Is there really a “North” and a “South” anymore?

Post-2015, Social and Sustainable Development

NEW YORK 11 June 2014
Traditionally, development has been seen as something done by the rich for the poor. The “developed” nations “helped” the “less developed.”

But as the world considers a new post-2015 development agenda, that view is increasingly called into question in the face of rising middle income countries, growing inequalities in the “North,” and the realization that some problems – like climate change – affect everyone.

In this context, an informal breakfast meeting held at the offices of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) on “Universality, differentiation, and our shared responsibilities” provided a number of insights about the evolution of thinking about development, development assistance, and international cooperation.

“As we know, the whole UN development cooperation system functions more or less on the basis of a north-south set up,” said Guilherme de Aguiar Patriota, Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations, who offered opening remarks at the 19th such breakfast meeting on post-2015 issues.

“But it is not well equipped for south-south cooperation. And most of the resources that we are funneling toward development are of the voluntary kind.”

At the Rio+20 conference two years ago, he said, governments decided that proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) should be “universal in nature.”

“This is very different from North-South – it is something that would apply to the developed countries, too,” he said, adding, as well, that even in the United States now, the issue of “inequality” has become an issue.

“The world is now more like a continuum across the scale of development,” he added, “rather than a binary division of the world.”

The meetings, which have been going on since July 2012, have offered a venue for diplomats, UN officials, and representatives of civil society to discuss informally the issues they are concerned with in the lead-up to negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.

And, following Amb. Patriota’s opening remarks, there was a general discussion about what are known in UN terms as “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) and universality. Among the points offered were:

That new development goals cannot be met without some level of overseas development assistance (ODA) from “developed” countries.
That new initiatives to involve the private sector in such funding are unlikely to close any gap between ODA and needs on the ground – and that private sources of funds will also need some oversight.
That the concept of universality of the new development goals, while a good idea, cannot be interpreted to mean that “rich” countries can expect the “poorer” countries to close gaps in funding or to take full responsibility for action, especially when challenges, such as climate change, are beyond their control. And, likewise, that “rich” countries cannot be expected to pay for everything.
That the lens through which CBDR and universality is viewed – whether it is sovereignty based or seen as for the “betterment of the whole” has a profound effect on the ultimate outcome and solution.
Notes from the meeting, which was co-sponsored by the BIC and International Movement ATD Fourth World, can be read here.

Please go to The Baha’i International Community Website for others messages from the Baha’i International Community.

The Baha’i International Community
It is an international non-governmental organization with affiliates in over 180 countries, which together represent over 5 million members of the Baha’i Faith. The Baha’i International Community has offices in New York, Geneva and Brussels with representation to the UN and the European Union.

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