Deadline extended to 05 July 2023!

Welcome to the South-South Global Thinkers e-discussion for the 2023 UNDP Human Development Report (HDR), jointly organized by UNDP Human Development Report Office (HDRO) and UNOSSC. The e-discussion is open from 15 May to 10 July 2023.  The discussion will be moderated by UNDP HDRO and facilitated by UNOSSC. To switch languages, please use the translation function, available at the top right of the page.

Background:

The latest series of Human Development Reports (HDR) shine a light on policy blind spots and shows how the world is now faced with the challenge of redefining development, amidst great uncertainty. Conventional development narratives, assuming known benchmarks and linear pathways of progress, no longer appear to hold. Average progress in traditional development indicators has not necessarily translated into increased individual life satisfaction. New gaps are opening in areas important for human development in the 21st century – such as higher education and digitalization – and humans’ planetary pressures in the context of the Anthropocene are threatening both human development and human security progress. And for the first time since its inception in 1990, the global Human Development Index has now declined – two years in a row.

At this critical moment, when the world needs to redouble efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda whilst also starting steering towards a post-Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) world, The Human Development Report Office (HDRO) is advancing a future-forward research agenda to identify new approaches and interpretations.

The next series of HDRs is imagined as a trilogy of reports, exploring how we might drive transformations toward a more just and livable planet. A new series of human development research requires key expert partners. HDRs are global platforms that bring together multiple and diverse networks of policymakers, thought leaders, academics, CSOs, NGOs, and other stakeholders in deliberation, knowledge-sharing, and innovation. They are developed through broad consultative processes, with regional and thematic experts, to seek input and to amplify outreach around the topics of the report. In this context, HDRO seeks to outline a strategy for closer collaboration with the Office of South-South Cooperation to strengthen engagement with multiple stakeholders from the Global South and to ensure that the human development research is informed by their perspectives.

2023 Human Development Report - South-South Global Thinkers Network Consultation

The 2021/22 HDR revealed a startling reality: for the first time ever, the global HDI declined two years in a row, driven by a new “uncertainty complex,” – from the inequalities and dangerous planetary changes of the Anthropocene, from the sweeping transformations towards a low-carbon future, and from the intensification of political polarization making it harder to come together to tackle shared problems at a time when we need to the most. 

Together, they drive distress and unsettle lives, calling for radically new approaches to development. Indeed, as the report shows, we face a growing mismatch between our collective responses and the current context of both enormous promise and pressing, globally interlinked threats to human development and human security: we know what the problems are, we have more tools than ever to address them, yet we are failing to act with commensurate urgency. This is particularly important in the context of the Global South, where countries are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of global challenges such as climate change, economic inequality, and political instability.

Collective action on challenges ranging from climate change mitigation to peace and security is frustratingly slow or stymied altogether. Lack of trust and polarization, both associated with insecurity, exacerbate the gridlock. The 2023 Human Development Report is on what can be done to break through gridlock, which will be the defining challenge of the Anthropocene and where global collective action is indispensable. South-South and triangular cooperation will be of the essence in unlocking pathways for human development in uncertain and worried times by allowing for Global South voices, leadership, and contributions to be at the forefront of global collective action solutions.

Consultation objective: 

Human Development Report consultations intend to start a conversation on the themes of the upcoming report, with the purpose of seeking input and advice on report content from thematic and regional experts. Consultations inform the process of developing the report and ensure that it speaks to key human development issues for people and policymakers. The partnership between the Human Development Report Office (HDRO), UNOSSC, and South-South Global Thinkers Network, a global coalition of Think-tank Networks on South-South Cooperation, aims to draw key insights and perspectives from the Global South that will inform the preparation of the upcoming HDR 2023. Events are by invitation only, to spur an open and productive dialogue.

The consultation process will include an e-discussion hosted on South-South Global Thinkers platform from 15 May – 14 June 2023 (now extended to 10 July). This will be followed by a Virtual consultation to be organized in early July 2023.

Guiding questions for the consultation include:

  1. A paradox of our time: Despite mounting evidence of the distress that human planetary pressures are causing our ecological and social systems, why are we failing to act? What are the main constraints for South-South and triangular cooperation?

  2. Governance Mismatches: From the Global South perspective, what are the gaps in current institutional designs affecting our ability to achieve adequate responses to interlinked global crises and challenges? What are the key elements for institutional innovation in the Global South?

  3. Investing in one another: how do we address political polarization and conflict, and how can we foster cooperation, including South-South cooperation, in times of uncertainty and transformations?

We look forward to your contributions and active engagement!

Comments (21)

ENKHBAIGALI Byambasuren
ENKHBAIGALI Byambasuren

Dear All, 

During the pandemic, very strict and not economically optimized policies aimed solely at reducing the COVID-19. It was one of the primary factors in increasing poverty. I want to draw your attention to the question: Governance mismatches.


First, the process of institutionalization of political parties is very weak, and people who work in public organizations are prohibited to be nominated, business oriented politicians who have merely no background in public policies naturally lead to the weakening of the quality of governance. 


Second, voters regard political parties as a mature institution which has solidarity in view, policies, and capacity. In fact, the reality of the internal formation of political parties is to rely more on interests. Solidarity might be a sign of oligarchy, no inner democracy at all, instead of being results of getting mature or institutional. The gap between people's expectation and the reality of institutions is huge. How can institutions represent, protect rights and empower people, especially groups at higher risk to be left behind, such as women, while interests in political parties differ hugely from social groups? Of course, there is no proven way of governance without political parties, but how responsible "solidarity" in political parties can be bolstered based on regulations and policies as a coping mechanism for uncertainty and inequality? 


