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Message from Morsing The Need for South-South Collaboration
05 July, 2022 New York, United States

The Need for South-South Collaboration

South-South Cooperation is a broad framework for collaboration and exchange among countries of the South in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains. Part of the value of South-South Cooperation lays in its primary purpose to empower countries to shape home-grown responses rather than relying on external interventions to development problems. (UNEP, 2022)

South-South Collaboration

Dear PRME community,

In my many conversations with professors, deans, students, and executives in the so-called Global South since I took on the role as Head of PRME, the call for more South-South collaboration is increasingly salient. South-South collaborations have an immediate appeal: those who encounter the same kind of challenges should learn from and help one another. In my conversations, it is important to note that the call for South-South collaborations does not imply the exclusion of collaborations with Northern partners as some definitions may allude to. On the contrary. The call for global partnerships is a baseline. However, the call for South-South collaborations is based on an interest in emphasizing knowledge exchange among those peoples, those regions, and those countries who suffer similar challenges related to climate change, governance, and social development. And who accordingly sometimes have invented solutions to these challenges that may also work in other parts of the world.

The term South-South cooperation was kicked off more than 40 years ago in the UN sphere with the United Nations Conference on Technical Cooperation Among Developing Countries, which was held in Buenos Aires and held its 40th anniversary in the same city in 2019. The basic ambition then, as today, was to explore how South-South cooperation represents an opportunity to achieve sustainable development in what is now referred to as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the globally-agreed blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet.

People in the South experience some of the most radical implications of climate change, inequalities, and human challenges in the world. At the same time, the South has developed some of the most advanced, low cost and long-term solutions to these problems. “Innovative forms of knowledge exchange, technology transfer, emergency response, and recovery of livelihoods led by the South are transforming lives,” said the Secretary-General, António Guterres, in November 2018, during the inauguration of the 10th South-South Development Expo at UN Headquarters in New York. “The facts speak for themselves”, Guterres continued. The countries of the South have contributed to more than half of the world’s growth in recent years; intra-south trade is higher than ever, accounting for more than a quarter of all world trade; the outflows of foreign direct investment from the South represent a third of the global flows; and remittances from migrant workers to low and middle-income countries reached 466 billion USD last year, which helped lift millions of families out of poverty” (DESA, 2019).

However, the challenge that remains is how to exchange knowledge in South-South relationships and how to scale solutions to benefit wider populations beyond the locally acquired experiences and knowledge. Such progress will need a firm commitment from strong South-South cooperation through partnerships with other global constituencies.

This puts a huge responsibility on us as business school educators of the next generation of young leaders, not just in the South, but also on us as professors of young leaders in the North. All our students – irrespective of being educated in the South or the North - will be engaging with the challenges of the South; they will all need to make important decisions on where to invest, how to develop ethical incentive structures for their managers, and how to contribute to sustainable development in the South and thereby globally.

This means that business schools in the North will seek to find case studies, literature, ideas, and business practices from the South to bring into the classroom. This means that business schools in the South will focus more on advancing the curriculum to direct student focus on local/regional problems and how global (or local) business practices may find novel ideas and opportunities to advance societal impact and business development by taking local South considerations into perspective. South-South cooperation has generated a wealth of new ideas and concrete projects for business/societal development, as well as served as a means to enable voices from the Global South to drive innovation and advance development in local South communities. I think that the North has a lot yet to learn from the South. Such knowledge exchange holds unprecedented opportunities for social environmental and social development in the world.

A final note on a definition of ‘South-South cooperation’: in the UN context, the term derives from the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (BAPA) by 138 UN Member States in Argentina, established September 18, 1978. This initiative developed a scheme of collaboration among ‘least developed countries’ and also established, for the first time, a framework for South-South cooperation, and incorporated in its practice the basic principles of relations between sovereign States: respect for sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, and equality of rights, among others.” (DESA, 2019; see also: https://www.un.org/en/observan...).

For business schools, a huge responsibility remains for business schools - as we train our students in business school classrooms in the South and North – on how to develop a response of support for the South-South collaborations needed to advance the world towards sustainable development.

Warm regards,

Mette Morsing

Head of PRME, Principles for Responsible Management Education

UN Global Compact, New York

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