I have the honor to take the floor on behalf of the European Union.
I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Acceding Countries Bulgaria, Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey and Croatia*; the Countries of the Stabilization and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro; as well as Ukraine align themselves with this declaration.
It is only a couple of years ago that Heads of State and Government, through the Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey Mexico called for an enhanced South-South capacity development in areas such as institutional infrastructure, human resource development, public finance, public administration, social and gender budget policies, debt management and early warning and crisis prevention.
The European Union believes that in the context of the Monterrey Consensus as well as in the context of the Millennium Declaration, the Brussels Programme of Action for the LDCs, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, the Almaty Programme of Action for the LLDCs as well as the recent Mauritius Strategy; South-South cooperation has proven to be a crucial factor for development. From its side, the European Union is resolved to honor the commitments reflected in the aforementioned documents.
South-South cooperation is beginning to change the geography of international relations, particularly in the areas of trade, finance, investments and the provision of development assistance and in efforts towards regional integration. Still the biggest challenge for technical cooperation among developing countries is the full implementation of the various action plans for cooperation.
What is more required, in the short term planning, is a strategic approach to technical cooperation, in terms of adopting policies and programmes to prepare developing countries for entering into global markets and a sufficient system of reliable estimates that will show that governments have given priority to technical cooperation in their broader development policies. Poverty reduction strategies and long-term partnerships are means to address the existing shortcomings in that regard. It is important that the Special Unit for South-south Cooperation supports developing countries in order to align the south-south agenda with the MDGs, through, inter alia, establishing mechanisms for more effective implementation of policies, agreements and action plans with a special emphasis to be given to the LDCs landlocked and SIDS countries.
We recognize that South-south and triangular cooperation can improve the aid efficiency and effectiveness in emphasizing ownership and inclusive partnership. A number of countries of the European Union have provided support for south-south cooperation through their bilateral aid programmes.
More focus should be given to the achievement of the MDGs and the analysis how South-south approaches can be applied to development issues, how projects that had succeeded in reducing poverty in developing countries could be scaled up to levels that would help in the realization of the MDG of halving poverty globally by 2015.
When it comes to progress, the European Union is pleased to note in the findings of the report before us, that a number of developing countries are already applying strong programmes in support of South-South cooperation. The use of the existing expertise and the experiences available in the more advances developing countries are a major element to this effect. We also note that as regional and sub-regional integration proceeds, more opportunities for cooperation will be emerging in crucial sectors such as infrastructural development, coordination mechanisms for trans-national environmental issues, political dialogue and consensus building: the experience of NEPAD, with its African Peer Review Mechanism, is showing the feasibility and the effectiveness of this new encompassing concept of regional cooperation. The EU is committed to support the regional leadership of NEPAD, in the framework of the overall policies for Sub-Saharan Africa as recently illustrated in the European Commissions Communication Focus on Africa. The EU is supporting regional cooperation mechanisms in Africa also, for example, through the EU Water Facility for Africa, which favours a coordinated management at regional level of water resources, in the framework of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation.
Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) amongst developing countries or between developed and developing countries can contribute to the participation of developing countries in the global economy and reinforce the multilateral trading system provided they are outward-oriented and lead to lower external trade barriers. South-South integration can enhance efficiency, increase competition between peers in development, enable economies of scale, increase attractiveness to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and secure greater bargaining power. It can help countries address issues related to trade facilitation and infrastructure, including customs and standards, in a more effective manner, and to build regional capacity in these areas. Last but not least regional integration can contribute to the consolidation of peace and security. The importance of regional integration in supporting sustainable development was confirmed in the WSSD.
South-South cooperation has drawn substantial and increasing support from developed countries and the importance of triangular cooperation has proven its merit in several occasions dealing with financial arrangements, partnerships and information sharing. In this regard, the Special Unit should collaborate more closely with the OECD/DAC and strengthen the working relations between OECD/DAC member States and developing countries that provide development assistance to other countries in the south.