Third, political appointees who have not been promoted through merit based civil service have less understanding of sectors or real challenges and obstacles, have weaker or little understanding of public sector practices and public policy tools. There is a risk, fake "solidarity" within a political party might turn it into a breeding ground for corruption and fighting theatre of interest groups. How we can reduce the human resource quality gap between the public sector and political parties? The cost of election is a huge constraint here. 


Fourth, small economies usually lack the capacity of policy institutions, both in finance and human resources. Policy efficiency might be less important when political interests and populism take place. The weak capacity of policy research institutions is not adequate for improving the quality of government policy.


The institutional maturity of political parties is the key factor in the quality of governance. Capabilities of think-tanks, policy institutions are tools for improving policy qualities. The costs of critical decisions made erroneous are huge comparing any other factors. Pandemic situation has affected negatively international collaboration of think-tanks.

Poor decisions can waste decades of national and regional development and delay sustainable development goals achievement.

Should we diversify the HDI index, to measure the quality of policy and decision making? 

Rehana Mohammed
Rehana Mohammed Moderator

Dear Professor Enkhbaigali, thanks very much for sharing your insights on various issues concerning governance mismatches, which have important implications for human development. The human development approach places special importance on people's ability to use their voice and advocate for what they value (described as their agency). Many of the issues you have outlined all point to structural barriers to people's agency; for instance, when political parties are not responsive to people, there is a barrier in translating people's priorities into policy and political outcomes. So measures to enhance the representativeness of political parties, tackling corruption, improving the quality and capacity of policy institutions all matter greatly in this regard.

In addition to directly strengthening existing institutions (including political parties), efforts to enhance people's ability to use their voice and power can also make a difference - for example through civil society monitoring on corruption or organizing groups that are often left behind. Ultimately there is little space for solidarity without robust institutions that people can trust and effective mechanisms for people to channel their priorities into policymaking. Strengthening institutions and policymaking is all the more important in today's context of interlinked global challenges, many of which will impact Global South countries harder (the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated this already). As our colleagues have discussed, there are many avenues for South-South and triangular cooperation on these challenges. 

As you point out, there are huge costs to poor decision-making. Countries might have many achievements in enhancing well-being (such as in education and health), but without addressing governance mismatches even these well-being achievements are placed at risk. In terms of diversifying the human development index, one area of innovation is in incorporating these crucial aspects of agency and voice in decision-making. This is an ongoing area of work and an increasingly important part of the human development research agenda. 

Hany  Besada
Hany Besada Moderator

Dear Dr. Byambasuren

Your thoughts present a thorough exploration of the challenges posed by political governance, particularly in times of crisis, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic. It's clear that you see a fundamental issue in the structure of political parties, their internal dynamics, and the potential disconnect between their actions and the needs of the people. I'll address each of your main points in turn to provide some reflections and thoughts:

  1. Political Parties and Public Policy: You very correctly note that the people in power often lack experience in public policy. This could potentially be addressed by creating stronger requirements for public service, including education or experience in relevant fields, or implementing ongoing training in public policy for those who take office. Additionally, opening more avenues for public servants to transition into political roles could help bridge this gap.

  2. Party Solidarity and Democracy: You raise a very valid concern about the potential for oligarchic tendencies within political parties. Implementing stricter checks and balances within political parties could ensure more diverse representation and diminish the consolidation of power. Encouraging transparency could also be beneficial in maintaining trust and representation.

  3. Political Appointees and Merit-Based Promotion: This speaks to the broader issue of meritocracy in politics. Ideally, individuals in political positions should be there based on their qualifications and ability to perform the job, not merely party loyalty. Strengthening civil service systems and making political appointments more merit-based could address this issue.

  4. Small Economies and Policy Institutions: The lack of resources in smaller economies indeed poses significant challenges. International cooperation and assistance could be one way to help address these challenges. Further, policy efficiency could be emphasized over populism through initiatives aimed at increasing public awareness and understanding of policy issues.

  5. Institutional Maturity of Political Parties: Your excellent point about institutional maturity is well taken. A stronger focus on internal party structures and operations could indeed result in better governance.

  6. Role of Think-Tanks and Policy Institutions: Yes, think-tanks and policy institutions do play a vital role in informing and shaping policy. Their role should be emphasized, and resources should be allocated to ensure they can function effectively.

Lastly, you suggest that the Human Development Index (HDI) could be expanded to measure the quality of policy and decision-making. While the HDI is a comprehensive measure of human well-being, it doesn't specifically measure governance or decision-making quality. So, your idea to diversify the HDI or perhaps create a new index to measure these aspects could indeed be beneficial in holding governments accountable and encouraging good governance.

Your perspective outlines several fundamental issues in political governance and provides food for thought on how they could be addressed. You effectively highlight the importance of efficient and representative political structures, particularly in times of crisis.

Thank you once again for these very important reflections.

Dr. Vaqar Ahmed
Dr. Vaqar Ahmed

The issues such as global debt crisis, climate change, biodiversity loss, and wealth inequalities, are complex. Addressing these challenges requires coordinated efforts across governments, which can be difficult in the short run. South-South and triangular cooperation can be considered as a key instrument to arrive at a broad based consensus for global concerns. However, the single most important constraint to scaling up S-S  cooperation has been the resource constraint - including financial resources, technical knowledge, and institutional capacity to design and sustain international cooperation.  Going beyond the usual donor support, developing nations will have to find resources for S-S cooperation from with in their own budgets so that joint perspectives can be formulated and put forward at global and regionals forums that discuss issues such as climate and various forms of inequalities. 

Hany  Besada
Hany Besada Moderator

Dear Dr. Ahmed, many thanks for these very thoughtful insights. Your inputs presented recognizes several of the major challenges currently facing the global community, including the global debt crisis, climate change, biodiversity loss, and wealth inequalities. These issues are indeed complex and interconnected, with ramifications that cross borders and sectors. Addressing them therefore necessitates collective action and multilateral cooperation, particularly between nations of the Global South, as the passage notes.

