By Ramesh Jaura*
Representatives of governments, civil society, and the private sector as well as global development partners have pledged to build new South-South and triangular partnerships to empower women and youth through jobs and entrepreneurship with a view to ensuring integrated rural development.
While South-South cooperation (SSC) is between and among developing countries, triangular cooperation (TrC) involves a traditional donor from the ranks of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), an emerging donor in the South, and a beneficiary country in the South.
The decision on new partnerships was taken at a symposium on February 11-12 organized in Brussels by the 79-nation African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of countries jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP).
Groups at the symposium agreed on an action plan to ensure that other ACP countries benefit from the shared experiences and best practices to fulfil their targets in line with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including two key objectives to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls, as well as to promote decent work and economic growth.
The significance of the pledge and the action plan is underlined by the fact that agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 per cent of the world population. It is the major source of income and jobs for poor rural households.
Besides, according to the United Nations, 500 million small farms worldwide provide up to 80 per cent of food consumed in a large part of the developing world. And, if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million, the UN says.
Three days ahead of the symposium, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Commission for Social Development – the first of the functional commissions of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to meet this year – that 2016 must be a year of “global traction” to ensure that 3.1 billion people worldwide are not left behind in the race to end poverty. 2015 was a year of “global action” on the SDGs agreed by the international community in September 2015.
These range from zero poverty, zero hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and affordable clean energy, to decent work and economic growth, innovation, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities, responsible consumption, climate action, unpolluted oceans and land, and partnerships to achieve the goals.
“We have to make things move – rolling traction,” he told the ECOSOC. “The work of the Commission affects the lives of 1.2 billion young people, more than 900 million older persons and 1 billion persons with disabilities around the globe, among many others. Your work will be crucial in ensuring that the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs truly leave no one behind,” he said.
In particular, the eighth goal of the 2030 Agenda that aims to “promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”, sets a very important target to achieve, organisers of the symposium said in a message to the participants.
The Brussels symposium examined key areas including the development of skills, enhancing institutional capacities, improving access to technology, land and efficient business services.
“African, Caribbean and Pacific countries have a long history of collaboration in various fields, including under the ACP-EU partnership framework. We are excited to share these experiences, and to highlight the added value of South-South and Triangular Cooperation in enhancing inclusivity, diversity, innovation and genuine partnerships,” said Dr Patrick Gomes, Secretary General of the ACP Group of States.
“We cannot emphasize enough that this kind of event is always an opportunity to showcase and promote the development solutions from the South that effectively work especially for the youth and women of the global south. We salute everyone – individuals and institutions who are represented in today’s symposium,” said Rogel Nuguid, UN Interagency Coordinator at the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).
Speaking on behalf of the UNOSSC’s Director Jorge Chediek, Nuguid said: “Strategically we . . . would want to provide the platform that would systematically and strategically highlight the strengths of the people and institutions of the south for the South . . .”
Laurent Thomas, Assistant Director-General for Technical Cooperation and Programme Management at FAO, said the organization was pleased about partnership with the ACP, and was eager to work together to deliver results under the 2030 Agenda.
“Without partnership no one will succeed. What we need is concrete action to support women and youth who are too often the ones left behind. Through South-South collaboration each ACP country has something to bring and share so we can accelerate real change for women and youth,” Thomas said.
With more than 85 percent of young people living in developing countries, expanding national and regional policies and interventions on youth employment is considered essential, he said.
OIF Secretary-General Michaëlle Jean emphasized the need for empowering women: “When you empower women you empower a community, a nation, humanity. If we are to combat poverty we have to guarantee that women have rights to land and access to technology and skills. Women should to be part of policy making processes.” Young people, she said, are critical actors in development and called for groups to work together for concerted action.
Commonwealth Secretariat’s Katherine Ellis, Director of the Youth Division, said: “The youth development sector is a prime area for South-South Cooperation. Young People are dynamic, collaborative, and more globalized than ever before. We need to recognize them not just as beneficiaries, but as important drivers of development and agents of change.”
Manuel Clarote Lapao, Head of the CPLP’s Cooperation Department, informed participants that South-South and Triangular Cooperation have proved to be important in areas such as food security and nutrition, health and in the fight against child labour.
The symposium also provided an opportunity to development agencies and countries including Benin, Mali, Mozambique and Uganda to present their initiatives and projects. These served as a catalyst to discussions on how similar techniques can be introduced elsewhere in the world to help combat hunger and improve rural livelihoods.
Among them were the ACP’s COLEACP Programme that bolsters trade to support smallholder farmers across Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and the Pacific. It encourages small horticultural businesses from these regions to actively promote sustainable trade and poverty alleviation.
Four UN agencies and national partners presented a joint initiative implemented on promoting rural women’s economic empowerment, through providing them with access to knowledge and skills in simple ways such as using solar powered radios to connect communities. The programme spans seven countries and is working with 75,000 rural women.
FAO presented the Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools. The project, which was launched in 2003, is now in place in over 20 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East – providing support to over 25,000 young women and men. Food security in these countries has improved and rural poverty rates have dropped.