Towards achieving Zero Hunger: fostering countries' leadership for stronger partnerships in the South

By Gabriele Marchese
IFAD booth at the Expo. ©UNOSSC
As the global hunger is on the rise again after declining for over a decade, can South-South and Triangular Cooperation provide the Rome-based agencies with effective solutions to achieve Zero Hunger? Can they join efforts and resources to this end?

These questions shaped the discussion among FAO, IFAD and WFP at the thematic forum on Accelerating country-led progress towards Zero Hunger through joint and complementary efforts of RBAs held on 28 November at the 2017 Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD). This global event took place in Antalya, Turkey, from 27 to 30 November 2017 and was organised by the United Nations Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) in partnership with the Government of Turkey.

More than 800 participants from 100+ countries participated in the GSSD Expo, which brought together UN agencies and international organisations, the private sector, NGOs and other development partners.

For IFAD, a delegation from the Global Engagement, Knowledge and Strategy (GKS) Division and the regional Division for Near East, North Africa and Europe (NEN) actively participated in the event. Senior colleagues were engaged in several fora and side events to share IFAD's perspectives and achievements in using South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) as an integral part of its business model. IFAD also set up a booth where visitors could get insights into selected rural development solutions and interact with colleagues.

One of the most successful events of the GSSD Expo was the Rome-based agency forum. It offered the opportunity to describe the approach of each agency to SSTC and, more specifically, how this would allow them to fulfill their mandate to eradicate hunger and food insecurity. Ms Xiaojun Grace Wang, Deputy Director of UNOSSC, moderated a panel composed by Mr Kenn Crossley, Deputy Director of the Policy and Programme Division at WFP; Dr Dongxin Feng, Deputy Director of the Partnership and South-South Cooperation Division of the FAO; and the Director of the WFP's China Centre for Excellence, Dr Sixi Qu. IFAD was represented in the panel by Ms Dina Saleh, Country Programme Manager in NEN, and Mr Ashwani Muthoo, Director of GKS.

"At project level, SSTC can be extremely helpful'', said Ms. Dina Saleh, who is currently responsible for IFAD's operations in Turkey and Georgia, ''we need evidence-based learning solutions that are directly replicable in the field".

"Less than 10 per cent of the total ODA is directed towards agriculture and food security, we have to do more'', warned Mr Jorge Chediek, the UN’s Envoy on South-South Cooperation and UNOSSC Director, in his remarks. ''The RBAs have embedded SSTC in their DNA and have already embarked on creative initiatives to achieve Zero Hunger through South-South and Triangular Cooperation".

The panel of the thematic forum on Zero Hunger ©IFAD/Gabriele Marchese
For example, FAO has recently moved its SSTC unit from the Technical Cooperation Department to the Partnership and Advocacy Division (now renamed Partnership and SSC Division) so as to foster cooperation with the whole spectrum of development partners. WFP has in turn adopted an operational and country-driven approach to SSTC, as each Country Office works in partnership with the host government to promote locally-tailored interventions and to leverage the country's successful experiences. In Brazil and China, for instance, this led to the establishment of Centres of Excellence for knowledge sharing and learning in the South.

As for IFAD, South-South and Triangular Cooperation has gained even greater prominence in its strategy. The Fund's Strategic Framework 2016-2025 clearly recognized the role of SSTC in promoting knowledge-sharing and investments among developing countries, and called for an expansion of its work in this field. As a result, last year IFAD updated its approach on SSTC by identifying clear objectives and areas of interventions, i.e. technical cooperation and investments promotion. In the near future, IFAD plans to open three sub-regional offices entirely devoted to SSTC in Beijing, Brasilia and Addis Ababa.

Closer partnerships between development organizations and governments were viewed as key to successfully engage in SSTC. In particular, stronger political commitment and ownership at national level are needed to make SSTC activities more impactful. Country leadership would facilitate the matching of demand and supply of knowledge and solutions, inspire policy makers to create an enabling environment for investments of the private sector, and drive the scaling-up of home-grown solutions at broader levels.

An example of IFAD's engagement with governments to facilitate SSTC is the current partnership initiative for agricultural development and enhanced food security in the Near East, North Africa, Europe and Central Asia. This IFAD-financed project implemented by UNOSSC aims at addressing national priorities through demand-driven exchanges of knowledge and experience among ten countries. The countries themselves are responsible for the "country components" of the project, not only for the planning but also implementation of the activities on the ground.

The continued engagement of the RBAs to SSTC will soon enter a new phase. In light of the second high-level UN conference on South-South Cooperation in 2019 (BAPA+40), FAO, IFAD and WFP have drafted a joint road map to set common priorities, define approaches and commit to actions for improving efficiency and impact. Among other initiatives, the RBAs pledged to join efforts to identify methods and indicators for measuring achievements of SSTC-oriented operations.

"That's a concrete example of transforming common will into practical actions", said Ms Xiaojun Grace Wang closing the event.