South-South and triangular cooperation are promising mechanisms for advancing solutions to these challenges. However, the passage correctly identifies several constraints that have hindered the scaling up of SSC, including financial resources, technical knowledge, and institutional capacity.

Financial Resources:

Economic disparities and debt burdens can limit the resources available to Southern nations for SSC. Developing countries often face high levels of debt and other financial constraints, which can limit their ability to invest in SSC. and other initiatives aimed at addressing global challenges. Therefore, it's critical to explore debt relief programs, innovative financing, or domestic resource mobilization to ensure resources are available for these efforts.

Technical Knowledge:

The ability to address complex issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss requires significant technical expertise. Developing nations may lack the knowledge and skills necessary to design and implement effective solutions, thereby limiting the effectiveness of SSC. Capacity-building initiatives are therefore crucial in this aspect. Sharing of expertise, technology, and best practices among the Southern countries can enhance the overall technical capacity.

Institutional Capacity:

Even with financial resources and technical knowledge, countries also need robust institutional frameworks to sustain international cooperation. Effective governance structures, regulations, and enforcement mechanisms are critical to ensure transparency, accountability, and effectiveness in SSC.

The passage then goes on to suggest that developing nations will need to go beyond relying on donor support and find resources for SSC within their own budgets. This is indeed a vital step in ensuring the sustainability of SSC. It enhances the ownership and commitment of these countries in addressing global concerns.

However, domestic resource mobilization can be a significant challenge for countries that already face financial constraints. Efforts to increase tax revenue, reduce corruption, and improve fiscal management can all contribute to this end but might be difficult and time-consuming processes.

Also, it's important to consider that while self-reliance is key, North-South cooperation should not be completely dismissed. It's crucial to strike a balance where Northern countries and international organizations can still provide support without overshadowing the independence and self-determination of Southern countries.

In conclusion, enhancing SSC is indeed a promising approach to address the global challenges mentioned, but significant barriers remain. Overcoming these barriers will require not only the efforts of the nations involved in SSC, but also the support of the international community, including debt relief initiatives, technical assistance, and capacity-building efforts.

Thank you once again for your valuable inputs and insights.

Hany  Besada
Hany Besada Moderator

Dear All, it is wonderful to join this very important discussion as a moderator from the UN Office for South-South Cooperation and to provide some preliminary comments in response to the three guiding questions for this consultation. My comments deal with our failure to adequately address ecological and social distress caused by human planetary pressures. They include the following factors:

  1. Short-term focus: Many individuals, businesses, and governments prioritize short-term economic gains over long-term sustainability. This is partly due to the economic systems in place that reward such behaviour and the political systems that focus on short-term electoral cycles.

  2. Lack of awareness or denial: Despite the scientific consensus, there is still a significant portion of the population that is either unaware of the gravity of the situation or outright denies the existence of human-induced climate change and ecological degradation.

  3. Inequality and injustice: Many of the worst effects of environmental degradation are felt by those who contribute least to the problem, often in the Global South. This inequity can lead to resistance from wealthier nations who see less immediate impact.

  4. Systemic inertia: Large-scale changes are difficult to implement due to the inertia of existing systems and infrastructures. Changing these requires substantial investment and systemic redesign.

Constraints for South-South and triangular cooperation

Limited resources: Developing countries often have fewer resources to spare for international cooperation. They are primarily focused on domestic challenges like poverty reduction, improving healthcare, and education.

Political differences and historical tensions: Countries in the Global South have diverse political systems and ideologies. Historical conflicts or rivalries can hinder trust and collaboration.

Lack of institutional capacity: Many Southern countries lack the institutional capacity for effective cooperation, including issues around policy coordination, legal frameworks, and human resources.

Governance mismatches and institutional innovation in the Global South

  1. Mismatch of scale: Many environmental challenges are global, yet political authority and decision-making often reside at the national level. This mismatch can hinder effective responses.

  2. Insufficient representation: Global governance structures often do not adequately represent the interests of the Global South, despite these countries being most affected by environmental crises.

  3. Institutional innovation in the Global South could involve building more inclusive and democratic governance structures, enhancing regional cooperation, and improving capacity to negotiate in global forums. The development of new, context-specific models for sustainable development could also be a key element.

Addressing political polarization and fostering cooperation

  1. Promote dialogue and understanding: Encouraging open dialogue and understanding between different political and social groups can help reduce polarization. Education and awareness-raising can also be crucial.

  2. Common goals and shared benefits: Identifying common goals and emphasizing shared benefits can help foster cooperation. This is particularly true for South-South cooperation, where countries often face similar challenges and opportunities.

  3. Strengthening institutions: Robust institutions that promote fairness, justice, and inclusivity can help mediate conflicts and encourage cooperation.

  4. Leadership and diplomacy: Effective leadership and skilled diplomacy can play a critical role in bridging divides and fostering cooperation at all levels - domestically, regionally, and globally.

In summary, addressing these complex challenges requires systemic change, innovative thinking, and strong cooperation at all levels. Although daunting, these challenges also present opportunities for creating more equitable, sustainable, and resilient societies.

 

 

Wang Xiaolin
Wang Xiaolin

Dear Dr Hany Besada and all,

 

Firstly, take action to promote global solidarity through South-South and triangular cooperation. Building a community with a shared future for mankind, promoting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the realization of SDGs. The current global differentiation is characterized by multiple overlapping political, economic, and technological divisions.

 

Secondly, take action to catalyze the implementation of SDGs.We only have a vision as beautiful as the 2030 Agenda, which cannot be translated into global collective action. The main reason is that the current international community has not truly regarded the 2030 Agenda as a global development consensus. So, the first action we need to take is to support the United Nations and regional organizations, North South cooperation, SSC triangular cooperation to return to the 2030 agenda, and to make achieving SDGs a global development consensus.

