Rising South-South Cooperation no excuse to cut aid

Syed Akbaruddin

Enhanced South-South Cooperation among developing countries fuelled by the rapid economic growth of some in their ranks should not be used as an excuse by developed countries of the North to cut back aid, India has said.

Attempts to include South-South cooperation in the overall international aid system “do no justice to either its historical heritage or its future potential” and are not helpful, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, told the UN Conference on South-South Cooperation in Buenos Aires on Thursday.

“More and better South-South Cooperation now is on account of the global South enjoying more rapid and sustained economic growth,” he noted.

Several countries at the meeting acknowledged India’s contributions to them under its cooperation and aid programmes.

The conference looks back at the 1979 meeting’s Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among developing countries and ahead at how South-South Cooperation can be enhanced to promote the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Since the first conference 40 years ago in the Argentine capital, India has emerged as a major force in South-South Cooperation and Akbaruddin detailed some of them ranging from aid and disaster relief to satellite facilities and education programmes.

He said that at the moment Indian Navy was running disaster relief operations from Port Beira for Mozambique that is reeling from Cyclone Idai that has killed over 200 people there and left 15,000 homeless.

King Mswari III of Eswatini thanked India at an earlier session for helping conduct a poverty assessment last year in the country formerly known as Swaziland to frame policy revisions and create new development programmes.

Ghana’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Owiredu said inter-regional initiatives like the 2015 India-Africa Forum Summit should help implement US development goals.

Cape Verde’s Foreign Minister Luis Filipe Lopes Tavares said that his country has benefited from working with non-traditional partners like India.

Akbaruddin said that during the last decade, India has extended lines of credit or loans worth $25 billion to more than 60 countries of the South. He said they “do not create unsustainable debt burdens and ensure skill and technology transfer to help local communities maintain and sustain assets created”.

The India-UN Development Partnership Fund established in June 2017 and administered through the UN Office of South-South Cooperation has projects in 39 countries, he said.

India gives the least developed countries duty free access to its markets, he said.

India initiated the International Solar Alliance to help fight climate change, he said. Over 120 countries – most of them developing – are members of the group.

The South Asian satellite provides meteorology and communications services to members of the South Asian Association for Region Cooperation, he said.

The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme trains 13,000 people from 161 countries every year, he added.