Opinion By Matteo Marchisio ( Beijing)
Tuesday 02 March 2021 Inter Press service
BEIJING, March 02 (IPS) – Five years ago, on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, world leaders embraced the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The plan was to be accomplished by achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030: end poverty, end hunger, and tackle climate change – to name a few.
Matteo Marchisio The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has impeded progress toward this goal, in many cases reversing years of progress. The World Bank, for example, estimated that COVID-19 pushed 88 to 115 million additional people into extreme poverty last year, returning the total number of poor people in the world to the 2014-2015 level. According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report 2020, the epidemic may have added between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished people in the world in 2020. It is as if COVID-19 has suddenly brought the world back. To 2005, in just a few months 15 years of progress in food security eroded. Measures implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19 (i.e. lockdowns and movement restrictions) have affected entire food systems, disrupting production, processing, marketing and distribution. Rural communities and smallholder farmers – particularly in developing countries – have been hardest hit by the implementation of such measures; Their livelihoods depend mainly on agricultural production and sales. Given that smallholder farmers produce more than 70% of the world’s food needs, the impact of COVID-19 on smallholder farmers may ultimately have serious repercussions on global food security. Hence our common interest (along with our shared responsibility) is to support developing countries – and within developing countries, rural communities and smallholder farmers – to recover from the pandemic. International development cooperation is an important channel for the global community to support developing countries. Within this framework, South-South cooperation – that is, cooperation between developing countries (the “global south”) has increasingly emerged as a form of international cooperation that complements the traditional North-South cooperation. South-South cooperation enables developing countries to share knowledge, practical experience, development solutions and investment opportunities with each other. South-South cooperation is a method of cooperation that is particularly suitable for developing countries, as many developing countries share similar development paths, and many experiences, solutions or innovations may be relevant or can be easily adopted in similar contexts. What role can South-South cooperation play in supporting developing countries in recovering from the Coronavirus? An interesting example is provided by the South-South Cooperation Facility managed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a multilateral development organization of the United Nations whose mission is to promote inclusive rural development in developing countries. The South-South Cooperation Facility at IFAD was established three years ago with a contribution of 10 million US dollars from China to mobilize expertise, knowledge and resources from countries of the South to reduce poverty and enhance the livelihoods of the poor in rural areas. The facility will fund competitively selected proposals submitted in response to the periodic call for proposals. Since the facility was established, 15 proposals have been approved, totaling approximately US $ 7 million, and are currently under implementation. The proposals strengthened cooperation between countries in different regions and covered a wide range of topics, from value chain initiatives between farmer groups and companies in Cambodia, China, Laos and Vietnam, to the transfer of sustainable aquaculture technologies in Ghana and Nigeria – to name but a few. The third call for proposals for the facility was launched precisely at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak. Given the scale of the challenge the pandemic presents, it has been decided to use the facility to contribute to the global response to COVID-19. The remaining funds from the facility have therefore been allocated to facilitate the exchange of methods, solutions and innovations that can be of value to developing countries to build more resilient societies and recover from the effects of the pandemic. Given that one of the main impacts of COVID-19 has been disruption of food systems, the facility was specifically aimed at supporting rural communities and smallholder farmers to deal with situations of disrupted access to agricultural inputs, employment, or troubled markets. The facility will support activities aimed at diversifying income-generating opportunities, thereby reducing reliance on agriculture as a major source of livelihood, or facilitating market access – including through the adoption of innovative digital solutions. Proposals submitted in response to the third call for proposals are currently being evaluated, and will be selected shortly. Effectively dealing with the impact of the pandemic will require greater international cooperation. As a complement to the traditional North-South cooperation, it can be said that South-South cooperation is more important today than ever before. Knowledge of solutions to problems caused by the Coronavirus, such as diet disruptions, is just as important as financial support. Around the world, each country has unique experiences regarding the direct and indirect impact of the epidemic. The experiences of developing countries differ from those in the North of the Globe, and may be more appropriate for other developing countries. Effective solutions can only be found by learning from these experiences, and the international community is successfully implementing the 2030 Agenda. The author is the Country Director and Representative for China, and Chairman of the East Asia Regional Hub and the Center for South-South Cooperation, United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) .
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