 

Thridly, Global leadership should focus on promoting global solidarity, rather than highlighting the strengthening of global segmentation. Global political leadership is about uniting global actors to creatively solve common challenges faced by human society, rather than creating a pattern of division.

 

WANG Xiaolin

Fudan University, China

 

 

 

Zhaoxi Meng
Zhaoxi Meng Moderator

Dear all,

I wish to extend my sincere thanks to each of you who have actively participated in our past discussions. Your insights have significantly enriched our community’s knowledge.

This week, we focus on the first guiding question "Despite mounting evidence of the distress that human planetary pressures are causing our ecological and social systems, why are we failing to act? What are the main constraints for South-South and triangular cooperation?" This paradox, the delay in response despite clear crisis signals, greatly impacts cooperation and human development.

I cordially invite all members to contribute your perspectives and experiences to this complex issue. Each input, regardless of its scale, serves as a valuable springboard for our discussions, propelling us towards a deeper understanding of these crucial issues.

Looking forward to another insightful week of discussion.

Best,

Zhaoxi
Moderator

Wang Xiaolin
Wang Xiaolin

Dear Zhaoxi,

Regarding to the action on  ecological and social systems, from a micro perspective, we not only need the determination to achieve green development, but also concrete and feasible measures.

In the past decade, China has first implemented ecological environmental protection and ecological modification projects. In recent years, we have been exploring how to convert the value of ecological services into ways to increase farmers' income.

Such as, we expored ecological transfer payments, ecotourism, carbon sink trading, forestry property rights reform, ecological public welfare employment positions, photovoltaic poverty alleviation, and so on.

These numerous small measures have converged into a green development approach in rural areas.

Now we are also trying to carry out some South-South cooperation projects for green development, such as the JUNCAO project, to assist developing countries in combating desertification, and use JUNCAO technology to develop aquaculture and nd edible fungi, in order to increase farmers' income.

 

Such an ecological social system requires institutional collective action by the government, market, and society.

 

Of course, this social ecosystem also includes how developing countries can achieve Digital transformation (DT), reach development consensus and promote the realization of SDGs.

 

WANG Xiaolin

Fudan University, China

Dr Dipak Tatpuje
Dr Dipak Tatpuje

Dear All,

I am very happy to join this discussion. I think field supported actions (with practice by applying new approach of social system design) will be useful to address the issues raised in this discussion. The impact assessment reports of few relevant case studies may give us more understanding of finding solutions, options and methods to achieve related UN's SDG 2030. Intercultural dialogue with different contexts will be useful to get additional insights. I put here a very general point of discussion but it came out with aspect of practicing research. Integrated Design Thinking and System Thinking models may be considered. 

Looking forward your opinion on this approach.

Prof. Dr. Dipak Tatpuje (India)

Hany  Besada
Hany Besada Moderator

Hello Dr Wang Xiaolin  , many thanks for your very informative and important contribution to the e-discussion.

Your arguments here indeed speaks to the importance of promoting global solidarity, cooperation between nations (particularly South-South and triangular cooperation), the implementation of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and a shift in global leadership focus. Let's break it down.

You stress the need to promote global solidarity through South-South and triangular cooperation. In building a "community with a shared future for mankind," the argument highlights the goal of creating a global society that benefits all of its members, reducing disparities, and promoting shared prosperity. The focus on the 2030 Agenda and the realization of the SDGs ties into this by providing a framework for such global cooperation and shared development.

You also indicate that while we have the 2030 Agenda, the lack of global collective action to actualize it remains a significant hurdle. The 2030 Agenda is recognized as a blueprint for sustainable global development, but its success hinges on global consensus and cooperative implementation. This emphasizes the need for supporting international and regional organizations, alongside North-South and South-South triangular cooperation, in returning focus to the 2030 Agenda.

You also call for a shift in the focus of global leadership. Instead of emphasizing global segmentation—furthering divisions along political, economic, or technological lines—leadership should prioritize promoting global solidarity. The core idea here is to unite global actors in creatively addressing common challenges facing humanity, rather than exacerbating divisions.

Your contributions underscores the necessity for collaborative action, consensus on development goals, and a paradigm shift in global leadership to promote unity and shared prosperity. The realization of the SDGs is posited as a crucial step towards this global consensus and cooperation.  As such this reinforces the imperative of international cooperation, shared development goals, and unifying leadership in addressing contemporary global challenges.

Thank you once again for your valuable contributions to this e-discussion.

Hany  Besada
Hany Besada Moderator

Dear Dr Dipak Tatpuje  

Thank you very much for your very insightful contribution and feedback. Your comments and suggestions aims to address some key concepts in social systems design, global cooperation, human development, and sustainable development goals (SDGs). Let me try to respond by providing the following remarks.

Social system design that is supported by field actions is indeed a practical approach. By grounding the design of new social systems in real-world, on-the-ground experiences, practitioners can account for local conditions and nuances, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of these systems. It allows for systems to be designed with a deep understanding of the local context, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, which often fails to account for the nuances of specific regions or communities.

South-South and triangular cooperation can indeed be effective in unlocking pathways for human development, especially in these uncertain times, as it leverages the unique experiences, knowledge, and resources of countries facing similar development challenges. Placing Global South voices, leadership, and contributions at the forefront also promotes a sense of ownership and agency, which is crucial for successful cooperation.

Evaluating the effectiveness of any initiative through impact assessments is always beneficial. By doing so for South-South and triangular cooperation, we can gain insights into what works and what doesn't, thereby refining these approaches to better meet the UN's SDGs.

Intercultural Dialogue can indeed provide additional insights and foster mutual understanding. By sharing different cultural perspectives, new and innovative solutions can be discovered. Intercultural dialogue promotes diversity and inclusivity, both of which are critical in addressing global issues.

