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Solidarity and south-south cooperation

By Ioan Voicu - posted Tuesday, 22 August 2023

The 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), scheduled to open on 5 September 2023, has as official theme with the topic entitled "Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity: Accelerating action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards peace, prosperity, progress and sustainability for all".

After the end of the Cold War, multilateral diplomacy tried hard to convince the world community that the duty of solidarity is an imperative prerequisite of globalisation with a human face. Yet, on a planet characterised by global crises, global vulnerabilities, perplexities and discontinuities, this humanistic message could not be accepted on a consensus basis. Moreover, as recently reminded by the former UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon "The great tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the failure of multilateralism and the absence of solidarity between the Global North and the Global South."

This tragedy becomes obvious if we treat world cooperation as a process in which solidarity is expected to function as a vital organ. If the value of solidarity is absent (or insufficient), world cooperation suffers. Knowing that, the Group of 77 and China (135 countries) strongly promoted the view that South-South cooperation is a manifestation of solidarity among peoples and countries of the South that contributes to their national well-being, national and collective self-reliance, and the attainment of internationally agreed development goals, including the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


The members of the Group clearly stated that the South-South cooperation between developing countries is not a substitute for but is complementary to North-South cooperation with developed industrialized states.

Under the United Nations system there is a high-level committee on South-South cooperation. It has a mandate to support South-South and triangular cooperation, in order to bolster human solidarity and accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda, containing the Sustainable Development Goals in the Global South and beyond. This high-level committee met in New York on 30 May - 2 June 2023. This diplomatic event was ignored by mass media. Fortunately, the documentation of its session is available and will be considered during the 78th session of the UNGA.

In a special decision, the High-level Committee reaffirmed the strong global commitment to address the challenge of financing and creating an enabling environment at all levels for sustainable development in the spirit of global partnership and solidarity.

In the same decision, inspired by the Group of 77 and China, the committee reaffirmed that South-South cooperation is an important element of international cooperation for development, as a complement to, not a substitute for, North-South cooperation. It recognized its increased importance, different history and particularities, stressing that South-South cooperation should be seen as an expression of solidarity among peoples and countries of the South, based on their shared experiences and objectives. The committee reiterated that it should continue to be guided by the principles of respect for national sovereignty, national ownership and independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in domestic affairs and mutual benefit.

Substantive deliberations

During the session of the high-level committee, national delegates were informed about numerous actions and initiatives undertaken by the UN development system as part of an ongoing search to expand multilateral solidarity through South-South and triangular cooperation in support of the 2030 Agenda.

We will selectively summarize some ideas expressed during the session with emphasis on the value of solidarity.


If in past years the COVID-19 pandemic was at the forefront of concerns, in 2023 the Committee emphasized the importance of interdependence, solidarity, multilateralism and equity in addressing the potential future pandemics, but also other crises. These include the climate change crisis, economic and gender inequalities, challenges posed by the war in Ukraine and other conflicts that have caused inflation, food and energy shortages, debt and an immigration crisis.

The consequences of such crises have underlined the important role that South-South cooperation can play to address the deteriorating conditions for millions of people of the Global South. According to the Multidimensional Poverty Index of 2022, 1.2 billion people in 111 developing countries live in acute multidimensional poverty and half of them are children under the age of 18.

Among other matters, additional attention is also necessary to better identify the kinds of funding and institutional support required to confront the development challenges at the individual country level that can best be supported by governments and the private sector through South-South and triangular cooperation.

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About the Author

Dr Ioan Voicu is a Visiting Professor at Assumption University in Bangkok

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