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Promoting South-South for a more peaceful world

South-South and triangular cooperation play important roles in international development cooperation, alongside the traditional North-South cooperation. So far, however, the potential benefits of these approaches have not been fully exploited in peace-building.

The op-ed was originally published in Jakarta Post on September 19, 2017.

By Retno L.P. Marsudi, Foreign Minister of Indonesia, and Børge Brende, Foreign Minister of Norway

South-South and triangular cooperation play important roles in international development cooperation, alongside the traditional North-South cooperation. So far, however, the potential benefits of these approaches have not been fully exploited in peace-building.

Within this context, Indonesia and Norway both share commitments to strengthening South-South and triangular cooperation. It is in that spirit, and as focal points for financing for peace-building in the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission, we took the initiative to co-organize a high-level meeting on “The Role of Enhanced South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Capacity Building in Support of Peacebuilding” during the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 18 in New York.

Since the UN member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015 and the seminal resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council in 2016 on Sustaining Peace, there is an increased realization that peace and development are deeply interconnected.

Success in one requires success in the other. Inadequate capacity of institutions in conflict-affected countries is among the key impediments to peace-building. The potential of greater South-South and triangular cooperation in capacity building should therefore be further explored by the UN, the International Financial Institutions and other development partners, regionally and globally.

Indonesia has been emphasizing this aspect in its co-facilitation of the UN civilian capacity initiative, its membership of the Peacebuilding Commission, as well as through its participation in other UN forums, in ASEAN and elsewhere. Indonesia has established a national coordination mechanism for such cooperation to reinforce its participation.

The lessons learned, best practices and support mechanisms should not only apply to the 2030 Agenda but also to other core global agendas, such as the agenda for Sustaining Peace. We are convinced that the UN system can play a more impactful role in achieving sustainable peace and development, if more emphasis is given to Southern solutions and partnerships.

The resilience of emerging economies and their contributions to global stability and economic progress in the developing, as well as developed, world is an indicator of the potential of South-South and triangular cooperation.

Many concrete examples attest to the importance of South-South and triangular cooperation as a growing dimension of international development cooperation.

From the Asian-African Conference in Bandung over six decades ago, Indonesia has contributed actively to socioeconomic growth in many developing countries. It is also among the top 10 countries contributing troops and police to UN peacekeeping operations. Additionally, Indonesia has spearheaded novel undertakings at the UN, promoting a comprehensive and collaborative approach to peace, as when it led the first-ever PBC Policy Task Force on partnering with the private sector for peace-building.

Norway has worked together with Cuba as facilitators for the peace process in Colombia, as well as the follow-up commission to the agreement, showing how triangular cooperation can contribute to peace-building.

In Africa, Norway has supported and worked with IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, on the peace process in South Sudan. Moreover, South Africa’s network of female peace mediators was the direct inspiration for the establishment of the Nordic network of female peace mediators.

When exploring the potential for South-South and triangular cooperation to bolster capacities of conflict-affected countries, the following four aspects should be addressed:

First, South-South and triangular cooperation needs to focus more on people, be it in implementing the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change or Sustaining Peace agenda. We need to focus on enhancing human and institutional capacities for the implementation of national plans and strategies.

This means that South-South and triangular cooperation should include a people-centered and result-oriented approach, especially those at the grassroots level. We need to develop context-specific and tailor-made programs, reaching out to postconflict countries in dire need of capacity building.

Second, the UN, the international development banks, regional and subregional organizations should share best practices and lessons learned more systematically in order to develop more effective approaches. In this context, accountability and transparency are important elements.

We must be better at sharing the success stories from SouthSouth and triangular cooperation. The voice of conflict-affected countries themselves must be strengthened at the international level.

Third, strong partnerships inside and outside the UN are essential. There should be a concerted effort involving the UN system, national governments, international, regional and subregional organizations, international development banks and financial institutions, private sector, civil society, women and youth. New information technology and social media should also be utilized to cultivate partnerships and support for South-South and triangular cooperation.

Fourth, increased financial and political investment in SouthSouth and triangular cooperation in conflict prevention and peacebuilding will be money well spent. The costs in dealing with the consequences of conflicts will always be substantially higher than the costs of preventing them.

Adequate and sustained financing for conflict prevention and peace-building is critical. To this end, in addition to the traditional sources, innovative financing mechanisms such as peace bonds, microfinance, crowd funding, as well as business partnerships should also be explored.

The challenges to international peace and development are many. They can only be met if we ensure full alignment between the 2030 Agenda and the Sustaining Peace agenda, using the entire palette of available tools.

We need to work together to build mutual trust and think outside of the box. Increased investment in South-South and triangular cooperation is a smart way to achieve that, helping us to deliver on our responsibility to safeguard the future well-being of people around the world.