For those not familiar with the concepts, design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation, while systems thinking emphasizes understanding the broader context in which problems exist. By integrating these two approaches, solutions can be both people-centered and cognizant of the larger social, economic, and political forces at play. This integrated approach allows for a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of complex problems and for the development of more effective, sustainable solutions.

Your arguments and suggestions demonstrates a nuanced understanding of the complexity of human development issues in uncertain times. The strategies and methods suggested, like South-South and triangular cooperation, impact assessments, intercultural dialogue, and integrated design and systems thinking, are all valuable tools that can help societies navigate towards the UN's SDGs. However, the implementation of these strategies should be carefully planned and managed, considering the unique contexts and challenges of different regions. Continuous evaluation and feedback are necessary to ensure the strategies' effectiveness and adaptability.

Thank you once again for your valuable contributions.

Zhaoxi Meng
Zhaoxi Meng Moderator

Dear all,

I want to express my gratitude to every one of you who actively participated in our previous discussions. Your valuable insights and contributions have truly enriched our community's collective knowledge.

This week, we focus on the guiding question "Governance Mismatches: From the Global South perspective, what are the gaps in current institutional designs affecting our ability to achieve adequate responses to interlinked global crises and challenges? What are the key elements for institutional innovation in the Global South?"

Your perspectives will shape our understanding. Thank you for your continued commitment to our community, and I look forward to another insightful week of discussions.

Best regards,

Hany  Besada
Hany Besada Moderator

Dear Zhaoxi Meng  

Many thanks for these set of complex and multifaceted questions. I will attempt to provide a general analysis and some potential ways forward. However, I'd like to emphasize that the experiences and perspectives within the Global South are diverse and not homogenous, so it's important to take this into account.

1. Governance Mismatches and Gaps:

a) Institutional capacity and representation: Global institutions, such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank, may not adequately represent the needs and perspectives of the Global South, as their governance structures are often dominated by developed countries.

b) Inequity of resources and power: Resource and power distribution often favor the North, with access to financial resources, technology, and knowledge that may not be as readily available in the Global South. This power imbalance also extends to negotiation forums where global policies are decided.

c) Mismatched priorities and approaches: The design of current institutions often doesn't reflect the complexity of issues faced by the Global South. Local and regional priorities can be overlooked in favour of global or North-dominated priorities.

d) Lack of contextual adaptation: Institutional policies may lack adaptation to the local context and complexities of the Global South countries, thus making implementation difficult and ineffective.

2. Key Elements for Institutional Innovation:

a) Participation and Representation: Improve the representation of the Global South in decision-making processes at all levels. This could involve reforms in voting power within global institutions, or mechanisms that ensure their voices are heard and taken into account.

b) Capacity Building/Development: Strengthen institutional and human capacities in the Global South. This includes training in policy development, negotiation skills, and leadership. Greater capacity will enable these nations to advocate for their interests and contribute more effectively to global policies.

c) Contextual Adaptation: Adapt policies to local contexts, considering the specific economic, cultural, and environmental circumstances of each country. One-size-fits-all solutions may not be effective or fair, and could worsen existing inequalities.

d) South-South Cooperation: Foster cooperation and knowledge sharing among Global South countries. This can be an effective way to address common challenges, learn from each other's experiences, and strengthen their collective voice on the global stage.

e) Collaborative Policymaking: Policies should be developed collaboratively, involving a wide range of stakeholders, including governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector. This can ensure that different perspectives are considered and that policies are based on the best available evidence and local knowledge.

f) Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development: Focus on inclusive and sustainable development models that consider social, economic, and environmental dimensions. These can help to reduce inequalities, ensure that the benefits of development are widely shared, and preserve the environment for future generations.

In conclusion, while there are numerous challenges, there is also a wide range of potential solutions and opportunities for institutional innovation in the Global South. Addressing these issues could make a significant contribution to global efforts to tackle interlinked crises and challenges.

Sayouba OUEDRAOGO
Sayouba OUEDRAOGO
  1. A paradox of our time: Despite mounting evidence of the distress that human planetary pressures are causing our ecological and social systems, why are we failing to act? What are the main constraints for South-South and triangular cooperation?

The distress that human pressures on the planet are causing to our ecological and social systems is leading to actions that are sometimes inappropriate or inconsistent, or to unexpected effects. The strategies and solutions proposed are sometimes global or fragmented, depending on the initiator or funder's interests. A number of international or regional meetings are being held to propose policies for environmental protection and well-being. However, their conclusions differ according to the different concerns and realities of the parties involved. Some countries are facing the consequences of imposed development strategies, while others are confronted with the problems of their own development models. The countries of the South have not been able to implement these models and are suffering the negative consequences of industrial development. Yet the countries of the South have high demographic growth, subsistence economies and inequitable political, economic and social governance. Inequalities are growing and poverty is on the increase. The fact remains, therefore, that uniform, external solutions that are not appropriated by the populations or citizens will have difficulty in achieving the desired effects. As a result, there appears to be a lack of action.

The countries of the South are constrained by high demographic growth, high youth unemployment, low levels of decent job creation, inequalities between and within countries, low levels of clean technology, low levels of digitalisation and structural change in the economy, a system of governance that is ill-suited to the needs of the people, and various conflicts that are assimilated to the predation of natural resources. South-South cooperation is therefore faced with the challenge of improving people's living conditions in line with ecological and social systems. The strategies developed must respond to emergencies and to long-term development, but their implementation is highly uncertain. As for triangular cooperation, the difficulties of an appropriate, shared and active common vision with respect for commitments are constraints.

  1. Governance Mismatches: From the Global South perspective, what are the gaps in current institutional designs affecting our ability to achieve adequate responses to interlinked global crises and challenges? What are the key elements for institutional innovation in the Global South?

