UN Office for South-South Cooperation Virtual Meeting Session on “Durable Peace in the Arab Region: Role of South-South and Triangular cooperation”
Statement by Najat Rochdi, UN Deputy Special Coordinator, Resident & Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon
Distinguished guests and participants
Greetings from Beirut
The unprecedented health, economic and social crisis that the world has faced since last year due to COVID 19, has severely hit Arab countries and undermined their efforts to achieve the SDGs. In some cases, the progress made over the last decade, particularly in reducing poverty and ensuring food security, has been lost, fueling tensions.
The effects of this crisis have exacerbated the profound economic and existing social inequalities and revealed the weakness of the current economic development models, especially the lack of diversity of the economy, the heavy reliance on external markets and sources of finance and the lack of social protection systems for the most vulnerable, all of which is severely constraining the recovery of the countries in the region and halting progress towards meeting the 2030 Agenda. COVID-19 has also challenged the simple connection between countries in the Region and between the Region and the world, severally impacting the economy and leading to a massive loss of jobs.
While the policies adopted so far by the countries in the Region have rightly focused on strengthening national health systems, much more needs to be done to retain the human capital, effectively protect employment, and enhance social protection systems as a MUST to sustain peace.
In that regard, south-south cooperation offers a unique opportunity and has a crucial role to play through sharing lessons, transferring knowledge, leveraging resources, promoting innovations and sharing expertise. And at the regional and international levels, south-south cooperation could facilitate the scaling-up of so much needed finance, for the better regional integration of the Arab countries and supporting new regional platforms with more coordinated positions in negotiations like for example for vaccines supply and production, food supplies, medicines, etc. That would lead to an accelerated plan for recovery and resilience in all the countries in the Region especially those struggling with conflict and fragility. Therefore, SS cooperation would enable better positioning of the Region in the global policy making arena.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Providing adequate responses to the pandemic and moving towards achieving progress on SDGs, especially for the most vulnerable populations, calls on strengthening data collection and analysis is required to sustain and preserve peace and stability.
It is also of utmost importance to integrate environmental risk considerations and human security climate actions into building back better from the pandemic, and South-South cooperation had a role to play in this regard.
An important enabler is the digital and technological regional cooperation. South-south cooperation would support build a digital economy; strengthening regional broadband infrastructure; promoting and harmonizing regional digital legislations including in the fight against cybercriminality; and building innovation labs using the vibrant human capital in the region and its capacity to attract the most talented worldwide.
South-South cooperation is also critically needed in Social Protection to support policies to extend social safety nets mechanisms and access to basic social services through learning from each other and transferring/localizing existing tools to each country’s context (central registry, cash assistance, etc) and thus strengthening social justice.
SS cooperation is also key in addressing intra and inter-communal tensions and conflicts which most of the time have a spillover effect across the borders. We have witnessed effective mediation of some countries in the region, facilitating dialogue between different political forces and factions or convening parties to conflict for peace talks.
In that regard, Arab women’s strong engagement in peace processes and conflict prevention in some countries in the region is a great asset and good practice to transfer and to benefit from.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A recent concrete example of the effectiveness of SS cooperation in the Region in DRM and a lifesaving mechanism was clearly demonstrated right after the explosion of the port of Beirut last year. We have seen Arab countries and countries in other regions coming together, working together, sharing resources, searching and rescuing survivors together, treating injured together through field hospitals, managing crisis and coordinating their work.
The pandemic has with no doubt demonstrated the potential of South-South cooperation to build back faster and better. It is a momentous challenge for all of us, a challenge that we can only meet by working together to leave no one behind.
The one reason though that should drive SS cooperation is to respond to the demands, aspirations and needs of the Arab citizens and putting people at the center of all the recovery plans and strategies in the Region as a pillar to preserve stability and sustain peace.
Ultimately, SSC between the countries in the region can enable and foster the building of a strategic partnership, beyond cooperation and peer learning, but rather to co-create together, to co-generate knowledge, to co-support together the most fragile countries and to co-produce together winning the race between the virus and the vaccines towards a more inclusive, resilient and greener recovery in the Region.