The importance of South-South solidarity in a sustainable recovery

UN Development Programme
4 min readSep 9, 2022
South-South cooperation is at the heart of UNDP’s support to help countries achieve their development goals.

As the war in Ukraine continues to compound the fallout from COVID-19, it is clear the world faces an uncertain future shaped by economic and social crises and buffeted by the increasingly unpredictable effects of the climate crisis. Effective global partnerships at all levels will be vital to surmounting these difficulties.

In this context South-South cooperation — partnerships that draw upon the solidarity among peoples and countries of the ‘Global South’ — is more important than ever to breaking the cycle of poverty and instability and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the halfway point for the 2030 Agenda, the partnership will examine ways South-South cooperation can contribute.

The 2023 commemoration of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation focuses on advancing Solidarity, Equality and Partnership: Unlocking South-South Parternship to Achieve the SDGs.

It’s the latest in an annual observation which marks the anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Conference on Technical Cooperation Among Developing Countries.

In 1974, the UN General Assembly created a dedicated unit within UNDP charged with promoting cooperation among developing countries with the aim of building local capacity and boosting self-reliance. Nearly 50 years later, South-South cooperation remains an essential component of UNDP’s work.

“South-South cooperation represents a shared vision among the peoples and countries of the South that is shaped by close historical realities, similar development pathways, as well as shared challenges,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.

“Every country has something to bring to the table in a common attempt to find and share solutions that are both cost-effective and easier to adapt to each country’s unique situation.”

UNDP’s global network of offices, policy centres and experts supports a wide range of partnerships in financing, technology and knowledge exchange all over the world. Here are just a few examples.

Spreading the successful YouthConnekt model across Africa

Youth try out virtual reality headsets at the 2017 YouthConnekt Africa Summit In Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: UNDP/Aude Rossignol

YouthConnekt was developed in Rwanda in 2012 with the aim of connecting young people to role models, peers, resources, technologies, skills and economic opportunities. YouthConnekt strengthens and expands leadership and entrepreneurship skills, as well as productive youth employment opportunities. UNDP Africa has developed YouthConnekt in eight countries — Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Liberia, Zambia, Cape Verde, Gambia and Uganda. It continues to expand the programme across the continent, creating jobs for young Africans and helping them develop the skills to become business leaders.

Our partnership with the Tony Elumelu Foundation, focuses on youth entrepreneurship and empowerment in Africa and plans to support 100,000 African entrepreneurs over 10 years.

Connecting Caribbean islands through disaster risk reduction

Community members in Cuba help government employees distribute aluminium roofing from UNDP to repair houses after Hurricane Sandy. Photo: UNDP Cuba

Hurricanes are a fact of life in Cuba, and because of climate change they are becoming stronger and more frequent. UNDP works with governments and communities to ensure their disaster risk reduction plans match this new reality. This includes early warning systems, management of natural resources, supplying storm-proof roofing and supporting the local production of sturdy construction materials. We’re also working with communities to strengthen their capacity to grow their own food, so that they can be self-sufficient when catastrophes occur.

Five Caribbean countries — Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Dominican Republic and the British Virgin Islands — as well as Talcahuano in Chile are also benefiting from the lessons learned at Cuba’s Risk Reduction Management Centre in vulnerable communities.

Promoting youth leadership in the Arab region

Mariam Al Kaabi from the United Arab Emirates is a member of the Youth Leadership Programme, a ground-breaking initiative that supports young people to become successful agents of change. Photo: UNDP/Freya Morales

The Youth Leadership Programme (YLP) offers one of the region’s most dynamic networks, targeting the intersection of youth, innovation and sustainable development. It offers a unique opportunity to reach young people from marginalized background.

Since its initiation in 2015, YLP has worked in 18 countries across the region, engaging more than 30,000 young women and men, and creating a network of more than 80 youth-serving organizations.

The programme has used behavioural insights, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology to educate and inspire more than 5,000 young people, especially women. It encourages them to become social innovators, leaders and a powerful force for change in their communities, equipping them to create social enterprises and non-profits.