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Ma Qiang, Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan (2nd-Left) and Pal Mai Deng, the South Sudan Minister for Water Resources and Irrigation (2nd-Right) hold aloft the signed implementation agreement of the China-Aided Bore hole Drilling and Water Supply Project in Juba.

South-South Cooperation Matters in a Changing World

—On the 20th UN International Day for South-South


Yi Fan

This September 12 marks the 20th UN International Day for
South-South Cooperation. Over the past decades, the Global
South, i.e., the whole of emerging economies and developing
countries, once a sidelined force in the unipolar era after the
Cold War ended, has emerged into an increasingly strong driver
for a multipolar world.

The collective rise of the Global South is fundamentally
changing the global landscape. According to the IMF, emerging
market and developing economies represent 85 percent of the
world’s population and nearly 60 percent of global GDP based
on Purchase Power Parity. In international affairs, the Global
South, more confident in raising voice and united in seeking
strength, has become a key player in shaping the global order.

The world is now living through drastic changes. Various
security challenges continue to surface, while the global
economy is still battling against significant headwinds on its
path to recovery. In a world of both transformation and
turbulence, closer South-South cooperation brings more
stability, certainty and opportunities to the international


Solidarity is a shining tradition among countries in the Global
South, and many recognize that China and Africa lead by
examples in this regard. When the COVID-19 hit China, Africa
and many other Global South countries extended their helping
hand and sent much-needed supplies. In later stages of the
pandemic, when major developed countries were busy hoarding
vaccines, China made selfless donations to its African brothers
and developing friends.

Intra-Africa solidarity is another good example of South-South
cooperation. The Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, an initiative by
Food and Agriculture Organization and African countries,
contributes to unlocking the potential of intra-African
cooperation to bring about rural transformation, benefiting
millions of rural people in Africa.

Development is the biggest common denominator for the Global
South. The Global South believes that the international
community should work together to make global development
more inclusive, universal and resilient, and accelerate the
implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable

Yet, global development has experienced major setbacks.
Secretary-General Guterres warned recently, “Just 12 percent of
the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) targets are on track.
Progress on 50 percent is weak and insufficient. Worst of all, we
have stalled or gone into reverse on more than 30 percent of the



However, the West is neither intended nor able to help address
the fundamental concerns of the emerging economies and
developing countries. What they have done is paying little more
than lip-services and shirking responsibilities. Some even
purposefully set barriers for latecomers, and even form
exclusive “small blocs” to block the trend of developing
countries’ collective rise.

That’s why South-South cooperation is needed more than ever.
Global South countries have already pursued increased synergy
among a host of development initiatives, such as China’s Global
Development Initiative, African Union’s Agenda 2063, Saudi
Arabia’s Vision 2030, and the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

Apart from development, poverty reduction, food and energy
security, and climate change are also common concerns of
developing countries that call for closer South-South
cooperation. China-Africa Digital Innovation Partnership
Program is a pioneering move to help African agricultural
development. The Kigali Communique signed by 10 African
countries is another typical case of South-South cooperation in
green energy transition.

Equity and justice are the common proposition of the Global
South. The whole of emerging economies and developing
countries still hold limited sway in the post-World War II world
order. For example, they are represented inadequately and


treated unfairly within the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO
as the financial system was conceived by a group of rich
countries and naturally basically benefits rich countries.

Given this, greater and bolder South-South cooperation is
required to champion true multilateralism and seek greater
democracy and equity in the international order. The historic
BRICS expansion is a new starting point. As South African
President Cyril Ramaphosa put it, “BRICS has embarked on a
new chapter in its effort to build a world that is fair, a world that
is just, a world that is also inclusive.”

Promoting the implementation of the SDGs will be among the
agenda items for the forthcoming UN General Assembly, and
the G77 + China Leaders’ Summit, a major event for the Global
South. Together, countries in the Global South must utilize the
opportunity to speak with one voice and take greater action for
the achievement of a better future for all. And this makes the
theme of this year’s South-South Cooperation Day — Solidarity,
Equity and Partnership — all the more relevant.

The author is a current affairs commentator based in Beijing.

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