unctad.org | First Arab States Regional South-South Development Expo: High-level Opening Ceremony
Statement by Mr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD
First Arab States Regional South-South Development Expo: High-level Opening Ceremony
Doha (Qatar)
17 Feb 2014


Mr. Moderator,
Distinguished Panellists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This First Arab States Regional South-South Development Expo symbolises some of the profound changes that are taking place in the centre of gravity and orbit of the world economy. Attention increasingly focuses on the economic dynamism and political influence of the developing world, which represents a growing and powerful source of innovative solutions to some of the seemingly intractable challenges of development.

But it is more than just a symbol. This Expo can produce concrete results - sharing experiences, knowledge and technology, and harnessing much needed financial resources. In November last year at the Global South-South Development Expo, more than $450 million was pledged between investors, businesses and governments towards projects in developing countries that are contributing to inclusive and sustainable growth. Technologically innovative solutions were proposed, using Southern experience to resolve Southern problems. I am hopeful that the Arab Region Expo can be similarly productive . The chosen themes -- youth and women's employment; energy efficiency and renewable energy; water and food security -- are critical development challenges, and Southern solutions have an essential role to play.

Of course, let us not be misled by the title of this Expo. It may be the "First" Arab-States Regional South-South Development Expo but it is not the first time that Arab States have recognised the importance of south-south development cooperation. Quite the opposite in fact - as you know, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development was established four decades ago, followed closely by the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, the Islamic Development Bank and the OPEC Special Fund. In addition to these multilateral Arab aid institutions, bilateral aid from Arab donors is among the largest and fastest growing segments of South-South development cooperation, together providing more than 6 billion USD per year - on par with and in many cases exceeding the aid volumes provided by Northern donors.

Finally, as many of you will be aware, the Government of the State of Qatar was the most recent host for UNCTAD's quadrennial conference held two years ago. UNCTAD XIII produced the Doha Mandate, which offers a vision of development-centred globalization that continues to guide future UNCTAD research, policy analysis and technical assistance.

So our deliberations this week take place in the context of a long history of active partnership where Arab States have individually and collectively shared resources and activities in an effort to boost development. But what makes this Expo different, is that by including the 192 members of the United Nations, our discussions can scale up to the global level, recognising that development is a global issue. We are beset by global challenges, but we also benefit from global opportunities and global responses. This First Arab States Regional Expo can continue the Arab States tradition of regional collaboration- through what UNCTAD calls "developmental regionalism"- and at the same time, benefit from the universal Membership of the United Nations.

This underlines the fact that South-South collaboration does not mean there is no longer a role to be played by the North. Southern collaboration is a complement to, and not a replacement for, the continued cooperation with historical counterparts in the North. Holding this Expo under the auspices of the United Nations also ensures that no countries - especially the most vulnerable Least Developed Countries - are left behind.

There are many aspects of south-south collaboration that we could consider. Given UNCTAD's role as the focal point in the United Nations family for the integrated treatment of finance, technology and trade for development, I will focus on these three issues.

The first concerns monetary and financial arrangements. Ideally, these should support a cumulative growth dynamic that can sustain the rise of the South. Regional cooperation supports stronger countercyclical, inclusive and developmental macroeconomic policies, and provides the financial support for regional industrial strategies. It need not restrict policy space - rather, it can help to expand it. The establishment of a BRICS development bank, which is still under negotiation, could be a game changer. Similarly, imagine the potential impact if countries could be encouraged to make better use of their stockpiles of foreign reserves. These have risen sharply across the developing world. In the Arab region, foreign exchange and gold reserves doubled over the last six years to stand at $1 trillion, or almost 40% of GDP. For many countries this was in part an effort to boost resilience in uncertain or volatile times. However UNCTAD has long argued that this represents a high opportunity cost in terms of foregone investment, production and trade. Excessive build-up of reserves can also be a source of imbalance, which provokes the very instabilities that governments wish to avoid.

A second dimension relates to technological learning and knowledge, which can be boosted through South-South mechanisms. At the Global Expo in Nairobi last year, many innovations for sustainability were shared. There are plenty of other examples of technology sharing, which need to be substantially scaled up. UNCTAD has made several proposals on how to do this in the recent Technology and Innovation Report 2012. We must draw on the experience of initiatives like the Pan-African e-Network Project led by the Government of India, which is empowering the African continent through tele-medicine and tele-education. Another example is the Brazilian National Service for Industrial Training, which imparts vocational training in 25 countries, financed by mandatory contributions from private enterprises. Similar collaborations may be harnessed through this Expo to help achieve the goals of boosting water and food security, or energy efficiency and moves to renewable energy.

The third dimension is of course trade, and trade arrangements. Developing countries are caught up in a spaghetti bowl of trade and investment agreements and not all have a clear developmental dimension. South-South arrangements could help lead the search for an alternative template - learning from the experiences of the past and offering stronger and more inclusive development impact.

The General System of Trade in Preferences amongst developing countries (GSTP) which recently completed its Sao Paulo Round of negotiations could help the process of rethinking these arrangements. UNCTAD has been playing its role in this process, helping countries to share experiences and seek more effective ways to benefit from trade and investment agreements.

Finally, I must emphasise that South-South collaboration must ensure not only that economic linkages are stronger, but are also more equitably shared and sustainable. In both developed and developing regions of the world, rising income inequality has brought with it persistent economic problems that undermine sustainable growth and provoke social pain and political upheaval. Reducing inequality in education, employment and, in particular, in gender, among others - not only makes moral sense, but also makes economic sense.

The UNCTAD Trade and Development Report recently showed that rising inequality was a main factors behind the economic crisis, which began in 2008, and remains a key reason why the crisis persists in the advanced economies.

South-South collaboration must be equitable and inclusive to ensure that it is sustainable. Only then can it be instrumental in harnessing the potential of investment, technology and trade to deliver the development-centred globalization that we all desire.

Thank you very much.


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