The current institutional forms are functional in a context of informal norms and based on traditional institutional practices. The current institutional system seems external and not integrated. Also, responses to crises are sometimes exogenous and do not stem from mechanisms specific to the southern hemisphere. Above all, there remains a lack of understanding of endogenous solutions to crises. The interdependent global challenges are the reform of global governance. The institutional innovation in the South is to achieve an appropriate functional institutional combination of legitimate governance.

  1. Investing in one another: how do we address political polarization and conflict, and how can we foster cooperation, including South-South cooperation, in times of uncertainty and transformations?

(i) Develop an effective partnership to deal with the effects of change, taking into account conflict prevention and the promotion of stability;

(ii) Improve political, economic and administrative governance;

(iii) Prioritise the understanding of local political, institutional and socio-economic conditions prior to successful implementation and positive results for the population;

(iv) Develop innovative financing strategies with co-responsibility mechanisms, taking into account the perceptions of grassroots populations;

(v) Coordinating actors through a multi-actor approach to actions by integrating endogenous knowledge of resilience to the effects of climate change, development strategies and the fight against security;

(vi) Promote equitable development.

Hany  Besada
Hany Besada Moderator

Dear Sayouba OUEDRAOGO  

Your question poses critical and challenging issues facing humanity today, particularly as they relate to environmental sustainability, geopolitical cooperation, and socio-economic dynamics. It would be useful to go into some detail here :

  1. Why are we failing to act despite mounting evidence of distress to our ecological and social systems?

This is a complex issue, with multiple intersecting factors contributing to the perceived lack of action. A few critical factors include:

  • Disinformation and denial: The spread of false or misleading information about climate change and its effects can influence public opinion and lead to inaction.

  • Short-term thinking: Political leaders often prioritize short-term economic gains over long-term environmental sustainability, partly due to election cycles and pressure from interest groups.

  • Economic and social inequalities: Disparities in wealth, power, and resource distribution can hinder the implementation of sustainable practices, as those with fewer resources are often more focused on immediate survival.

  • Global coordination problem: Climate change is a global problem requiring collective action. However, the absence of a central authority to enforce action can make coordination difficult, leading to a "tragedy of the commons" scenario where individual countries prioritize their own interests over the global good.

  1. Constraints for South-South and Triangular cooperation:

    • Institutional capacity: Developing countries often have weaker institutions, which can affect their ability to implement effective policy and facilitate cooperation.

    • Economic and political diversity: The Global South encompasses a wide range of economies and political systems, which can make it challenging to reach consensus and implement coordinated policies.

    • Economic resources: Lower income levels and financial constraints can limit the ability of these nations to invest in sustainable development initiatives.

    • Competing priorities: Countries in the Global South often face pressing challenges such as poverty, health crises, and conflict that might take precedence over environmental issues.

  2. Gaps in current institutional designs and key elements for institutional innovation in the Global South:

Current institutional designs often lack the flexibility and inclusivity necessary to tackle interlinked global crises. The top-down approach of many international bodies often neglects local knowledge and priorities. Furthermore, there's a need for institutions that can effectively integrate environmental, social, and economic considerations.

Key elements for institutional innovation in the Global South could include:

  • Enhancing inclusivity: This could involve better representation of marginalized groups, civil society, and local communities in decision-making processes.

  • Capacity building: Strengthening local institutions and developing necessary skills and knowledge can lead to more effective policy implementation.

  • Adopting a systems perspective: This involves recognizing the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental systems and designing policies that account for these interconnections.

  1. Addressing political polarization and fostering cooperation:

This requires fostering a culture of dialogue and respect for diversity, promoting transparency and accountability in governance, and building shared understandings of common threats like climate change. Initiatives like South-South cooperation can be facilitated by aligning national interests with shared regional or global goals, and by leveraging regional bodies for coordination and conflict resolution. Additionally, supporting these initiatives with appropriate resources, capacity building, and technology transfer can help overcome many of the challenges associated with cooperation in times of uncertainty and transformations.

Sayouba OUEDRAOGO
Sayouba OUEDRAOGO

Dear Hany

The reasons you give are certainly plausible. But I wonder whether we have properly identified the difficulties and whether our determination and commitment are equal to these crises. 
Be that as it may, all the complex difficulties can only be resolved through the inclusive involvement and real determination of citizens at the grassroots level, along with exemplary political, economic, administrative, and financial governance.

I would like to add a comment about an institutional point: 

2. The institutional architecture takes less account of particularities, and their responses to crises in the southern hemisphere are generally partial, ill-adapted and inadequate. Indeed, the institutions are sometimes duplicative, incoherent and competitive with regard to political logic. As a result, a great deal of energy is wasted. Nevertheless, it is difficult for institutions and forms of governance to respond to crises.  
2.1.    Human, technical, economic, and financial capacities. The countries of the southern hemisphere generally have human resources with lower skills than those needed to resolve crises. The education and training system justifies the lower quality of human resources. The dynamics of technical capacity do not keep pace with crises. Also, the specific characteristics of countries in the southern hemisphere mean that technical responses need to be tailored to their particular circumstances. These technical capabilities need to be constantly updated in light of changes and multiple crises. The economies of Africa's southern hemisphere countries are more juxtaposed, informal and formal, and less competitive. Standardized, uniform economic policies are no match for the operating logic of the informal economy, which is expanding as governments fail to meet the basic needs of their citizens. Economic capacities, therefore, need to be improved if they are to be effective in the face of crises. The countries of the Southern Hemisphere are facing financial difficulties. The value of their currencies is constantly being devalued. As a result, international funding for crisis resolution strategies is facing a failure to honor commitments and unequal investment depending on strategic and political orientations. As a result, the countries of the Southern Hemisphere are competing for international funding. 
All these weak capacities are amplified by political, administrative, economic and financial governance. Political governance focuses on the regularity with which elections are held, rather than on the quality of citizen participation and the values and programs defended by candidates. Politics through elections is a profitable investment reserved for the less professionally competent. Corruption thus becomes a system for recovering the financial resources invested by candidates during election campaigns. This has a knock-on effect on administrative, economic and financial governance. To provide appropriate solutions, development strategies need to be politically, economically, administratively and financially coherent, with an externalized and participative monitoring, control and evaluation system.

