Looking at Progress through the Lens of South-South Cooperation
10 October, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – “Collectively as developing countries we must deliver through South-South Cooperation”, said the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, H.E. Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, host of the 20th International Inter-Ministerial Conference on South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Population and Development, 9-10 October 2023.
The President also noted that Zimbabwe has been able to fill gaps in health services through South-South cooperation. He emphasized the importance of sharing ideas and collective multi-country research.
The Honourable Ms. Lindiwe Zulu, the South African Minister of Social Welfare and Chair of the Population and Development (PPD) Board, welcomed the review of development progress “through the South-South cooperation lens”.
27 Member Countries of Partners in as well as other countries participated in the meeting. PPD, launched at the 1994, is an intergovernmental initiative created specifically for the purpose of expanding and improving South-to-South collaboration in the fields of reproductive health, population, and development.
Denis Nkala, Chief of Interregional and United Nations Systems Affairs, represented the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation at the conference, and moderated the discussion on resources for South-South and triangular cooperation. Reflecting on the conference, he noted that it “underlined the unique UNOSSC role on capacity building on South-South and triangular cooperation and the trust we have built.” “We indeed need to support our colleagues in the UN System and Member States,” he said. “However, we cannot franchise that role. The knowledge we take for granted as we work with these concepts everyday was very welcome particularly by the Partner Country Coordinators and we should continue to engage directly where we can.”
The participating Partner Country Coordinators indicated a need and urgency for capacity building on South-South and triangular cooperation, Mr. Nkala noted. When moving from capacity building to actual South-South implementation is when new insights on South-South and triangular cooperation surface through the voices of the practitioners.
Speaking during the panel on mobilization of South-South and triangular cooperation resources, Dr. Leticia Adelaide Appiah of the National Population Council of Ghana commented that the benefit side of South-South cooperation in this sector is underestimated. “What value can you give to preventing a death from pregnancy or childbirth of young teenage girls?” she asked. She further elaborated on estimates made in Ghana noting that if a cost-benefit analysis were made, the value of South-South cooperation would be clear.
H.E. Minister Zulu followed up on this and noted that in some cultures, after such pregnancy and birth, the opportunities for the girl are limited as she has to take care of the baby. Furthermore, there is a resulting social stigma. “It is not a 14-year boy who impregnates a 14-year girl,” she said, underlying the sensitivity of such issues.
Several perspectives were discussed on the role of South-South cooperation in addressing population and development: including language, cultural sensitivity and common religious perspectives. Although there are only 27 Member States in PPD, they include the two most populous countries in the world (China and India) and one of the smallest countries in Africa (the Gambia), and represent all regions of the Global South and all the major world religions. There is a wide scope for South-South cooperation as a result of tis diversity.
Other issues discussed included the prospects of a demographic dividend for the Global South, especially in Africa, and the role of the Southern diaspora as a resource in terms of funding and technical expertise.
A Zimbabwean doctor from the diaspora appealed for policies and support for the diaspora to facilitate its contribution to the development of respective countries.
The youth were given an opportunity to speak, and deplored the continuation of practices that leave them out of the discourse about their future. “Youth must be at the table where our futures are decided”, argued the youth representative.
South Africa, as the Chair of PPD announced its intent to engage UNOSSC with the PPD Secretariat to identify areas of future collaboration.
The PPD Secretariat is hosted by Bangladesh, the other members include Benin, China, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Uganda, Vietnam, Yemen and Zimbabwe. UNFPA is the main United Nations partner of PPD.