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Pakistan calls for boosting south-south cooperation as world grapples with coronavirus crisis

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has called for intensification of cooperation among developing counties, calling it critical as nations contend with social and economic consequences of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking during a virtual commemoration of the UN Day for South-South Cooperation, Ambassador Munir Akram said the countries are now faced with triple challenge– the COVID crisis, the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the adverse impact of climate change.

While the developed countries have issued fiscal deficits to the tune of $11 trillion to finance their recovery from COVID, the Pakistani envoy said the developing countries are struggling to find the necessary resources to spend on their recovery.

“So there is an inequality, and I believe that in finance, we need to find ways in which we can utilize our reserve currencies and to build on the basis of the reserves that we have in order to enable south-south cooperation and help each other,” he said.

Ambassador Akram said the key to the SDGs was to develop institutions of cooperation and investment in infrastructure. In the area science and technology, he said there was need to align the intellectual property regime of the world with the SDGs.

“And, I think, a (Covid) vaccine is the first step in this direction that we must make a common good for all mankind.”

The Pakistani envoy also called for bridging the digital divide, saying it was the pathway to a transition to modern economies and progress in all fields.

At the same time, Ambassador Akram highlighted the progress made through south-south cooperation. “Our leaders came together, 40 years ago to conceive this idea of mutual cooperation in the first conference on technical cooperation among developing countries.

Since then South-South trade has expanded exponentially, mutual investments between the southern countries have escalated to a level that is almost equal to that of the developed northern countries in the developing countries.

“And we have constructed institutions of cooperation such as the ASEAN (Association of South-East Nations) that has promoted South-South cooperation to an unprecedented level and provides an example for many of us in the various regions to work,” he said.

“The greatest potential for production and manufacturing still resides with the developing countries, projects are more profitable, in developing countries”, the Pakistani envoy said.

“We have the largest segment of the world’s population in terms of both consumption and production … we can promote our economies, through South-South trade, and that potential can be escalated through free trade agreements and agreements at the WTO (World Trade Organization).

“There is the dimension of physical connectivity, which is providing the greatest and fastest impetus to the growth and investment in the developing countries, He added.

This year, the commemoration was held two days prior to the official 12 September observance, and ahead of the 75th anniversary celebration of the UN.

In a message to the Global South, Secretary-General António Guterres said that developing countries are “delivering medical supplies, providing financial resources…and sharing best practices on how to fight the pandemic”.

In marking the day, “we are highlighting the power of the Global South to support and advance sustainable development, even during these challenging times”, he explained.

The UN chief maintained that the Organization is playing its part in supporting South-South and triangular cooperation throughout the pandemic, including by fast-tracking financial allocations to support developing countries’ COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

As a successful example of the practical benefits of the UN Fund for South-South Cooperation, he recalled the rehabilitation of Barbuda’s only hospital, which was damaged after Hurricane Irma devastated the Caribbean island in 2017, saying that it is now “equipped to support the community’s needs during the pandemic”.

Looking beyond the immediate response, towards recovering better, the Secretary-General upheld that “South-South and triangular cooperation will be more important than ever”.

He urged everyone to coordinate efforts “to scale up Southern development successes, build a strong recovery and achieve the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] by 2030”.

General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande spoke about the importance of the South-South Cooperation in the context of the Decade of Action and Delivery to implement the SDGs.

“This approach has the potential to contribute to achieving our targets on poverty eradication, zero hunger, climate change and inclusion”, he spelled out.

Against the backdrop that the virus has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities; an estimated 71 million people will fall into extreme poverty by year’s end; and up to 120 million are expected to become undernourished this year alone.

Muhammad-Bande stressed the need to “focus on specific actions that will alleviate the impact on the well-being and livelihoods of people in developing countries”.

As many developing countries are confronting severe economic repercussions of the pandemic, left with little capacity for fiscal stimulus packages and rising debt levels that limit the ability to provide public healthcare and social protection, he underscored: “We must move swiftly on debt and concessional finance to support the most vulnerable people we serve”.

“We must apply a gender lens to our response planning as women have been disproportionately affected by the crisis…[and] account for the specific needs of children”, he added.

The Assembly chief said that as the world economy reboots, the Global South must “forge a more ambitious path to ensure that we build back better”.

“To safeguard the future, we must work in a sustainable manner: addressing structural problems in global and national economies and investing in human capital” he advocated, urging Member States to continue to support the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and its initiatives.

Meanwhile, Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said that that South-South and triangular cooperation are part of his agency’s DNA.

The director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSCC), Jorge Chediek, also addressed the virtual meeting, and encouraged “continued global commitment” to South-South Cooperation.

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.