BUENOS AIRES – The president of the United Nations General Assembly issued an appeal on Wednesday for strong leadership to fight against isolationist forces and resurgent “extreme nationalism.”
“We are witnessing a wave of questioning of the multilateral system, as well as the norms and institutions that we have built with so much effort,” Ecuador’s Maria Fernanda Espinosa said in Buenos Aires at the inauguration of the Second High-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation.
South-South initiatives have achieved “extraordinary” results in generating employment and strengthening institutions, as well as fostering improvements in health, education, culture, infrastructure and technology transfer and international disaster response capabilities, she said.
The challenge now is to strengthen these examples and adapt them to the “new paradigm of sustainable development,” since for the middle-income countries South-South cooperation “must contribute to reducing inequalities and contribute to financing and investment.”
“And in all of our initiatives, we must include the focus on gender. Achieving gender equality and empowering women is a necessity and an obligation,” said Espinosa, who added that South-South cooperation “does not replace North-South” but rather “complements and enriches” it.
“Isolationist forces and extreme nationalism are re-emerging in various corners of the planet,” Espinosa said.
In his remarks, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres advocated for the development of South-South cooperation to promote economic growth and fight against extreme poverty.
“We have the opportunity to develop and strengthen South-South cooperation frameworks, to improve systems and instruments and increase transparency and accountability,” he said.
For Guterres, this type of collaboration between countries can, for example, help with both sustainable development and environmental protection.
At the same time, he warned that infrastructure and energy needs are going to shoot up due to population growth.
“If we manage to do it well, it will be an opportunity for development cooperation (...) and adaptation to climate change,” he said.
He said that the multilateral development system is the best area in which to support South-South Cooperation, adding that it is necessary to reposition financing for sustainable development and unleash the trillions of dollar needed to do so, Guterres said.
“This conference is a starting point,” he said.
The meeting – attended by officials from 193 UN member-states, including heads of state – is the most prominent multilateral cooperation conference in the emerging world, where participants exchange experiences with an eye toward strengthening the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.