In the face of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the relevance of South-South Cooperation (SSC) has further increased when the virus has compounded social and economic problems of poor, developing and developed countries alike.

The health emergency and economic havoc wrought by the coronavirus require a new vision and heightened cooperation among nations, and necessitated a fresh approach to the SSC in a new era, as its progenitor, the United Nations (U.N.) marks its 75th anniversary.

Created through the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (BAPA) by the then 138 U.N. Member States in Argentina, on September 18, 1978, the SSC is a broad framework of cooperation among the countries in the global south. It enables nations to exchange knowledge, skills, technology and resources to fulfil their common development aspirations.

The first ever Asian-African Conference held in Bandung in 1955 provided the largest platform for the newly-independent nations to conceive the concept of SSC, shifting priority from “national independence” to “common development” with the changing dynamism of international relations.

As the largest developing nation, China has assumed a greater role in realizing the SSC vision by supporting LDCs and developing nations.

In 2015, China set up two separate funds worth $5.1 billion to support developing countries in minimizing the impact of climate change, promote SSC and implement the post-2015 Development Agenda. This economic assistance with no strings attached has helped the developing nations to fight poverty and boost trade, agriculture, education and health.

China also proposed to explore the path of diversified development, seeking synergy among development strategies, delivering practical development outcomes and improving the global development framework.

These proposals constitute the China’s approach to the SSC, emphasizing a new international order and reform of the global governance system.

China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) is perhaps history’s biggest development drive to give an impetus to SSC in the 21st century. Under the BRI framework, it has launched multiple projects and initiatives aimed at boosting the connectivity, critical infrastructure development, agriculture production, food security and employment opportunity in more than 150 nations.

China’s amazing success in poverty eradication can be replicated in Asian, African and Latin American nations where the world’s largest number of poor resides.

The countries in the global south can benefit from Chinese capital, skilled human resources, technology and development experiences in overcoming their conditions of underdevelopment and achieving the inclusive economic growth.

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, China has acted as a responsible nation by dispatching tones of medical supplies and thousands of health workers to over 150 nations hit by the deadly virus.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi has stressed the need to strengthen international joint control mechanisms, speed up research, development, production and distribution of vaccines and make them more accessible and affordable.

China has extended strong support to the World Health Organization’s lead role in global response to the pandemic. Chinese medical support to the nations to fight the pandemic has not only broadened the SSC framework, but also added credence to China’s vision of building a community with a shared future for humankind. Its proposals in enhancing SSC are extremely crucial at a time when unilateralism is making inroads into the global trade and diplomacy.

South-South cooperation is a central part of developing countries’ endeavor to seek strength through unity. China’s role in realizing the development aspirations of countries within the framework of SSC while shedding light on their joint commitment to building a harmonious and prosperous world is vital.

Now, novel ideas and insights are needed to make the SSC a dynamic multilateral forum to surmount the extraordinary crisis facing the globe.

Author: Ritu Raj Subedi