 

Muhammad Asif  Noor
Muhammad Asif Noor

I am honored to have been invited to participate in these important discussions. I think this will create much awareness and understanding about the issues. As a practicing professional who has helped institutions from the South to build their  South-South cooperation and someone hailing from Pakistan, I am honored to contribute to this high-level forum and address the guiding questions at hand.

Here is my reply to the first guiding question. 

Friends, the paradox we face in our time is indeed a pressing concern. Despite the mounting evidence showcasing the distress caused by human planetary pressures on our ecological and social systems, we find ourselves falling short of taking necessary action. This begs the question: Why are we failing to act?

At the core of this challenge lies a complex web of interrelated factors. One prominent constraint for South-South and triangular cooperation is the persistent gap in understanding and awareness. While there is a growing recognition of the urgent need for collective action, it remains crucial to bridge the knowledge divide and enhance awareness about the gravity of the situation. This entails disseminating information and research on the interconnectedness between human activities, planetary pressures, and the consequences for sustainable development. For instance, countries like Pakistan face tremendous challenges in the knowledge gap, and this requires cooperation on only with the north but also at the south-south levels too.  

Another constraint is the presence of competing priorities and interests. Nations, particularly those from the Global South, often grapple with multiple challenges, such as poverty alleviation, economic growth, and social development. Balancing these priorities with the imperative to address ecological concerns can be a delicate task. It is essential to foster an integrated approach that recognizes the interdependencies between socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability, highlighting the potential synergies between the two.

Resource limitations pose a significant constraint to cooperation, especially in a country like Pakistan. Many countries in the Global South face resource constraints in terms of finance, technology, and capacity. Building robust partnerships and facilitating technology transfer among countries can help overcome these limitations. The exchange of knowledge, expertise, and best practices through South-South and triangular cooperation can unlock avenues for innovative solutions that are contextually relevant and resource-efficient.

Political factors and governance challenges are hindering effective cooperation amongst countries like Pakistan and others. Political polarization, geopolitical tensions, and institutional barriers often impede the progress of collaborative efforts. It is imperative to strengthen multilateral frameworks and institutions, promote trust-building measures, and foster a conducive environment for dialogue and cooperation. Engaging in inclusive and participatory decision-making processes can ensure that the voices and perspectives of all stakeholders, especially those from the Global South, are duly considered.

And finally, calling up financing mechanisms for sustainable development initiatives remains a critical constraint. Mobilizing adequate financial resources, both domestic and international, is necessary to support the implementation of sustainable development projects. Innovative financing mechanisms, such as green bonds and impact investment, can be explored to attract private sector involvement and unlock additional funding streams. Efforts should be made to address the debt burden faced by many countries in the Global South, which restricts their ability to invest in sustainable development initiatives. And you all know that debt burden is the cause of great concern for Pakistan, which is currently facing the tough challenges of balancing its economic needs as the threat of default is hanging on us these day. 

Muhammad Asif  Noor
Muhammad Asif Noor

Then in response to the second question, here is my response:

From the Global South perspective, several gaps in current institutional designs hinder our ability to address interlinked global crises effectively. One fundamental gap lies in the lack or dearth of representation and inclusivity within existing global governance structures. The decision-making processes of international institutions often suffer from a lack of adequate representation from the Global South, which undermines the legitimacy and effectiveness of their actions. It is crucial to reform and democratize these institutions, ensuring that the voices and perspectives of the Global South are given due consideration. Sometimes it does happen that the colleagues who sit on the highest decision making tables often have experiences from the top and they are disconnected from the ground realities hence making them unaware of the pressing realities on the ground.

Then power imbalances inherent in the existing global governance framework pose significant challenges. Many decision-making processes are dominated by a handful of powerful countries, leading to unequal power dynamics that impede the Global South's ability to shape global agendas. Addressing these power imbalances requires reforms that empower and amplify the voices of countries from the Global South, allowing for more equitable participation in global decision-making processes. Although I can understand that might is right and those who have the power have the resources but at the same time this is creating tremendous discriminations causing conflicts and problems across the world.

An important and critical gap lies in the limited capacity and resources available to institutions in the Global South. Many countries in our region face constraints in terms of financial resources, technological capabilities, and institutional capacities. To foster institutional innovation, it is imperative to prioritize capacity building efforts and facilitate technology transfer to bridge these gaps. Strengthening institutional capacities at the national and regional levels will enhance our ability to respond effectively to interlinked global challenges.

I suggest that there is need for greater coordination and coherence among institutions at different levels—global, regional, and national. Often, institutional fragmentation and overlapping mandates lead to inefficient use of resources and disjointed approaches. Promoting synergy and collaboration among institutions, both within and across regions, can lead to more comprehensive and integrated responses to global crises. Enhancing coordination mechanisms and establishing platforms for dialogue and knowledge-sharing will foster institutional innovation and facilitate a more cohesive and effective response.

In terms of key elements for institutional innovation in the Global South, several factors merit consideration. First and foremost is the recognition of context-specific needs and priorities. Institutional innovation should be tailored to the unique challenges and circumstances faced by countries in the Global South. Taking into account local knowledge, cultural diversity, and development contexts will enable the design of institutions that are relevant, responsive, and effective in addressing our specific challenges.  Then promotion of multi-stakeholder engagement. Institutional innovation should embrace the active involvement of diverse stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector. By fostering partnerships and participatory processes, we can harness the collective wisdom and expertise of various actors to co-create innovative institutional frameworks that address our shared challenges.

