Asian countries have a vital role to play in advancing South–South cooperation and much to gain from closer interaction. Links across the global south in trade, finance, and technology are not only getting stronger but expanding into new areas. Foremost among these is sharing knowledge and know-how on development to tackle the newer challenges facing the region, such as climate change and finding new sources of growth.
The latest thinking on intensifying South–South cooperation from Asia’s perspective, particularly for knowledge sharing, was presented at an international conference on Advancing South–South Learning in Asia in Seoul on 4 July. The event was organized by the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Independent Evaluation Department, the Korea Development Institute (KDI), the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, and The Asia Foundation.
“Strengthening South–South cooperation, especially on sharing knowledge and assistance, will be essential for tackling the broad and demanding 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said ADB Independent Evaluation Director General Mr. Marvin Taylor-Dormond.
“Poverty is widespread in the global south and this resonates strongly in Asia where eradicating extreme poverty remains a very significant unfinished development agenda, despite the region’s extraordinary economic success over the past three decades,” said Mr. Taylor-Dormond.
KDI Vice President Mr. Youngjae Lim said 21st century development cooperation has changed dramatically due to the growth of South–South cooperation.
“New patterns of economic partnership and development cooperation among southern countries have emerged,” said Mr. Lim. “Cooperation based on mutually beneficial trade, aid, diplomacy, or strategic partnerships between and among countries at similar stages of development exist, and Asia has become both a generator of development resources and an incubator for new ideas and practices.”
Even though links are getting stronger, the visibility of South–South cooperation needs to be raised to bring greater awareness of its value and impact on development, and to promote a stronger South–South voice in global decision-making. Strengthening this cooperation will provide a platform to bring countries together to share work on common development challenges.
Having the private sector as an enthusiastic partner in deepening South–South cooperation will help policymakers understand new and more efficient ways of carrying out their economic and development plans. The conference examined how South–South cooperation can be used by Asian countries to share best practices for growing their private sectors and to make it easier for entrepreneurship to flourish.
The Republic of Korea is increasingly seen as an Asian leader in knowledge sharing for the region and beyond given its strong economic and development performance in recent decades.
“Korea, as one of the few countries that has rapidly transitioned from aid recipient to donor country, aspires to serve as a bridge between North–South cooperation,” said Mr. Lim.
A senior Ministry of Strategy and Finance official likened success factors in knowledge sharing to the Republic of Korea’s win against Germany in the World Cup: “I pondered how the lessons from this match can be applied to knowledge sharing,” said the Director General of the ministry’s International Economic Affairs Bureau Mr. Byong Yol Woo. “The Korean national team recruited top coaches from Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, and other top-tier countries to learn their skills and strategies.”
Development banks working in the global south, including ADB, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank, have a big contribution to make in advancing South–South learning and cooperation, as they expand their role as lenders for development to the knowledge frontier. These institutions have accumulated a wealth of knowledge on development—what works, what doesn’t, and why—and are continuously creating new learning from evaluations of their projects and programs.
“Capturing knowledge that is often hidden and hard to express conventionally—so-called tact knowledge—is important in the transfer of learning and in ensuring that lessons from elsewhere add value to our operations,” said ADB Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Director General Mr. Woochong Um. “We also need to be innovative in the way we capture and disseminate knowledge through IT technology and social media.”
An aim of the Seoul conference was to seek an effective approach among organizations and sectors working on South–South cooperation to strengthen partnerships and networks to accelerate this process. Middle-income countries in the global south and beyond, as emerging donors and technical cooperation providers, can be game-changers in this effort.
Millions in Yemen ‘a step away from starvation’
The crisis in Yemen, now in its seventh year of war, continues unabated, with thousands of people displaced and millions “a step away from starvation”, the UN Humanitarian Relief Coordinator said on Wednesday during a high-level side event on the margins of the 76th General Assembly.
“The country’s economy has reached new depths of collapse, and a third wave of the pandemic is threatening to crash the country’s already fragile health-care system”, Humanitarian Affairs chief Martin Griffiths told world leaders at the meeting: Yemen: Responding to the crises within the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.
