South-South and Triangular Cooperation on the Bioeconomy in light of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda

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Triangular Cooperation on the Bioeconomy Publication Cover


The scale of the challenges associated with sustainable development and climate change are global in nature. 2015 was a landmark year for charting a new era of sustainable development with the world embracing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and adopting the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Paris Agreement) to accelerate and intensify climate action.

Tackling climate change and fostering sustainable development are two mutually reinforcing sides of the same coin. A shift to economic, environmental and social sustainability is a prerequisite for addressing climate change, while at the same time low-emission climate-resilient development is required for achieving the SDGs.

Relying only on North-South development cooperation models will not be sufficient for developing countries to achieve the bold ambitions of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. While developed countries reconfirmed their obligation to provide support to developing countries under the Paris Agreement and for the realization of the 2030 Agenda, there is also a growing recognition of the importance and potential of new partnerships among, and with, developing countries through South-South and triangular cooperation (SSTC). At the global level, SSTC is now also clearly aligned with the SDGs through the recent adoption of the Buenos Aires outcome document of the second High-Level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40 outcome document) in March 2019 (UN 2019).

South-South cooperation does not substitute, but complements North-South development cooperation as an important means through which developing countries can voluntarily assist each other in undertaking climate action and pursuing the achievement of the SDGs. Many countries from the Global South are rich in indigenous knowledge and traditional technologies that are crucial for adapting to the adverse impacts of climate change. There are also many new technologies for climate change adaptation and mitigation originating from developing countries, which are likely to be more suitable and cost-effective for other developing countries as they are well attuned to similar geo-climatic, cultural and/or socioeconomic conditions.

The central theme of this report is how developing countries are working together on fostering bioeconomy solutions, and how these solutions can contribute to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of the SDGs. SSTC on the bioeconomy is not only increasing at the policy level with developing countries working together to define regional and national bioeconomy strategies, but also at the implementation level with a growing number of SSTC projects in the area of the bioeconomy being carried out across the globe. Most importantly, developed and developing countries increasingly recognize alike that the bioeconomy needs to be guided by sustainability principles, if its potential for contributing to the SDGs, while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increasing the climate resilience of countries and communities, is to be harnessed.

The report highlights the importance of knowledge-sharing on technologies, practices and experiences to foster the use of bio-based solutions in developing countries. The Global South has an abundant biomass and a great variety of approaches and technologies to use biomass for low-emission energy solutions, increasing resource efficiencies in agriculture and industry, enhancing food security, generating jobs and reducing gender inequalities. However, some of these approaches or technologies only exist in one country or region and require SSC for their broader application.

The report is intended to serve as a knowledge resource to inspire, replicate and upscale SSTC in the bioeconomy by providing insights into practical and effective development solutions undertaken by Southern countries. Nine case studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America are presented here as a reference source for other developing countries and for developed countries that wish to support SSC in this area through triangular cooperation. The case studies provide an illustrative overview of the ways in which SSTC initiatives on the bioeconomy are being undertaken by and in developing countries, and how these initiatives make tangible contributions to the achievement of the SDGs and the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The case studies show that SSTC on the bioeconomy is increasing through the use of traditional and new cooperation modalities. From the limited sampling of case studies on SSTC on the bioeconomy that has been covered in this report, it is evident that Southern partners view SSTC as a valuable way of sharing experiences and learning from each other, based on mutual trust, partnership and understanding. The case studies also show that there is a broad spectrum of stakeholders involved in fostering a sustainable bioeconomy in developing countries, including national and local authorities and affiliated institutions, multilateral organizations, research institutions, business incubation centres, farmers, local communities and small, medium and large businesses.

However, comprehensive information on the scope and scale of SSTC on the bioeconomy is difficult to obtain. This is due to the fact that information on South-South cooperation projects is often not made publicly available or, if published, is limited to a brief description of outcomes without reference to further information. This report aims to contribute to closing the information gap. In addition, UNOSSC has recently launched the South-South Galaxy4, a consolidated South-South solutions platform for anyone involved in SSTC, including on the bioeconomy, to access information, exchange knowledge and foster partnerships.

While SSTC on the bioeconomy is increasing, additional efforts are needed to promote political momentum and broader support for new and enhanced partnerships. The success of SSTC initiatives depends on highlevel political support and the commitment to such cooperation by the partners involved. SSTC mechanisms and institutional arrangements need to be further enhanced and supported. One of the challenges in advancing SSTC, both in the past and currently, continues to be the relatively weak organizational and institutionalized technical support, both at the international level and within most developing countries. In many cases, national and intergovernmental institutions of the Global South that have been set up to advance SSTC continue to require greater levels of institutional capacity and human and financial resources. However, this situation is now rapidly changing with the rise of new Southern institutions and the strengthening of existing ones, the establishment of national agencies to undertake SSTC, and a more pronounced priority placed by the United Nations system and its specialized agencies on supporting SSTC.

Realizing the Global South’s drive to lead the world towards a sustainable bioeconomy will require more concerted efforts and the scaling-up of South-South and triangular cooperation with technical and financial support from developed countries, multilateral, regional and bilateral financial and development institutions and the private sector.

Future South-South and triangular cooperation on the bioeconomy should focus on creating enabling environments, ecosystems for innovation, sharing of knowledge and expertise, inclusive business models and policies to promote the use of the bioeconomy also as a driving force for job creation and poverty reduction.

Triangular cooperation on a sustainable bioeconomy can be of great mutual benefit for developed and developing countries. While developed countries are also increasingly pursuing a bioeconomy, some are still in the process of defining or refining their national approaches and solutions. Supporting South-South cooperation in regard to a sustainable bioeconomy, including projects involving global bioeconomy leaders from the Global South, can provide valuable new insights for developed countries that can be of great relevance for their own national development contexts.