With the motto “Solutions to Action”, the first Arab States Regional South-South Development Expo, hosted by the State of Qatar and co-organized by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation and the United Nations Development Programme Regional Bureau for Arab States, raised regional awareness by showcasing and scaling up the impact of successful evidence-based solutions crafted and tested by countries in the Arab States region in addressing development challenges pertinent to their specific needs and aspirations.

“Delivering as one”, the Expo featured solution exchange forums led by a number of United Nations specialized agencies, funds and programmes that are active in advancing the South-South cooperation agenda in the Arab States region, including ESCWA, IFAD, ILO, UNDP, UNEP, UNIDO and UN-Women.

Highlights of the Expo include:

  • 100+ concrete South-South development solutions showcased during 7 major forums, 5 special sessions, and at a physical solutions exhibition;
  • 67 private sector entities mobilized by the South-South Global Assets and Technology Exchange (SS-GATE);
  • 11 solution providers matched with seekers of solutions in the areas of food security, water, waste management, construction, social entrepreneurship, and clean energy;
  • 6 working arrangements established, 4 with businesswomen’s associations, to source successful local development solutions;
  • A project employing South-South Cooperation modalities to strengthen Somalia’s education and health care infrastructures, and improve the livelihood of thousands of displaced, unemployed men, women and youth was launched;
  • An MOU between the Islamic Development Bank Group Business Forum and SS-GATE to scale up development success in the Arab States region was signed.

Developing countries of the South are taking greater control of their development future as the world debates a new global development agenda that will shape the 21st century, concluded delegates to the First Arab States Regional South-South Development Expo.

The First Arab States Regional South-South Development EXPO, the fruit of a strategic partnership between the State of Qatar, UNOSSC and UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States, convened in Doha, Qatar, on 18-20 February 2014. Held under the motto "Solutions to Action," the Expo showcased concrete tested Southern solutions on wide-ranging development issues including initiatives to address energy efficiency and renewable energy; water supply and sanitation; agricultural productivity and cleaner production strategies; youth employment, gender parity and women’s empowerment; decent work, skills development and cooperatives; green jobs; promotion of livelihoods, improving service delivery, tackling social stigma and related social issues; climate change and environmental degradation, among many others.

“We are proud to have hosted this landmark gathering,” said H.E. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Assistant Foreign Minister for International Cooperation Affairs, State of Qatar. “We see the great success of the Expo, only as a beginning of concerted follow-up efforts that will capitalize on this success and institutionalize South-South Cooperation in the Arab region. We reiterate our commitment to continue to support such an endeavour.”

The three-day Expo included substantive deliberations; solution exhibitions; launches of cooperation-mapping and transaction-facilitating tools; and specialized solutions exchange forums.

“South-South cooperation is not an alternative agenda to the MDGs or the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda, currently under debate, even though it can help us shape global development priorities,” stressed H.E. Zsolt Hetesy, Vice-President of the United Nations General Assembly High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation. “Most importantly, South-South cooperation adds a practical and vital tool to our global toolbox to proceed deliberately and effectively towards shaping our common development future.”

More than 500 delegates from 45 countries examined and exchanged views on evidence-based development solutions, platforms and mechanisms in the Arab States region and other countries that were successfully tested in addressing development challenges. The “Solutions Exhibition” featured booths for 30 organizations and showcased over 40 solutions, while 9 “Solution Exchange Forums,” presented over 60 well documented solutions from 20 countries, from the Arab region and beyond.

In addition to forums presenting solutions from the host country, Qatar, and from the private sector, the seven UN forums were facilitated by: the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA); the International Labour Organization (ILO); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).

The Expo launched the “Tool for Mapping of South-South cooperation mechanisms and solutions in the Arab States Region,” jointly produced by the Islamic Bank for Development, UNOSCC and UNDP. The tool documented 40 solutions and 28 coordination mechanisms of successful South-South cooperation from across the region. Those solutions and mechanisms are also available via an online version of the tool which will grow into a comprehensive repository and hub of information, providing easy-to-use, real-time access to tried and tested South-South cooperation solutions and mechanisms in order to facilitate future networking and exchange.

Additionally, the South-South Global Assets and Technology Exchange (SS-GATE) mobilized the participation of 67 private sector entities at the Expo and organized a “Matchmaking Space” to facilitate discussions and negotiations among participants, which managed to match 8 companies representing a range of sectors including food security, water, waste management, and clean energy. Negotiations and matchmaking continued over the three days and will be followed-up moving forward.

