Blog by Xiaojun Grace Wang, UNDP's lead adviser on South-South and Triangular


We are in the era of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving no one behind. However, one out of five people in the world live in conflicts and fragility. South-South Cooperation (SSC) can deliver important results in fragile and conflict affected contexts, as well as in stable situations.  

By 2014, international humanitarian assistance from Southern partners almost tripled 2012 levels. In 2015, the largest percentage increases mainly came from the Gulf States. Emerging economies including Brazil, China, India, South Africa, have considerably expanded their cooperation in crisis environments alongside traditional donors. India is estimated to have a budget of US$15 billion in 2012-2017 focusing on fragile states. In addition to its substantial support to crisis recovery, China pledged to add $100 million to help deal with refugee and migrant crises at the UN this year.

Southern leadership can lead to scaled-up international efforts, including through triangular cooperation.

Neighbouring countries are often among the first to extend a helping hand.  With UNDP's facilitation, Jordan provided training for Iraq government to better manage gender based violence, which often becomes more serious after conflicts. Indeed, Culture and language familiarities can group countries together to pursue SSC at scale. Timor-Leste, as the Rotating Presidency of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, expressed full support alongside with a contribution of $1.9 million to Guinea-Bissau for political stability and economic and social development. Such an effort was able to further mobilize over 1 billion euros in cash, goods and services, investments and concessional loans to finance related projects in Guinea-Bissau. This is also a demonstration of how Southern leadership can lead to scaled-up international efforts, including through triangular cooperation.

Fragile-to-Fragile cooperation is championed by the g7+ countries -- 20 countries who recognized that conflict-affected states are best positioned to learn from one another about these hard-won experiences and collectively advocate for tailored policies in their special contexts, with a stronger sense of solidarity and a common voice in the international community.

SSC is of strategic relevance to the countries in fragile contexts. Studies show that financial assistance from the South is more likely to use national systems and build local capacities. According to Global Humanitarian Report 2014, during 2008-2011, non-DAC countries channelled 31 percent of their humanitarian assistance through the host governments, compared to just 10 percent of the DAC donors.

While ODA in fragile states is primarily focused on political processes, institutions, and social services, which are critical, SSC complements ODA to focus on trade facilitation, basic infrastructure and productive capacity. It will have significant impact on structural changes in these countries. Reducing poverty can create important conditions for a transition out of fragility. It's about jobs and more jobs to help break the cycle of poverty and violence. A number of countries, including Mozambique, Ghana, Rwanda, Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Malaysia, have successfully followed this path and can share important lessons.

SSC can help to address the needs in fragile contexts with a wide range of cooperation modalities, resources and a sophisticated financing toolkit, ranging from cash or human resource support, knowledge exchanges, to insurance for natural disasters. A combination of approaches and options, that are flexible to adapt for the context and ready to apply timely, can mitigate the escalation of high-risk situations into humanitarian crises.

In recognition of the potential of SSC, UNDP has recently launched a global solution exchange system -- SSMart for SDGs. It will enable partners to match their demand and supply and foster SSC programmes. The system will also offer end-to-end services, as requested, to support feasibility study, implementation, and evaluation of these partnerships. Currently, we are working with Colombia Government to develop a thematic window of the SSMart on Peace Building and Resilience.

In the meanwhile, in order to scale-up SSC in fragile contexts, risk management is critical. UNDP, jointly with UN Office for SSC, has established the SSC Global Thinkers Initiative. This is a global coalition of think tank networks on SSC, involving over 200 think tanks, to jointly conduct research, policy dialogues and advices on various subjects of SSC. Managing risks for SSC in fragile contexts will be one of the priority areas to study. We look forward to learning more from the think tanks community on this important subject.