benefited the least developed, landlocked and small island countries in many areas. The report of the Secretary-General in document A/58/319 outlines those in section A of chapter II. The work of ECOWAS, COMESA, SADC, ASEAN, SAARC, Pacific Islands Forum and CARICOM are particularly relevant for these countries. The south-south monetary and financial cooperation, as elaborated in section B, has shown how the vulnerable countries have been able to face together through cooperation with other developing countries the increasing challenge of the globalization process.

A very significant area for the development of South-South cooperation exists in the field of international trade. During the last 25 years trade among countries of the South has come to represent 40% of the total trade of developing countries. However, we need to bear in mind that there is a significant divergence in the performance of various developing regions and in the most vulnerable groups. For example, in 2001 the least developed accounted for a mere 0.6% of world exports.

While the processes for increasing development assistance, trade and investment from the traditional donor community continue to be difficult, potential for South-South cooperation in these and other areas need to be explored with vigour and determination. The role of better-endowed developing countries like Brazil, China, India and South Africa will continue to be a major determinant in this direction. The triangular cooperation arrangements involving the donor countries also has proved very practical and results-producing for the vulnerable countries. The support of the developed countries in promoting South-South cooperation in such areas as human resource development, research and institutional capacity building needs to be further encouraged. The European Union's support for programmes engaging African least developed countries in trade expansion, environmental protection and development of human resource deserves to be commended.

Here, I would like to mention that it is not very easy to gauge the extent of South-South cooperation as governments seem to maintain few records or statistics relating to the support being given in the area of economic and technical cooperation among developing countries. I would like to urge governments to create national databases of their support to such cooperation with countries in the region as well as with other developing countries. I also request them to disseminate information on the nature and scope of cooperation they would like to promote, so that other developing countries particularly the most vulnerable are aware of what is available and possible. It would be worthwhile if the Special Unit for TCDC of the UNDP could create a database for the most vulnerable countries to benefit from the offers of cooperation and support from fellow developing countries.

The key role in promoting South-South cooperation should be and has been played by the UN system. South-South approaches should be given a major policy thrust by the entities of the UN system. So much can be done and achieved for the sustainable development of the most vulnerable countries if the UN system makes such an approach central in their fields of activities. Non-governmental and civil society organizations have been true promoters of South-South cooperation in their field-level activities in various parts of the world. In many cases, they have brought to the forefront the potential benefit of such cooperation, thereby encouraging the involvement of the governments and other stakeholders. The emerging area for enhancing the South-South cooperation is the involvement of the private sector. The private sector can play a meaningful role in promoting cooperation in the areas of information and communication technology, transit transport cooperation, development of marine resources and environmental preservation thereby benefiting the most vulnerable countries. The triangularity brought in by the donors, NGOs and private sector in the South-South cooperation increases manifold the potential for such cooperation. This will open up the opportunities for the most vulnerable countries that are getting marginalized in the process of rapid globalization and would open the door for their integration in the global economy. It is, therefore, important to bear in mind that we need to look at the South-South cooperation as a strategic opportunity for the full and effective implementation of the Brussels, Barbados and Almaty Programmes of Action.

Let me conclude by welcoming the recommendation given in the Secretary-General's report (A/58/345) for the declaration of an International Decade for South-South cooperation from 2005-2015 synchronizing well with the time-frame of the Millennium Development Goals which focus on addressing the needs of the Least Developed, Landlocked and Small Island countries.


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