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South-South cooperation expanded: Mathai

New Delhi, Apr 15 : Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai Monday asserted that in the last decade or so, the range and quantum of South-South countries cooperation has expanded significantly.


"This trend has paralleled disturbing signs of what could be described as a slackening of donor enthusiasm in developed countries, in the background of difficult global economic conditions," Mathai said.

The Foreign Secretary was addressing the Conference of Southern Providers - South-South Cooperation.

He said, "It has also inspired spirited multilateral discussions on harmonizing the traditional frameworks of North-South cooperation with the emerging patterns of South-South developmental partnerships."

Nathai stated that the evolution of universal norms for identification, delivery and evaluation of all development assistance - North-South and South-South, have raised important questions about values, motivations and desirable outcomes.

"There is, however, a pervasive sentiment among countries of the South that they do not factor in sufficiently the underlying premises of South-South cooperation, the circumstances in which it developed and its unique character."

The foreign secretary on the issue of cooperation with other countries said, "The Indian Technical and Economic Assistance programme, (ITEC) was launched in 1964 with the objective of sharing our knowledge and skills with fellow developing countries. Over nearly five decades, ITEC and its sister initiatives, the Special Commonwealth Assistance for Africa Programme (SCAAP) and the Technical Cooperation Scheme of Colombo Plan, have contributed substantially to capacity building in many parts of the world."

Mathai further said, "The NGO SEWA - Self Employed Women's Association - similarly contributes to women's empowerment in rural Afghanistan through livelihood generating programmes. An earlier example is from our agricultural Green Revolution, when we shared with Vietnam our research on high-yielding rice varieties through exchanges of scientists and the establishment of a Rice Research Institute in southern Vietnam."

He noted that over the years, India has considerably expanded development cooperation portfolio through grant assistance to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka for projects in infrastructure, hydroelectricity, power transmission, and other sectors identified by the host government as priority areas for their development.

"Another strand has been concessional Lines of Credit. Over the last decade or so, over 150 Lines of Credit totalling over USUSD 9.5 billion have been allocated, financing a wide range of projects from drinking water schemes to power plants to technology parks and railway infrastructure in developing countries in Africa and elsewhere."

"In all these strands of development assistance, our underlying philosophy remains that which underpins South-South cooperation."

He asserted, "It is a well-established truism that South-South cooperation is on an entirely different footing from North-South cooperation in inspiration, implementation and impact. There is an acknowledged historical context to Official Development Assistance (ODA), which distinguishes North-South Cooperation from South-South Cooperation."

"The focus on South-South cooperation in the prevailing international discourse on aid architecture increasingly glosses over this fact. It conveniently overlooks the reality that developing countries even the so called emerging economies continue to confront major economic challenges of their own, exacerbated by the current global economic situation, which place an inherent limitation on their capacity to contribute to international development cooperation."

"The assistance which developing countries offer to other developing countries should therefore continue to remain voluntary and free from externally imposed norms drawn from North-South Cooperation. Simply put, whereas North-South cooperation is a historic responsibility, South-South cooperation is a voluntary partnership. The fact that the traditional donor community often underplays this distinction does not diminish its validity."

He added that in the present global realities, it is evident that while South-South Cooperation supplements North-South Cooperation, it is not yet in a position to replace it in any significant measure. The North-South engagement leads the aid process and should continue to do so.

"The importance of ODA should not be allowed to be diluted. In fact, the present predicament of many developing countries - facing contracting capital flows, economic slowdown and fiscal difficulties - makes their need for enhanced ODA even more critical than before."

"It is therefore a matter of great satisfaction that several donors have come forward to declare their continued commitment to their 1970 UNGA pledge of achieving an ODA level of 0.7 per cent of their GNP. Japan, Germany, Australia and UK have targeted attainment of this goal by 2015."

Talking about the post-2015 Development Agenda, Mathai said, " We should resist excessive emphasis being placed on South-South Cooperation as a crucial pillar of the Agenda. We should reinforce the argument that while South-South Cooperation and the voluntary efforts of developing countries such as India would continue to play an important role, it would be a travesty to project them as the principal new component of a redefined Global Partnership for the new Agenda."

"South-South Cooperation has to be accompanied by a significant enhancement of North-South aid flows, not their diminution."

Showing disappointment with the content of the recently released Bali Communique of the UN Secretary General's High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda, he noted, "It is quite astonishing that, even as the crucial importance of ODA for many developing countries is being reiterated at various high-level fora, this document does not contain a single mention of ODA. We need to register the note of caution that If the recommendations of the Panel are to make a meaningful contribution to evolving a new Development Agenda, they should reflect in equal measure the concerns of both the developing and the developed world."

"We should be careful not to dissipate the political consensus reached in the Rio+20 Outcome."

On the matter of global partnership for development cooperation, he said, "The Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness at Busan in 2011 encouraged increased efforts to support effective development cooperation, and noted that South-South efforts could be accommodated within the envisaged Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, but on a voluntary basis."

"Without doubt, there is scope for an exchange of learning between the North-South and South-South models. There are concepts and practices that the South can absorb from the North-South engagement. Equally, the North can draw from the outlook and methodology that the South applies to its development partnership. A sustainable Global Partnership on Development Cooperation can only be built from a harmonious synthesis of the two models."

He added, "I believe that more regular and sustained interactions among the countries of the South will facilitate a crystallization of their approach to all these aspects of the global development cooperation debate. A culture of consultations and more effective experience-sharing between our development cooperation institutions will enhance our ability to feed Southern perspectives more effectively into the global dialogue."

Concluding his speech Mathai said, "I am sure that this Conference will make a valuable contribution to this process. We have a broad spectrum of Southern providers and recipients of development assistance, and the welcome involvement of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the level of Under Secretary General Wu Hongbo, I hope this Conference will address these issues in depth and emerge with some consensus on the major preoccupations of developing countries in the emerging global development environment."

--IBNS (Posted on 15-04-2013)

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