The Expo also witnessed the launch of a large project employing South-South Cooperation modalities to strengthen Somalia’s education and health care infrastructures, and improve the livelihood of thousands of displaced, unemployed men, women and youth through skill development, entrepreneurial training and micro-grants. The project combines forces of the Government of Somalia with the UNOSSC and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

“The dedication that we have seen over the three days of this Expo reminds us that the nations of the Arab region and the world can and must seek human progress as a common cause,” said Mourad Wahba, Deputy Regional Director of the United Nations Development Programme-Regional Bureau for Arab States. “We thank the Government of Qatar for generously hosting this event as yet another sign of extraordinary commitment and leadership to development cooperation, across this region indeed beyond. We look forward to continued collaboration with Qatar to build on the solid foundations laid here in this Expo.”

The Expo facilitated the building of many bridges of South-South Cooperation in several areas. It initiated bilateral partnerships and opened doors of assistance to solution providers to expand their operations to other areas of the Arab region. For example, the Small Scale Wastewater Treatment Plants project from Palestine started collaboration discussions with organizations in Qatar and Jordan; the Egyptian Businesswomen Association and Afro-Arab Network for Women Empowerment offered to train women and youth entrepreneurs through their Training and Business Development Centre and Incubator. They announced that they will be holding a joint conference on South-South cooperation for Economic Empowerment for Women and Youth in April 2014.

Participating UN Resident Coordinators agreed to establish a thematic working group to coordinate inter-agency and joint work on South-South Cooperation, while representatives of regional UN entities agreed to set-up a regional mechanism for enhancing South-South Cooperation, including the facilitation of grants.

While many of the showcased solutions generated debate around feasibility of replication and scaling-up, convening agencies committed to ensure follow up moving forward from the Expo.

In his closing remarks, Yiping Zhou, Director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, emphasized that “this pioneering Expo has provided extremely rich regional perspectives on South-South cooperation and how it can help achieve development results.” He added, “It is my task now, through my Expo report, to make this regional voice heard globally, not only conveying it to the UN Secretary General, but through him to the General Assembly deliberations on the post-2015, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda, which will shape our futures over the next decades.”

The successful best practices that were showcased clearly demonstrated the great potential and dynamism of countries of the Arab region in finding solutions to their development challenges. The outcomes and recommendations of the three-day EXPO were summarized as follows at the Closing Ceremony:

  1. Inclusive dialogue and partnerships comprising government, private sector, civil society and multilateral organizations are critical to ensuring replicability, sustainability and the scaling-up of South-South development solutions;
  2. The transfer and diffusion of Southern solutions is more effective when they are adapted to local contexts and involve the active participation of the beneficiaries, particularly at the local levels. In this regard, mechanisms need to be put in place to regularly monitor programmes/projects and to align them to local conditions and needs throughout their implementation;
  3. The harmonization and standardization of policies, strategies and procedures at national and regional levels is essential to the transfer or adaptation of Southern solutions across countries and regions;
  4. The involvement of the private sector is crucial in the promotion of South-South cooperation at local and community levels;
  5. Regional South-South cooperation works effectively when it is demand-driven, led and owned by governments of the countries in the region with the active participation of the private sector and other stakeholders;
  6. There is a need to focus more on the exchange of expertise, experiences and practical solutions within and across regions;
  7. Capacity building, information sharing and effective communication among all partners involved is critical to the success of South-South initiatives;
  8. There is a need for field studies, research, data gathering, information sharing and knowledge management to assist the tracking of South-South development assistance, including bilateral development finance and its impact;
  9. There is a need for a web-portal and online platform that systematically captures and facilitates the dissemination of good practices in the region;
  10. National policies, frameworks and strategies on South-South cooperation as well as the existence of effective South-South coordination mechanisms are critical to the effective application of South-South and triangular cooperation at country and regional levels;
  11. There is the need for regional mechanisms that enable various actors to advance South-South cooperation with a defined framework integrated into other existing frameworks;
  12. Innovative financing mechanisms, including public-private partnerships, are essential to the scaling-up and replication of successful South-South initiatives. There is a need to improve collaboration and coordination among the various institutions funding South-South initiatives;
  13. Countries with appropriate policies, knowledge, expertise, coordination mechanisms, and adequate resources have proved to be more successful in the implementation of South-South cooperation than those that do so on an ad hoc basis.
  14. South-South cooperation needs to be included among strategies for the acceleration of meeting the MDGs, and the shaping and implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, taking into consideration the social and cultural aspects of the countries in the region;
  15. In its role as convener, knowledge broker, partnership builder, capacity builder, analyst and monitor, the United Nations has played and will continue to play a critical role in the promotion of South-South and triangular cooperation in the Arab region.
  16. Participants expressed their gratitude to the State of Qatar, the United Nation Office for South-South Cooperation and the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States and all other partners for organizing the First Arab States Regional South-South Development Expo.