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SPECIAL EVENT: High-level Round Table on City Experiences in South-South Cooperation: Cooperation in Tourism for Sustainable Development

The UN has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. Participants discussed the relevance of tourism for sustainable development and how South-South cooperation can help them capitalize the opportunities generated by the ever-faster growing tourism industry. The session included both perspectives from cities and regions. “Tourism is a tool for local development and also for localizing the SDGs”, noted one of the panellists. “Cities are key actors in any moment in the future”, stressed a city representative. Several countries have identified the need to diversify their tourism offers, not only to be less vulnerable to external shocks but also be able to fully capitalize the potential of tourism for their regions.

Mr. Jorge Chediek, Director, UN Office for South-South Cooperation, noted that more than half of the population live in cities. By the year 2030, this number will increase to 60%. The number of people in cities will grow exponentially, and most of this growth will be in the global South. Cities are becoming the centers for ideas, culture and production and much more. SDG11 is therefore explicitly dedicated to sustainable cities and communities. In 2016, the new Urban Agenda was adopted in Quito. Cities stand to benefit in particular form the increasing global tourist levels. Tourism at the international level is growing at a higher rate than the overall economy. It is estimated 1 in 11 jobs globally is related to tourism; the tourism sector employs more women than men. Mr. Chediek concluded by saying that “the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) presents a particular opportunity to countries in the region”.

Mr. Ibrahim Evrim, Advisor to the Mayor of Antalya, described the tourism strategy of the host city of the GSSD 2017. Today, Antalya has the highest accumulation of 5-star hotels in a city in the world. More than 10 million visitors arrive annually by plane, the majority of them coming from Germany and Russia. This has made Antalya vulnerable to political crises. Antalya is also challenged by the highly seasonal nature of its tourism stream (April to end of September). This is why Antalya has been working to diversify and create alternative touristic activities (e.g. spreading to all seasons, creating alternatives such as golf tourism, football tourism and conference tourism). Foreign citizens are actively engaged in the tourism sector in Antalya, especially from Germany, Russia and Central Asia. The city government has been facilitating this process by issuing work permits. Mr. Evrim noted that the Silk Road can serve as a good theme for cooperation between different stakeholders. Finally, he stressed the importance of involving the local population in tourism development.

Mr. Elkhan Usobov, Head of Executive Power, Sheki, Azerbaijan, introduced his city to the participants. Sheki, located on the ancient Silk Roads and a 4-5 hour car ride from Baku, is rich in culture and history. The city is home to ancient caravanserais and the palace of the Sheki Khans. Silk has been produced in Sheki for hundreds of years, and silk items are popular souvenir items nowadays. In 2016, Sheki was named Capital of the Turkic World. The city has joined the League of Historic Cities and strives to become part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Sheki is also famous for its culinary traditions; the city is referred to as the “City of Deserts” in Azerbaijan.

Mr. Amanbai Kaiypov, Government Representative, Naryn Province, Kyrgystan, presented the largest province of Kyrgyzstan and its tourism potential. Naryn is located 3,000 meters above sea level, making the climate stable and agreeable. There are also abundant thermal and water resources. There are abundant thermal and water resources. Agriculture, winter tourism and highland tourism are important parts of the local economy. Mr. Kaiypov highlighted the strategic position of the province of Naryn with regards to transportation networks. A free economic zone has been established in the province, attracting many different industries. The University of Central Asia located in Naryn also welcomes foreign students.

Mr. Uzarbek Zhylkybaev, Government Representative, Issyk Kul Province, Kyrgyzstan, noted that tourism was key for his region. In this respect, it is also vital to protect Issyk-Kul, the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea and a major tourist attraction in the region. Issyk Kul Province has something on offer to tourists all year round, from beaches to skiing slopes. Efforts are under way to further diversify tourism in the province. Kyrgyzstan is also working to improve its tourism image and make it easier for tourist to enter the country. Today, Kyrgyzstan can be visited by countries from more than 50 countries without visa. In September 2018, Kyrgyzstan will organize the Third World Nomad Games, a biennial event showcasing nomadic live supported by the Turkic Council.

