Meeting in New York, representatives from Commonwealth countries endorsed the initiative, “Southern Solidarity for Sustainable Peace and Development in Small States”, jointly co-designed and managed by the Commonwealth Secretariat and United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).
More than 30 representatives of Permanent Missions to the United Nations, from Commonwealth countries, attended a consultation on 15 January 2019. The purpose of the meeting was to present details of the initiative while listening to feedback, ideas and proposals to enhance COMSEC and UNOSSC’s preparation of a demand-driven and context relevant knowledge sharing endeavor to overcome diverse challenges threatening sustainable peace, such as violence, socio-political tensions, insecurity and humanitarian crises in small states. The project will document existing good practices, gather demands and provide seed-capital for South-South exchanges which will catalyse long-term conflict prevention and durable peace based on inclusive development.
Member states emphasised that the initiative is an important attempt to support Commonwealth small states and bridge gaps related to knowledge transfer and cross-country support that exist in their current systems. They commended UNOSSC and COMSEC efforts to build a dialogue space to strengthen solidarity among Commonwealth small states at a moment in which multilateral responses are vital to tackle global and cross-boundary problems. Further, participants noted that fostering partnerships and innovation will be central to addressing transnational challenges such as organised crime, climate change, displacement and terrorism.
Several countries provided concrete transformative examples on how the adaptation of solutions and policy proposals from other countries has been an important method of propelling the achievement of peace and prosperity and moving beyond security or militarised only responses. They, therefore, supported the idea that South-South cooperation was, and is a modality which is extremely relevant in global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
Small states representatives noted that in their contexts, the suffering related to what is sometimes denominated as the peace-climate change-development-security nexus is very tangible. In both consultations, the first one took place at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London in December 2018,the Commonwealth and UNOSSC expert teams noted the urgent need to work across thematic pillars to achieve sustainable peace and tackle the root causes of conflict and insecurity. For example, participants provided concrete examples of how lack of socio-economic opportunities and employment in non-diversified economies, many of them affected by climate change related natural disasters, directly generate social phenomenon such as organized crime, looting and gang violence. They also described how lack of inclusion generated the opportunity for manipulation of ethnic and religious tensions resulting in issues such as radicalisation, terrorism and discrimination against specific social groups. They agreed with the rationale presented in the proposal of working holistically, and connecting political governance with economic and environmental policies.
Importantly, small states brought to the fore the need to integrate the SAMOA Pathway framework into the strategy and proposed to maintain regular spaces for policy dialogue such as this meeting. Notably, United Nations members of the South-South Inter-Agency Mechanism facilitated by UNOSSC also attended the consultation in order to explore options for further collaboration within their focus areas. Participants distinguished various policy spaces which could provide the chance to continue advocating and sharing evidence of positive change as the joint work moves forward, including the “Second United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation (BAPA +40)” and the upcoming Commonwealth Finance Ministers and Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to take place in Rwanda in 2020.
UNOSSC and COMSEC used this opportunity to share more information about the upcoming “Second United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation” and the South-South Funds managed by UNOSSC, notably the India-UN Development Partnership Fund and its Commonwealth window.