I also suggest that investing in research and knowledge generation is essential for institutional innovation. Robust research and evidence-based policymaking can inform the design of effective institutions and governance mechanisms. By nurturing a culture of research and knowledge exchange, we can ensure that institutional innovation in the Global South is rooted in rigorous analysis and informed by the experiences and expertise of our own scholars and experts.

There is a need for financial sustainability and this is a critical element for institutional innovation. Adequate and predictable funding mechanisms should be put in place to support the establishment and functioning of innovative institutions. This requires exploring innovative financing models, leveraging public-private partnerships, and prioritizing domestic resource mobilization. Financial sustainability will enable institutions in the Global South to operate effectively and address interlinked global challenges with the necessary resources at their disposal.

Muhammad Asif  Noor
Muhammad Asif Noor

And in response to the third question: Here is my detailed answer. 

Political polarization and conflict pose significant obstacles to cooperation in our increasingly uncertain world. The widening divisions and deepening ideological rifts have hindered meaningful dialogue and impeded the development of shared solutions. To address this, it is crucial to adopt a holistic approach that involves multiple stakeholders and employs strategies aimed at bridging gaps, building trust, and promoting inclusive dialogue.

One fundamental step is to foster a culture of constructive engagement and empathy. Encouraging open and respectful dialogue, where diverse perspectives are welcomed and heard, can help create an environment conducive to cooperation. By actively listening to and understanding differing viewpoints, we can bridge the divides that contribute to political polarization and conflict. Emphasizing shared values, common goals, and the pursuit of the greater good can foster a sense of unity and overcome divisive tendencies.

I think it is essential to address the root causes of political polarization and conflict, including social and economic disparities, identity-based tensions, and exclusionary policies. Investing in inclusive and equitable development can contribute to reducing grievances and creating an environment that nurtures cooperation. By promoting social justice, equal opportunities, and inclusive governance, we can address the underlying factors that fuel polarization and conflict, paving the way for collaboration.

South-South cooperation plays a vital role in fostering cooperation amidst uncertainty and transformations. It offers a platform for countries in the Global South to share experiences, exchange knowledge, and collaborate on common challenges. South-South cooperation promotes a spirit of solidarity and mutual assistance, enabling countries to learn from each other's successes and failures, and to jointly address complex issues.

To enhance South-South cooperation, it is crucial to strengthen institutional mechanisms and platforms that facilitate knowledge-sharing and collaboration. This includes creating networks, establishing regional cooperation frameworks, and promoting joint research and development initiatives. By leveraging the diverse expertise and resources available within the Global South, we can unlock innovative solutions and promote inclusive cooperation.

Investing in capacity-building initiatives is vital to enhance cooperation in times of uncertainty. By strengthening the technical and administrative capabilities of countries, we can empower them to actively engage in cooperative efforts. This includes providing training, sharing best practices, and facilitating technology transfer. By enabling countries to build their capacities, we foster an environment where they can contribute effectively to collaborative endeavors.

In times of uncertainty and transformations, it is crucial to develop flexible and adaptive cooperation frameworks. Embracing agile and dynamic approaches allows us to respond to emerging challenges and seize new opportunities. This includes promoting agile decision-making processes, establishing agile governance structures, and fostering an environment that encourages experimentation and learning.

Fostering a culture of cooperation requires recognizing and valuing the interdependence of nations in the face of global challenges. Emphasizing the shared nature of problems such as climate change, poverty, and pandemics can serve as a unifying force that transcends political divisions. By highlighting the interconnectedness of our destinies, we can foster a sense of collective responsibility and mobilize collective action.

Sayouba OUEDRAOGO
Sayouba OUEDRAOGO

3. Investment in one another 

Add to the previous part of point 3

Political polarization is a natural part of human life. Conflicts have more to do with competitive behavior, the appropriation and monopolization of resources, or the assertion of power. It is therefore impossible to have a shared convergence of political positions given the divergent and changing interests of individuals and nations. Strategies include respecting political positions, accepting divergence, and developing mechanisms for collaboration or partnerships that are accepted and internalized in a climate of exchange and constructive dialogue. Conflicts can only be mitigated by careful management of resources and by limiting ambitions for predation, appropriation, monopolization, and the quest for hegemony. Cooperation must not be a game of winners and losers. It is a framework in which mutual aid, sharing and the promotion of exchanges of resources and values will enable us to appreciate each other's differences. While it has long been accepted that comparative advantages should be developed, today we need to develop complementary advantages.

South-South cooperation must highlight countries' specific economic, human, and social characteristics. This will accentuate trade within a well-defined framework. Political options influence the course of countries, and it would be advisable to intensify consultations at all levels. Exchanges, meetings, and the sharing of experiences are more appropriate in a context of uncertainty and change. The growing mobility of citizens is intensifying commercial, cultural, technical, and scientific exchanges.

Digital technology is revolutionizing habits, behavior, and relationships. Nonetheless, diagnosing its negative effects is the key to addressing the uncertainties. Digital inequalities are also an extension of wealth and social inequalities, which is why giving young people in the South technical, financial, and economic access to digital technology through the development of projects and exchanges will help them to integrate change and reduce uncertainties. Furthermore, reviewing governance, especially global governance, in light of experience is one of the ways in which cooperation can be transformed to reduce uncertainty. This global governance must have legitimate, legal means and operational capacities, and it must banish the hocus-pocus of standardization and hegemony.

The role of think tanks is becoming necessary for objective and impartial analysis in this reform of inclusive governance. This would be credible.

 


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