Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday sought international support for setting up a ‘South-South Knowledge and Innovation Centre’ in Bangladesh to act as a platform of technological solutions to development challenges in the Global South.
“In 2019, Bangladesh offered to set up a ‘South-South Knowledge and Innovation Centre’. It would ideally serve as a platform for co-creating technological solutions to development challenges in the South. I urge the UN, G20 and OECD to consider investing in such forward-looking proposals,” she said.
The Prime Minister made the call while addressing the 4th Edition of Paris Peace Forum at Grande Halle de la Villette here.
“On the home front, as Bangladesh graduates from the LDC status, we aim to work on setting up our own platform for international economic and technical cooperation. The platform will help coordinate and expand the work of our value-based diplomacy, and the multiple ways it contributes to international development, peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said many developed countries still fall behind their internationally agreed development commitments. “For them (developed countries), supporting South-South development cooperation programmes can be one way of realizing their own commitments,” she said.
Hasina said Bangladesh has always taken up the cause of the world’s least developed countries. “We’re now serving as the voice of climate vulnerable countries. Our commitment to the Global South is a long-standing and proven one,” she added.
The PM noted that the idea of South-South cooperation is for more than four decades. It has found its place in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. South-South cooperation initiatives have been on the rise in recent years. Many of them stand out for their creative development solutions, she said.
But South-South cooperation tends to take a backseat in international development discourse. It has been hard to change the traditional thinking and narratives around international development cooperation, she said.
“As such, many potential South-South cooperation projects remain under-funded. The idea of triangular cooperation has not lived up to its potential. This gap needs to be addressed. There’re some compelling reasons for that,” the PM added.
Hasina said a good number of homegrown development solutions are already available in the Global South. With additional financing, many of these solutions can be implemented and scaled up across other developing countries. “This can help avoid re-invent the solution in the name of technical assistance,” she said.
Hasina said there are better chances for South-South cooperation to respond directly to national development priorities. The financing and technological support of the North can help enhance the transparency and cost-effectiveness of South-South cooperation programmes, she added.
“We now witness an uneven response to globalization around the world. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen the international governance system failing millions of people in the Global South. The huge gap in access to vaccines and treatments is only too telling,” she noted.
The Prime Minister said a number of developing countries like Bangladesh have the capacity to ensure vaccine equity and quality. “We need support with technical know-how or TRIPS waiver to go into large-scale vaccine production for sharing vaccines with the rest of the world,” Hasina said.
“From Bangladesh, we’ve been reaching out to a number of our friendly countries with emergency medical supplies and other provisions during the pandemic. In one case, we sent out our trained workforce to administer the vaccines,” she said.
She said Bangladesh has been working on sharing its own development experience with other countries for many years now.
“Our achievements in agriculture, community healthcare, non-formal education, reproductive health, disaster management and micro-finance have reached out in other parts of the world. Building on our work in the last twenty years, we’ve offered to engage in humanitarian assistance for the brotherly Afghan people under UN initiatives,” the PM said.
“We’ve also been contributing to human resource development over the years for some of our neighbouring countries,” Hasina said.
With UNDP’s support, Bangladesh’s work on community-level digital services and public service innovations is being shared with a number of countries in the Global South. “Some of our climate adaptation methods are gaining increased attention in the North,” she said.