For a long time the EU has advocated and supported South-South integration, in parallel to greater integration of developing countries in the multilateral trading system, as part of a development strategy to overcome the limitations of small economic size and vulnerability. Yet, it should not be overlooked that the positive effects of integration can only be realized when the overall policy framework and the governance and security situation are conducive to such integration (as is the case with trade reform in general). Therefore, given the limitations in these areas, many past initiatives have not yet fulfilled their expectations.
Therefore, in its ongoing Regional Trade Agreement initiatives (with Mediterranean countries, Mercosur, the Gulf Co-operation Council and the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) under the Cotonou Agreement) the EU promotes what can be called a South-South-North approach which aims to combine the strong points of North-South integration with the positive aspects of South-South integration. This approach also reduces the hub-and-spoke effect when a large trading block engages in separate agreements with a large number of countries. It must be clear, however, that this approach must maintain a high level of ambition in order to be successful, especially in terms of going beyond traditional free trade in goods.
For example, one of the main pillars of our cooperation with Africa is the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and 77 ACP Group states, which was entered into in 2000. The EU provides enhanced market access and support to the insertion of ACP countries into the world economy through the negotiation of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) in the framework of the Cotonou agreement. One of the major potential outcomes of EPAs will be greater regional integration within the 6 regions which have launched negotiations with the EU and thereby a significant contribution to South-South trade.
More in general, the European Union has entered into agreements with a number of regional organizations, such as ASEAN, CARICOM, ECOWAS, with a view to promote the potential benefits of regional economic integration amongst developing countries. Further opportunities are offered by the growing, mutual cooperation between the European Investment Bank and the regional development banks.
The European Union appreciates that the NGO involvement in the South-South cooperation is increasing and that the UN system, through UNDP, its specialized agencies and programmes and the regional commissions has continued to support South-South Cooperation by seeking innovative development practices, such as the initiative of countering HIV/AIDS via the education system.
The European Union continues to support the work of the UN system to promote South-south cooperation activities in all relevant programmes. The European Union emphasizes the importance and the benefits of new technologies, especially of information and communication technologies in bridging the digital divide. We look forward to the second phase of the World Summit on Information Society to be held in Tunis this fall, to make an important contribution to that objective.
South-South cooperation could play an increasing role in the areas of crisis prevention, early warning, emergency response and post-crisis reconstruction, building on recent, successful initiatives. The EU stands ready to extend its support to these efforts.
The European Union considers that due to the proliferation of south-south activities in the UN, there is a need to improve coordination. The efficiency and effectiveness of South-south cooperation should be further enhanced by better coordination and streamlining of the various institutions and initiatives dealing with it. In this regard we believe that the Special Unit for South-south Cooperation plays a significant role in the institutional architecture for the coordination, promotion and management of South-South Cooperation. We commend the Special Unit for having included significant shifts in the third cooperation framework (2005-2007) taking lessons learned form earlier frameworks and focusing on the Millennium Development Goals with an emphasis on the creation of an enabling environment through innovative public-private partnerships in order to play a more active role in helping to meet the priority needs of the LDCs, SIDS and landlocked developing countries and in transforming the Special Unit into a more active South-South knowledge management centre.
Despite progress in expanding the use of south-south cooperation, and despite the fact that most of the UN agencies have mandated policies for the promotion and use of south-south cooperation in their respective development programmes, mainstreaming of the modality is still not optimal. We call upon the Special Unit and the UN system to strengthen their efforts to ensure more progress in the future.
The European Union acknowledges the essential role of South-south cooperation in developing countries as it is spelled out in the Buenos Aires Plan of Action and in the United Nations system guidelines. Given that the primary responsibility for South-south cooperation belongs to the developing countries themselves, the EU joins the UN development system in supporting their efforts. In this regard we extend our best wishes of success to the participants in the upcoming second South-South Summit to be held in Qatar this June. We believe that the strategic perspective of the role of South-south cooperation and the implementation of action plans for cooperative action will contribute to the ultimate goal of national and collective self-reliance. These are conditions that can render South-South Cooperation a key factor in the achievement of the MDGs and the internationally agreed development agenda. The EU will continue to be a reliable partner in this respect.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilization and Association Process.