South–South cooperation important to achieve 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development
Asian countries have a vital role to play in advancing South-South cooperation and much to gain from the closer interaction.
Asian countries have a vital role to play in advancing South-South cooperation and much to gain from the closer interaction. Links across the global south in trade, finance, and technology are not only getting stronger but expanding into new areas. Foremost among these is sharing knowledge and know-how on development to tackle the newer challenges facing the region, such as climate change and finding new sources of growth.
The latest thinking on intensifying South-South cooperation from Asia's perspective, particularly for knowledge sharing, was presented at an international conference on Advancing South-South Learning in Asia in Seoul on 4 July. The event was organized by the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Independent Evaluation Department, the Korea Development Institute (KDI), the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, and The Asia Foundation.
"Strengthening South-South cooperation, especially on sharing knowledge and assistance, will be essential for tackling the broad and demanding 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," said ADB Independent Evaluation Director General Mr. Marvin Taylor-Dormond.
"Poverty is widespread in the global south and this resonates strongly in Asia where eradicating extreme poverty remains a very significant unfinished development agenda, despite the region's extraordinary economic success over the past three decades," said Mr. Taylor-Dormond.
KDI Vice President Mr. Youngjae Lim said 21st-century development cooperation has changed dramatically due to the growth of South-South cooperation.
"New patterns of economic partnership and development cooperation among southern countries have emerged," said Mr. Lim. "Cooperation based on mutually beneficial trade, aid, diplomacy, or strategic partnerships between and among countries at similar stages of development exist, and Asia has become both a generator of development resources and an incubator for new ideas and practices."
Even though links are getting stronger, the visibility of South-South cooperation needs to be raised to bring greater awareness of its value and impact on development, and to promote a stronger South-South voice in global decision-making. Strengthening this cooperation will provide a platform to bring countries together to share work on common development challenges.
Having the private sector as an enthusiastic partner in deepening South-South cooperation will help policymakers understand new and more efficient ways of carrying out their economic and development plans. The conference examined how South-South cooperation can be used by Asian countries to share best practices for growing their private sectors and to make it easier for entrepreneurship to flourish.
The Republic of Korea is increasingly seen as an Asian leader in knowledge sharing for the region and beyond given its strong economic and development performance in recent decades.
"Korea, as one of the few countries that have rapidly transitioned from aid recipient to donor country, aspires to serve as a bridge between North-South cooperation," said Mr. Lim.
A senior Ministry of Strategy and Finance official likened success factors in knowledge sharing to the Republic of Korea's win against Germany in the World Cup: "I pondered how the lessons from this match can be applied to knowledge sharing," said the Director-General of the ministry's International Economic Affairs Bureau Mr. Byong Yol Woo. "The Korean national team recruited top coaches from Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and other top-tier countries to learn their skills and strategies."
Development banks working in the global south, including ADB, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank, have a big contribution to make in advancing South-South learning and cooperation, as they expand their role as lenders for development to the knowledge frontier. These institutions have accumulated a wealth of knowledge on development—what works, what doesn't, and why—and are continuously creating new learning from evaluations of their projects and programs.
"Capturing knowledge that is often hidden and hard to express conventionally—so-called tact knowledge—is important in the transfer of learning and in ensuring that lessons from elsewhere add value to our operations," said ADB Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Director General Mr. Woochong Um. "We also need to be innovative in the way we capture and disseminate knowledge through IT technology and social media."
An aim of the Seoul conference was to seek an effective approach among organizations and sectors working on South-South cooperation to strengthen partnerships and networks to accelerate this process. Middle-income countries in the global south and beyond, as emerging donors and technical cooperation providers, can be game-changers in this effort.