We, civil society organizations from Asia, Africa and Latin America under the banner of the Southern CSO Alliance on South-South Cooperation, first and foremost, commend the UN Office for South-South Cooperation for organizing the 2nd High Level Conference on South-South Cooperation. We join in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action, which reaffirmed that technical cooperation’s purpose, guided by the principles of respect for national sovereignty and equality, is to derive mutual benefits to achieve national and collective self-reliance of countries in the developing world.

We appreciate the Conference as an effort to review the trends in South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation, including the progress in supporting and promoting such cooperation and identifying new opportunities, as well as challenges and suggestions to overcome them. Given the numerous changes, continuing expansion in terms of scope and actors, as well as the many challenges faced, the importance of such review and recommendations on ways forward cannot be emphasized more, especially amidst the worsening poverty and inequality in the Global South.

As much as we, civil society organizations, would like to support this very important undertaking, however, we regret the limited transparency in the organizing of the BAPA+40 Conference and in South-South cooperation as a whole, which seriously limits meaningful CSO participation in this development arena. While there is an opportunity for CSOs to engage in the upcoming conference, we would be able to contribute substantial inputs if proactively reached and provided with timely and adequate information on the processes and content of the Conference. Nonetheless, even as there are still many questions around how the rest of our CSO colleagues will be able to register and participate in the conference, we appreciate the UNOSSC’s assurance that our comments and inputs to the draft outcome document will be treated well.

Herewith, we contribute our comments and inputs to ensure that the outcome document resonates the most pressing issues and urgent calls of the impoverished and marginalized peoples.

Overall, it is worth noting that the zero draft reaffirms the premise and prior commitments of South-South cooperation, identifies important areas it deems integral to its work, as well as the basic principles on which it is anchored. However, it can still be improved by articulating the resistance to colonialism as the developing countries’ shared sympathies and objectives, and from there putting in place safeguards in triangular cooperation to stop Northern governments’ perpetuation of the flawed policies and practices of the traditional North-South development cooperation into the South-South cooperation architecture. At the same time, we note with concern that Southern governments too are replicating such flawed policies and practices not only in triangular but throughout the South-South cooperation architecture.

The repeated emphasis on triangular cooperation and addressing developing countries’ need for technology through massive diffusion of technology throughout the South is a cause for concern as this justifies greater Northern governments, businesses and Northern-dominated financial institutions’ influence in and dumping of surplus technologies through South-South cooperation.

Indeed, we need more resources for achieving the ambitious goals of Agenda 2030. However, our call should not end at simply encouraging traditional providers to extend support but to also deliver on their ODA and development effectiveness commitments and obligations.

While emphasizing the importance of inclusiveness and multi-stakeholder partnerships, there is hardly any mention of how to concretely and meaningfully involve civil society organizations and the people’s issues and
interests that we stand for – human rights, fundamental freedoms, social justice, addressing the root causes of poverty, women empowerment and gender equality, environmental sustainability, labor rights, social services, among many others. We thus call on the UNOSSC and all Southern governments to respect CSOs as independent development actors, committing to provide us with an enabling environment so that they can fulfil our role in South-South cooperation while ensuring that we are not instrumentalized to increase the role of and enable the private sector.

Thus, we hereby submit to and call on the UNOSSC and other Southern governments, as well as Northern governments involved in triangular cooperation to incorporate our inputs to the zero draft (with language formulation suggestions in the actual document), centered mainly on the following:

1. Acknowledging the historical context of Southern peoples’ struggle against colonialism and the paternalistic nature of the post-war North-South cooperation that gave the impetus for strengthening solidarity through South-South cooperation;

2. Clarifying that South-South cooperation and its various forms and modalities are aimed at contributing to the realization of the sustainable development goals and genuine human development and reduction of inequalities between and within countries, not mere economic growth;

3. Committing SSC actors, in addition to the Bandung principles of national sovereignty, national ownership and independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in domestic affairs and mutual benefit; to the development effectiveness principles of democratic ownership, inclusiveness, transparency and accountability, as well as to human rights conventions, laws, norms and standards;

4. Stressing that while developed countries and international organizations and institutions are invited to SSC through triangular cooperation, we are not letting them do away with their ODA and development effectiveness commitments and obligations to the developing world;

5. Emphasizing that national priorities and strategies, on which SSC should be based, be democratically-owned, that is, owned not just by the national governments but also parliaments, local governments, and above all, by the people; in the same way that the people – communities and their organizations – are meaningfully included in all stages of development processes;

6. Underscoring the important role of CSOs committing SSC actors to providing them with an enabling environment by institutionalizing frameworks, spaces, mechanisms and resources for them to fulfil their role as development actors in their own right at all levels and aspects of South-South cooperation;

7. Promoting people-to-people cooperation as an expression of solidarity by also providing the necessary framework, mechanisms and resources;

8. Qualifying the promotion and diffusion of technology to emphasize that it should be based on the actual needs and context of the people on the ground; inclusiveness and multi-stakeholder partnerships to highlight people’s meaningful participation; and private sector to pinpoint micro-small-and-medium enterprises as partners, rather than big foreign and local corporations;

9. Emphasizing that funding from developed countries and other international organizations and institutions should be untied and unconditional, and should be accessible including to CSOs; and that domestic resource mobilization should not mean austerity measures and greater tax impositions on the people, i.e. through progressive taxation and social protection;

10. Committing actors to conduct monitoring, knowledge production, review, assessment and reporting using a human rights-based framework.

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