Underscoring that the most vulnerable always “bear the highest cost” of the crisis, he said that females were more likely to be hungry, sick or exposed to gender-based violence and, with little access to essential services, millions of internally displaced people face “a daily struggle to survive”.
Cause for hope
In a positive development, the UN official credited the international community for stepping up support to the country’s humanitarian aid operation.
With over $2 billion received, the UN and its partners were able to “prevent famine and pull people back from the brink of despair”, delivering assistance to “every single one of the country’s 333 districts”.
‘Far from done’
Despite these important achievements, Mr. Griffiths acknowledged that the work there is “far from done”, as many sectors still face “alarming funding gaps” and humanitarians are working with less than one-fifth of the money needed to provide health care, sanitation, and shelter.
“Without additional funding, these and other forms of critical life-saving support – including food assistance – will have to be reduced in the coming weeks and months”, he warned.
The UN relief chief asked global leaders to continue generously supporting Yemen’s humanitarian operation; respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians; and address the root drivers of the crisis, including restrictions on imports, which elevate the prices of essential goods.
He urged them to do “everything in our collective power to stop this war”, saying, “at the end of the day, peace is what will provide Yemenis the most sustainable form of relief”.
The war has robbed too many of Yemen’s children of safety, education and opportunities.
“Each day, the violence and destruction wreak havoc on the lives of children and their families”, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told the meeting.
She painted a grim picture of 1.7 million displaced youth, 11.3 million youngsters depending on humanitarian assistance to survive and 2.3 million under-five “acutely malnourished” – nearly 400,000 of whom are at “imminent risk of death”.
“Being a child in Yemen means you have probably either experienced or witnessed horrific violence that no child should ever face”, said the UNICEF chief.
“Quite simply, Yemen is one of the most difficult places in the world to be a child”.
Millions ‘marching towards starvation’
In his address, World Food Programme (WFP) chief David Beasley said that in a nation of 30 million people, food rations are needed by 12.9 million; while 3.3 million children and women need special nutrition, together with 1.6 million school children.
“We’re literally looking at 16 million people marching towards starvation”, he said.
With one thousand people a week dying from a lack of food and nutrition, the senior WFP official warned that if $800 million is not received in the next six months, the need to cut rations could lead to the death of 400,000 children under the age of five next year.
“We have a moral, obligation, to speak out and step up”, he stated, appealing to the world leaders to “put the pressure on all parties…to end this conflict”.
“These are our children; these are our brothers and sisters we need the donors to step up immediately otherwise children are going to die. Let’s not let them down. Let’s do what we need to do”, concluded Mr. Beasley.
South Sudan ‘determined to never go back to war’
South Sudan is “ready to turn a new page” towards greater peace, development and prosperity, Vice-President Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior said in her speech in the UN General Assembly on Friday.
A decade after gaining independence from Sudan, the country remains “on a path of nation-building” and is working to implement a 2018 revitalized peace deal which led to the formation of a unity government last year.
“I want to assure our friends and partners that we are determined to never go back to war,” said Ms. De Mabior.
“We must replace the destruction of war with the productive use of our vast natural resources and national assets for the good of our people.”
The Vice-President recalled that when South Sudan became independent, the international community pledged to build capacity in nation-building, establishing a UN mission in the country, UNMISS, to support this process.
“However, after the outbreak of the war, that vision was abandoned, and priority was placed on protecting civilians and providing humanitarian assistance. As a result, support for capacity building of the State was terminated,” she said.
Ms. De Mabior stressed that supporting a State’s ability to govern responsibly and effectively is essential. It is also necessary to guard against what she called “the unintended consequences of dependency on humanitarian assistance.”
Given improvements in peace and security, she said it was now time to transition from emergency towards sustainable development.
“It is a painful and shameful situation for a country endowed with vast fertile land to be regarded as poor,” she added.
“We must ensure peace and security in the country and double our efforts to support our people who want to return, and are returning, to their areas of origin, for them to participate fully in nation-building and contribute to building food security in the country.”
Support youth and women
South Sudan is also “a youthful country”, and the Vice-President called for continued efforts to develop the skills of its youth and women “to provide an alternative to picking up the gun again and engaging in destructive behavior.”