Mr. Olzhaz Shintayev, Acting Director of Ontustik, Tourism Center under the Entrepreneurship and Tourism Division of the South Kazakhstan Region, Kazakhstan, explained that Kazakhstan had worked on its tourism identity, branding itself as the “Heart of the Silkroad”. Together with the Turkic Council and its other member states, Kazakhstan has established “Modern Silk Road Joint Tour Package”. This year, Kazakhstan hosted the World Expo on Green Energy in Astana. Moreover, Kazakhstan has been deepening its relations with China. “The rich heritage of the Silk Road and our rich cuisine are attractive to tourists”, Mr. Shintayev said. Tourism is considered an important element for sustainable development, whereby decent work conditions and an equal distribution of benefits must also be ensured.

Mr. Li Bing, Deputy Secretary-General, Zhengzhou Municipal People´s Government, provided a presentation of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province and birthplace of Kungfu. Zhengzhou has become a highly international city. In 2016, for example, the city hosted the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit. A city of profound culture and history, Zhengzhou became also the home of China´s first high-speed rail hub. The substantive investments in transport infrastructure have also directly benefitted economic growth, including tourism. Today, Zhengzhou is also a leading city in cross-border e-commerce.

Mr. Oscar Angula Salvatierra, Director, Cooperation Agency of La Paz, noted that South-South and triangular cooperation was a viable option for cities to face urban challenges in an efficient and solidary way. Bolivia`s capital, which is the highest capital of the world with 3.600 m above the sea, is the first city to have created a specific cooperation agency for international advocacy. “Cities are key actors in any moment in the future”, Mr. Angula Salvatierra stressed. “Countries cannot take decisions without us.” The following elements are critical for cities to engage in South-South cooperation: political will; an institutional roof; a strategy; networking; international trust; and establishing linkages to the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda. La Paz is fully integrated in the international networks of cities. Finally, he mentioned the “Zebras Project”. The project, which employs marginalized youth and young adults dressed up in Zebra costumes to help improve road safety in the city, was recognized with the Award for Urban Innovation in 2016.

Mr. Ömer Kocaman, Deputy Director, Turkic Council, presented the Turkic Council´s efforts to promote tourism in and among its member states (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey). He provided more details on the joint tour package, which he thinks can be transformative for cities along the tour route. As the tour package was drafted, it became clear that there was also a need for related skills development among hospitality professionals. Turkey has since then provided tailor-made training courses to other member states in related fields, such as front-office services and culinary training. The training sessions have also resulted in staff exchanges across the countries and opportunities for internships, leveraging the benefits of this South-South cooperation initiative.

Ms. Linda Yang, Yingke Law Firm, Global Partner, organizes events with CCTV on a regular basis. One TV feature focused on Guizhou, a province located in South-Western China and famous for its blue flower. “It is critical to support small villages and cities to raise them out of poverty”, she said. UNOSSC has designed the Silk Road Cities Alliance with an eye to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) championed by China. Recently, the Alliance has been listed as a priority project by the National Development and Reform Commission (NCRC) of the People´s Republic of China. The Alliance is built on four pillars: the cities alliance, the cities forum (annual event), the business council and specialized committees.

Representatives from different UN agencies provided concrete examples of their work with Member States on tourism development and offered their assistance. UNOSSC informed about the Silk Road Cities Alliance. UNDP mentioned supports the Turkish Ministry of Tourism on policy issues. “Tourism is a tool for local development and also for localizing the SDGs”, the UNDP representative said. UNESCO stressed that the organization also work on intangible cultural heritage, such as traditional dances, traditional arts and crafts. UNESCO has also initiated the Creative Cities Network. UNCDF helps companies translate the SDGs into their services (e.g. tour providers), which also makes them more attractive to their customer base.


SIDE EVENT: First Steering Committee Meeting of the South-South Global Thinkers Initiative

South-South Global Thinkers is the global coalition of think thank networks for South-South cooperation. It brings together 6 networks [1] resulting in a total of 200 plus think tanks. UNDP and UNOSSC have supported the formation of the South-South Global Thinkers. South-South Global Thinkers has received resources from governments, the private sector and civil society. Founding partners are Yingke Law Firm and the Finance Center on South-South Cooperation. The network will provide the evidence base on how South-South and triangular cooperation can accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. At the same time, it will enable the networks to expand their spheres of influence. Research products published so far can be accessed here [2].

