South-South Cooperation: rewriting the approach to climate change and food security

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South-South Cooperation Meeting in New Delhi, India. Photo: S. Vyas (CCAFS-SA)

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation."  

Mahatma Gandhi

With the global nature of climate change and food security, cross-country collaboration is an essential element of the solution to these challenges. In recognition of this, the Bandung Conference of 1955 sought to rekindle coalition and combined action; it was here that the idea of South-South Cooperation was born. In 1978, 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, formalized the idea. BAPA’s guidelines and recommendations catalyzed the establishment of legal frameworks and financing mechanisms for the Global South, at the national, regional, interregional and global levels.

As part of South-South Cooperation, developing countries in the Global South agreed to collaborate and share resources, technology, and knowledge, in a range of areas including human rights, urbanization, agricultural development, and climate change. With most of the countries of the Global South (countries located in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean) being major food producers of the world, agricultural development has been a common goal for them, and climate change a common challenge. 

A common goal: a common challenge  

Developing countries are recognized as hotspots for climatic risks and food insecurity. The anticipated impacts of climate change are expected to further exacerbate these challenges for food production in such hotspots. Agriculture is one of the prime sectors being affected by climate change, with projected crop reduction of up to 50% in the tropics by the 2050s. Ironically, this sector is also one of the largest contributors to climate change, with a share of 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

This twin role of agriculture offers an ideal opportunity for employing climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives in the sector. As most of the countries of the Global South are involved in large scale agricultural production, they are more inclined than developed countries to adopt measures to increase food production while reducing emissions. Integrated efforts of these countries could hold the key to abating climate change and creating a food secure world. A recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, Climate Change and Land, highlights the yet unrealized potential of the Global South to adapt to and mitigate climate change, especially by employing ‘modern’ agricultural practices, and adapting food consumption patterns.

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) offers a practical approach for tackling the issues of  food security and emissions from agriculture simultaneously. Recognizing the important role of the Global South in curtailing climate change while meeting the increasing demand for food, the CGIAR Research Program Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has been working in Africa, Latin America and Asia together with its partners to promote CSA and help countries manage climatic risks. Innovative technologies such as minimum tillage, crop insurance, and Happy Seeder—which offer a sustainable way of reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint while paving the way to a climate resilient future—are already being discussed, piloted and scaled out.

Capitalizing on growth

With the growing economic and geopolitical relevance of many developing countries, the Global South has already been making significant contributions to global development, both in terms of knowledge and finance. Half of the world’s growth in recent years is being attributed to the countries of the Global South. New financial institutions in the Global South have also become active in development finance.

The Alliance for Financial Inclusion, is one example of the South-South Cooperation’s global knowledge sharing network. Established in 2008, with nearly 100 developing and emerging countries participating, it has emerged as a new model for international cooperation in finance. The Alliance facilitates dialogue by offering a platform to exchange ideas and knowledge, as well as explore financing opportunities for scaling out proven measures to curb climate change and ensure food security.

Beyond this platform, efforts by the countries of the Global South to implement the action points agreed on under BAPA are needed. CCAFS aims to support key institutions in the Global South in this respect, through not only knowledge creation and exchange, but also technology development and transfer, streamlining emergency response, handholding to implement relevant technology among others. CCAFS has been engaged in:

Although CCAFS efforts are more focused on the Global South, in order to ensure inclusive and integrated development, engaging with the Global North is crucial. The financial, technical and knowledge support of the Global North can significantly boost efforts to promote inclusivity. Thus, in addition to facilitating South-South cooperation, CCAFS aims to be a catalyst for North-South cooperation.

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