After all, what is South-South Cooperation?

September 12 is the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation. On this day, in 1978, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly adopted a plan of action in 1978 to promote and implement technical cooperation among developing countries.

But, after all, what is South-South Cooperation?

A simple definition

South-South cooperation is a framework of collaboration among countries of the South in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains. 

Involving two or more developing countries, it can take place on a bilateral, regional, intraregional or interregional basis. Developing countries share knowledge, skills, expertise, and resources to meet their development goals through concerted efforts. 

Triangular cooperation is collaboration in which traditional donor countries and multilateral organizations facilitate South-South initiatives through the provision of funding, training, management and technological systems as well as other forms of support.

“The South has a lot to contribute not only to each other but also to the countries of the North”

“Innovative forms of knowledge exchange, technology transfer, emergency response and recovery of livelihoods led by the South are transforming lives. The facts speak for themselves”, said António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, during the inauguration of the 10th South-South Development Expo at UN Headquarters in New York, in November 2018.

According to him, the countries of the South have contributed to more than half of the world’s growth in recent years; intra-south trade is higher than ever, accounting for more than a quarter of all world trade; the outflows of foreign direct investment from the South represent a third of the global flows; and remittances from migrant workers to low and middle-income countries reached 466 billion dollars last year, which helped lift millions of families out of poverty.

The UN chief believes that the ambitious and transformational 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can not be achieved without the ideas, energy and tremendous ingenuity of the countries of the Global South.

“The South has a lot to contribute not only to each other but also to the countries of the North and also to the United Nations,” says Jorge Chediek, director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).

Created in 1974, UNOSSC seeks to promote, coordinate and support south-south and triangular cooperation globally and within the United Nations system.

“The South has gained confidence in themselves and have begun to use their resources more sustainably. They started to trade more among themselves”, says Chediek.

Economically,  the South has strategic importance in the global architecture

“Economically,  the South has strategic importance in the global architecture. There is a huge debt that has to be reduced. Socially, there is a considerable inequality level between people and we have now a great opportunity to address such issues in the South-South level. Moreover, we have the chance to strengthen the South-South cooperation to face the differences that exist between the member states of the South. We could do it by increasing engagement between every stakeholder because there is the need for collective action to tackle such international challenges”, he said at the 6th Brazil Africa Forum.


Cooperation is the keyword

Last November, the UNOSSC published a document gathering more than 100 successful experiences that have contributed to the development of countries around the world. Together with political dialogue and financial cooperation, South-South cooperation has promoted a large number of knowledge and expertise exchanges through programs, projects, and initiatives that have helped solve specific problems in the countries of the Global South.

The publication contains examples from all regions of the world that demonstrate the potential success of South-South cooperation such as Cuba’s support in the fight against Ebola in West Africa; Mexico’s experience in diversifying corn products to improve health and nutrition in Kenya; the knowledge of strategies to reduce hunger shared by Colombia to Mesoamerican countries; and the lessons from Chile to the Caribbean countries on product labeling as a measure to end obesity, among many others

Evento PABA+40, Buenos Aires, Abrirl de 2019
PABA + 40 Event, Buenos Aires, March 2019

A little bit of History

In 1978, the first United Nations Conference on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) took place in Argentina, adopting a plan of action for promoting and implementing technical cooperation among developing countries.

Last March, on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the plan, a second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation happened in Buenos Aires. 

Prior to 2011, the date was celebrated on December 19.

Jorge Chediek: The Face of South-South Cooperation

Jorge Chediek

Director of UNOSSC since October 2015, Jorge Chediek leads the promotion and coordination of the entire United Nations system of South-South development cooperation. In March 2016, he was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General as his Envoy for South-South Cooperation.

Prior to that, Chediek served in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

He will be one of the panelists of the Brazil Africa 2019 Forum – Food Security: path to economic growth, which will take place on November 12 and 13 in São Paulo. More information:

ATLANTICO is a media partner of the Brazil Africa 2019 Forum

+ At the sidelines of the 6th Brazil Africa Forum, the Director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), Jorge Chediek, talks about the importance of the Triangular and South-South Cooperation in a chat with IFAD’s Communications Consultant Stenio Andrade.