In his opening remarks, Mr. Jorge Chediek, Director, Director UN Office for South-South Cooperation, reflected on the critical and multiple roles of the network. He emphasized that “we have to find a way to those who are outside, who do not know anything about South-South cooperation”.

Ms. Simona Marinescu, Chief, Development Impact Group, UNDP, and Ms. Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director, UN Office for South-South Cooperation, co-chaired the meeting. Ms. Marinescu highlighted the research already achieved. Member States have called upon UNDP to base its 4-year strategic plan more strongly on evidence. This is one area where the research done by the coalition will come in at a very practical level. Ms. Wang said that UNOSSC had been tasked to be the secretariat of the upcoming Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA40+). “In this role and beyond, we need to be informed by your research”, she said.

Following the introduction, each network shortly presented itself and suggested research priorities for the global coalition. Suggestions ranged from the political economy of South-South cooperation to identifying regional trends in South-South cooperation and evaluation frameworks/impact assessment for South-South cooperation. Mr. Paul Ladd, Director, UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), offered participants access to UNRISD´s networks for all research related to disaster risk reduction.

The goals of the first Steering Committee were to discuss: (a) membership, representation, continuity, (b) business model and decision making, (c) mutual benefits and incentives, and (d) the next meeting. Participants also exchanged their thoughts on the suggested research priorities. They discussed the terms of reference for the Steering Committee and the terms of reference of the Executive Secretariat. Participants agreed that the decision-making power of the Steering Committee needs to be strengthened; strict deadlines should be adhered to when written responses are required. It was suggested to have more meetings virtually as good communication will be critical to the success of the coalition. In terms of substance, research projects should be aligned to the respective network´s priorities and advance the goal of forming a multi-disciplinary community.

Finally, Ms. Shams Banihani, UNDP, introduced participants to the newly launched on-line platform for the coalition, which offers real-time opportunities for dialogue and networking, access to resources and tools, information about events, news and blogs.


SIDE EVENT: South-South Cooperation Helps Communities Scale Up Solutions to Achieve the SDGs

There is no development without local communities. Belize shared its experiences in engaging local communities in development. This includes enabling their presence at international conferences, e.g. fishermen from Belize participated at the World Oceans Conference this year. This side event introduced two platforms that have been created to foster solutions exchange in the Global South: the SSMart platform and the South-South Community Innovation Exchange Platform. The report “The South-South Community Innovation Exchange Platform: The Experience of the GEF Small Grants Programme” was also launched at this side event.

Ms. Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director, UN Office for South-South Cooperation, UNEP, provided the context for the discussion by introducing the Small Grants Programs. South-South and triangular cooperation are vital for achieving the SDGs at the community and national levels.

Ms. Simona Marinescu, Chief, Development Impact Group, UNDP, noted that UNDP was the largest developing agency of the UN system with an annual budget of US$ 5 billion. UNDP invested US$ 15 million in South-South exchanges. More recently, UNDP entered into a triangular cooperation with the Republic of Korea on how to include communities best for local development. UNDP has launched the SSMart platform, which was shortly presented at the side event. Designed as a public space, the platform promotes Southern solutions and makes them available to other countries which are facing similar challenges. A concrete example of SSMart in action is the initiative involving female women solar engineers in Africa.

Dr. Omar A. Figueroa, Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry, Fisheries, the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Belize, emphasized that there is no development unless local communities are included. Members of local communities are “ambassadors for our country”. Being present at conferences gives them the opportunity to engage internationally. For example, fishermen from Belize participated in the World Ocean Conference and shared the stage with other speakers.

