In search of development solutions? Look south.

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A few decades ago, economists believed that activating a few switches would lead to a linear and universal development process. 

Nowadays, experts know that developing nations takes a huge amount of trial and error. Countries have different histories. Institutions, societies and cultures matter. And the uncertainty that dominates the international economy is making it increasingly difficult to come up with a recipe for becoming a global player.     

But there’s one thing that matters immensely: exposure and learning.

Have you ever paired up with another student, exchanging German for arithmetic to complete your exams? That’s a simple way of describing what South-South cooperation is about. In a multi-polar world, development knowledge and experience have become a new currency.

Take some of these examples.

In the past three decades, China pulled more than 700 million people out of poverty. Within a decade, Brazil was able to put 50 million low-income people on conditional cash transfers, putting millions of children to school in the process. Both have established centers of excellence and learning for other policy-makers in the Global South.

They’re not the only ones to do it. Morocco, the host of next week’s climate summit, is mobilizing 30 billion dollars to help the agriculture sector in Africa to adapt to climate change and boost the production of food in the process.

We at the United Nations believe that South-South Cooperation, also known as East-East Cooperation when applied to the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia - but also simply described as peer learning -, is the way of the future.

I was able to see this process work its magic many times over the last few years. In 2015, I took part in an event in Turkey that looked at how to give small farmers bargaining power in the marketplace. I then attended a similar event in Algeria.

Participants at this year’s Global South-South Development Expo came together to discuss how to formalize and scale up these practices.

We’ve seen a UNDP-supported project called LiveLebanon that is mobilizing the diaspora to further development efforts among underprivileged and underdeveloped Lebanese communities. Or SSMart, a platform that is enabling partners to post demands, search for solutions, share solutions and collaborate on any of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Whether we are talking about diversifying energy sources, empowering women and children or promoting more sustainable consumption, South-South Cooperation has the potential to transformative solutions. The availability of technology and financing from new actors will also play a huge role in making these solutions into a reality. We have little time to accomplish the SDGs.

But if we look south, the future is looking bright.

Blog post South-South cooperation Effective development cooperation Europe & the CIS Sustainable Development Goals Sustainable development Goal 11 Sustainable cities and communities Goal 17 Partnerships for the goals

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