Encouraging developments have included joint efforts by the national security forces and their UNMISS counterparts to promote rural peace and security, while the Government is set to unveil a national youth service programme.
“To fulfill the vision of our liberation struggle, we must use our oil revenues to fuel economic growth through investment in agriculture,” she said.
“We will invest in infrastructure to connect our rural communities to the markets. We need the public and private sectors, including foreign investors, to join hands in turning South Sudan’s potential wealth into a reality.”
Ms. De Mabior reported progress in implementing aspects of the Revitalized Peace Agreement, particularly in the creation of state and national bodies and public financial management reforms
However, “the glass remains half-empty” in implementing a permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements, she said, noting the urgency for a unified army.
“The security sector reform is the most challenging part of the Agreement as it contains elements at the center of the violent conflicts in the country,” she said, calling for continued dialogue.
“Building sustainable peace requires inclusivity, collective investment, determination, diligence, and patience.”
Meanwhile, relations with Sudan have also improved, though outstanding issues remain over the oil-rich Abyei border area.
Ms. De Mabior stressed her country is determined to learn from the past.
“We must make the Revitalized Peace Agreement succeed, and we can only do that with the support of our regional and international partners. Simply stated, South Sudan desires and is ready to turn a new page,” she said.
WHO backs Regeneron COVID-19 drug cocktail – with equal access, price cut
The Regeneron antibody drug cocktail – casirivimab and imdevimab – has been added to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of treatments for COVID-19 patients, the UN agency said on Friday, before underscoring the need for lower prices and equitable distribution.
“This is a major breakthrough in the care of COVID-19 patients”, said Dr. Janet Diaz, WHO head of clinical care. “This is our first recommendation for a therapeutic for those patients with mild, moderate disease,” she said, because it reduces “the need for hospitalisation if they are at high risk”.
Effective ‘reduction in mortality’
WHO’s conditional recommendations are for use of the drug combination on patients who are not severely ill, but at high risk of being admitted to hospital with COVID-19, or those with severe cases of the disease and no existing antibodies.
“Giving them this additional antibody seems to show an effect. And what effect is that? A reduction in mortality” Dr. Diaz told a briefing in Geneva.
The antibody therapy was granted emergency use authorization in the United States November last year after it was used to treat former President Donald Trump when he was admitted to hospital with the virus. The United Kingdom has also approved Regeneron, while it is under review in Europe.
The WHO recommendations were largely based on data from a British study of 9,000 patients in June which found that the therapy reduced deaths in hospitalised patients whose own immune systems had failed to produce a response.
“We are taking the information (from the UK study) and generalizing it to other persons,” said Dr. Diaz. “We saw there was a benefit we thought was meaningful.”
The treatment has been on the market for decades to treat many other diseases, including cancers. It is based on a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies which mimic natural antibodies produced by the human body to fight off infections.
Equity, price cut call
Swiss drugmaker Roche, has been working in partnership with Regeneron, which holds the patent, to produce the antibody treatment.
Dr. Diaz urged Regeneron to lower the drug’s price and work on equitable distribution worldwide: “We know that the life-saving benefits and the benefits for patients with COVID-19 is significant and requires action.”
She added that WHO-hosted health agency UNITAID, has been negotiating directly with Roche for lower prices and equitable distribution across all parts of the world, “including low and middle-income countries”.
WHO has also been in discussions with the company for a donation and distribution of the drug through UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, following an allocation criteria set by the health agency. “We are working together with the company so we can address these very important issues so we can have equitable access” she said.
Call to manufacturers
In a statement, WHO said in parallel it had “launched a call to manufacturers who may wish to submit their products for pre-qualification, which would allow for a ramping-up of production and therefore greater availability of the treatment and expanded access.
ACT-A partners are also working with WHO on an equitable access framework for recommended COVID-19 therapeutics”. On that subject, Dr Diaz added that “there are bottlenecks and we are aware of those.
WHO has launched the pre-qualification expression of interest call so that the manufacturing companies can start to submit their dossiers to WHO”.
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