Ms. Ana Maria Currea, Communications and Knowledge Specialist of the GEF Small Grants Programme, UNDP, said that the Small Grants Programme has reached over 20,000 communities in its 25 years of work. The missing gap was sharing knowledge across countries. This is why the Small Grants Program has created a network, the “South-South Community Innovation Exchange Platform”. Ms. Currea provided three concrete examples of knowledge sharing across countries. The Dominican Republic, for example, shared its experience in water management with Haiti; an organic certification programme was shared in the Caribbean; and Cuba shared its knowledge in soil fertility and irrigation with Pacific Islands. The GEF Small Grants Programme has learnt some key lessons in how to engage successfully in South-South cooperation: networks are crucial; concrete plans of action are needed; it takes time; and Souht-South cooperation is key as a platform to scale up innovations.

Mr. Leonel Requena, National Coordinator, GEF Small Grants Programme, Belize, noted that the critical element in the network are peer-to-peer knowledge exchanges. Including local communities means “allowing the developing process to work”. The Small Grants Program also takes a mentorship approach. “The voices of communities need to be heard at all levels”, he said.

The report “The South-South Community Innovation Exchange Platform: The Experience of the GEF Small Grants Programme” was launched at the side event.



The 2017 GSSD Expo in a Nutshell

  • More than 120 Member States represented;
  • 800+ participants, including the private sector, civil society and academia;
  • 35+ institutional partners organized sessions;
  • 37 plenary and side events highlighting contributions of South-South cooperation to sustainable development;
  • First Steering Committee meeting of the UNOSSC/UNDP South-South Global Thinkers initiative;
  • 6 publications launched – 3 South-South in Action reports, the Directors-General Forum Annual Report 2016, a report by the UNDP Small Grants programme, and a South-South Global Thinkers scoping paper on the policy and legal environment for South-South investment in Asia;
  • 3 photo exhibits launched (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Turkic Council, Brazilian Cooperation Agency);
  • 3 memorandums of understanding signed between UNOSSC and SESRIC, PIDF and INBAR, respectively;
  • 90 institutional and individual partners expressed interest in 9 initiatives on the wall of ideas.

Mr. Jorge Chediek, Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation and Director, UN Office for South-South Cooperation, brought the 2017 GSSD Expo to a close. He conveyed greetings from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who “thanks you for your commitment to sharing the knowledge, best practice sand successes of the South”. Mr. Chediek thanked the Government of Turkey and the City of Antalya for generously hosting the GSSD Expo 2017 and conveyed his gratitude to Foreign Minister Cavusoglu´s leadership and his team´s untiring efforts to make this Expo a resounding success. Mr. Chediek also thanked the Turkic Council, the Group of 77 and China as well as all partner organizations, co-sponsors and co-organizers of the various solution forums and exhibitions. He commended the High-Level Forum of National Directors-General for Development Cooperation “to have shown us what national leadership and ownership of the narrative of South-South development cooperation leading up to BAPA+40 really means”. Looking to the future, Mr. Chediek said that “we will work with you in the following months to ensure robust follow-up to what you have all worked on here”.

Dr. Gülseren Celik, Head of Department, General Director for Multilateral Economic Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Turkey, noted that participants addressed challenges at the edge of development. It is now recognized that South-South cooperation is a critical component for development. The 2017 GSSD Expo was also a chance for Turkey to showcase its work as an emerging donor. Knowledge sharing is a priority for Turkey as an emerging donor. Development has become an integral component of Turkish Foreign Ministry.

Following the concluding remarks, Mr. Chediek presented GSSD Expo Appreciation Awards to TIKA, the Turkic Council, and SESCRIC. Finally, all participants posed for a group picture.


[1] Global Research Consortium on Economic Structural Transformation (GRECEST), Silk Road Think Tank Networks (SiLKS) Latin America Initiative on Politics and Public Affairs Studies (ILAIPP), Southern Voice, Network of Southern Think Tanks (NEST), and Middle East and North Africa for Public Administration (MENAPAR).

[2] Advancing South-South Cooperation in Education and Skills Development: Lessons from the Field (2016); Concessional Financing Flows Among Southern Countries (2016); Brazilian Triangular Cooperation in Social Protection: Contribution to the 2030 Agenda (2016); Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanisms for South-South and Triangular Development Cooperation: Lessons from Brazil for the 2030 Agenda (2016); South-South Global Thinkers Scoping Paper, South-South Investment for Sustainable Development Goals: The Policy and Legal Environment in Asia (2017).