by Daniel Ooko
NAIROBI, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- The UN-backed high-level conference aimed at boosting South-South Cooperation kicked off on Tuesday in Nairobi, Kenya, with senior officials calling for developing and expansion of the initiative.
Speaking at the start of the three-day conference, UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose Migiro said the world body can play a catalytic role in promoting South-South Cooperation not only in general but also between countries that might not otherwise think of working together.
"The demands of our deeply interconnected world call for practical solutions, reinforced by stronger South-South and North-South partnerships. Indeed, South-South cooperation is not a substitute for North-South cooperation but complementary to it," she said.
The conference is discussing common development challenges affecting developing countries under the UN to help come up with an inclusive partnership to tackle the challenges of Third World nations.
Migiro said new Southern poles of growth now exist in trade, finance and technology, signaling the emergence of a new community of countries with formidable economic strength and tremendous potential to advance their well-being further still.
She said the international community can only welcome higher South-South investments in agriculture, education, health and infrastructure development, particularly in Africa.
"Development does not occur in vacuum. It has proved to be most successful when coupled with strategies to increase cross-border trade and investment," Migiro told the forum which brought together high-ranking UN and government officials.
"We know from the days of the Marshal Plan that cooperation in the creation of vibrant regional neighbourhoods pays handsome dividends, including jobs, increased productivity and better living standards. Our challenge is to heed what history teaches us about what works in development and what does not," she said.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said the South-South cooperation was still being faced with challenges including the Millennium Development Goals.
Odinga said some of these challenges include those arising from the global economic and financial crisis, communicable diseases, high food prices, effects of climate change as well as limited resources to meet the needs of the people.
"Poverty continues to pose a great challenge to our nations. Nearly one half of the South's population is still living under unacceptable levels of human deprivation," he said.
In Africa, Odinga said, the number of people living in extreme poverty rose over the past two decades and are now estimated at over 100 million people despite the economic recovery since 2002.
"I fear therefore, that many countries in the continent and elsewhere in the South may not achieve all the MDGs goals by 2015," he said.
The prime minister said the challenges the South-South cooperation faces called for new approaches and renewed commitment in endeavors to deal with them, calling on the governments to work together to promote peace and global trade under South-South relations.
"In this respect, the strategy of Triangulation, which is contained in the UN Secretary General's October 2009 report, ought to receive serious attention at this conference. Triangulation calls for binding South-South economic cooperation and North-South collaboration," he said.
The UN s Secretary General's report of October 2009 confirmed that trade and regional integration between the developing countries have grown much faster than global trade.
South-South merchandise trade, for example, rose from 577 million U.S. dollars in 1995 to two trillion dollars in 2006. It now constitutes 20 percent of the world trade.
The conference is being convened on the 30th anniversary of adoption of Buenos Aires Plan of Action for promoting and implementing technical cooperation among developing countries.
The cooperation was born out of a meeting in Argentina in 1978 to tackle technical challenges facing developing nations. This was through promoting self-reliance within the nations.
The General Assembly has described the South-South cooperation as an important element of international cooperation for development, which offers viable opportunities for developing countries in their individual and collective pursuits of sustained economic growth and sustainable development, and emphasized that South-South cooperation is not a substitute for, but is complementary to the North-South cooperation.