The role of South-South and Triangular Cooperation in transforming food systems within the context of COVID-19

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The role of South-South and Triangular Cooperation in transforming food systems within the context of COVID-19

Rome-based UN agencies event marks UN Day for South-South Cooperation

On 16 September, the United Nations Rome-based agencies − the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), IFAD and the World Food Programme (WFP) − celebrated the 2020 UN Day for South-South Cooperation with a virtual event hosted by IFAD.

The theme for the celebration was The role of South-South and Triangular Cooperation in the transformation of food systems, in view of COVID-19.

The event aimed to raise awareness about how South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) and the collaboration among the Rome-based agencies can support the transformation of food systems and address immediate and mid-term needs, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The purpose of this day is to celebrate and share development successes, explore new avenues for collaboration and forge innovative and inclusive partnerships,” said Guoqi Wu, IFAD Associate Vice-President, Corporate Services Department, in his opening remarks.

The scope and the space of South-South Cooperation has significantly expanded in the mandate of the UN and the international community,” Jorge Chediek, Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), said. “Everyone should get involved in SSTC. We have to continue refining the global architecture to promote the expansion of these modalities of cooperation with different actors.

Beth Bechdol, FAO Deputy Director-General, provided concrete examples of how the COVID-19 pandemic has generated an extensive amount of new knowledge, innovation and experiences that can help governments of developing countries and their communities respond to its impact on food and agricultural systems. “We should identify and share innovative ideas, experiences and solutions from the agri-food systems responses, especially from developing countries,” she said.

The event provided a unique platform to hear from Member States about the impact of the pandemic on their rural populations, and how the support of the Rome-based agencies will be crucial to help avert a food crisis and improve the resilience of rural livelihoods.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been increased requests for additional support with food assistance, especially from countries of the Global South, which have called for a concerted response from all development actors. At the same time, addressing the challenges posed by the pandemic provides an opportunity for countries to improve their agricultural production processes, enhance their value chain development, and transform their food systems.

Valerie Guarnieri, WFP Assistant Executive Director, Programme and Policy Development Department, highlighted that this pandemic calls for out-of-the-box thinking, along with the need for greater engagement among partners and the use of innovative service delivery methods to reach the most vulnerable populations. She provided concrete examples of how WFP is supporting host governments with innovative SSTC solutions. She also noted, “Here today, with the Rome-based agencies, and in the face of [ … ] growing needs due to COVID-19, we have an opportunity to mobilize more technical expertise from Global South countries that are managing the impact of the pandemic and are ready to share those experiences with others; innovation, such as digital modalities, can support more efficient brokering of SSTC.”

The country representatives at the event welcomed the proposed increase of SSTC activities on the ground, with a particular focus on value chain development, youth engagement in the area of technology, and collaboration with the private sector.

The importance of learning from and sharing experiences within African countries was emphasized by H.E. Henri Djombo, Minister of State, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, and Governor of IFAD for the Republic of the Congo. As he put it, “We have to turn towards other African countries and their experiences and successes and ensure the foundations for the development of agriculture through financing.” He also noted the importance of SSTC initiatives in the context of cassava, particularly the good work being done by the Rome-based agencies to improve cassava production through innovative technologies.

The huge potential for youth to be a driving force in agricultural transformation and rural development was the central topic of discussion for H.E. José Ángel López Camposeco, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Food of the Republic of Guatemala. In particular, he stressed the need “to generate opportunities for young people, support them and break down the barriers so that they are involved in production processes in rural areas.” He added: “Youth has huge potential and we should tap into that. We can bring technology into agriculture through young people.

H.E. Niu Dun, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome of the People’s Republic of China, reiterated his country’s support for SSTC and stressed the importance of collaboration among partners to fight the pandemic. Ambassador Niu Dun also underlined the plan of the People’s Republic of China to invest more in rural agriculture, to enhance its agricultural production, and to review its agriculture policies to ensure the best possible support for its farmers.

One key area highlighted by multiple participants was the need to increase the number of exchange of innovative solutions generated by developing countries for the benefit of other developing countries. There is great potential here for the Rome-based agencies and their development partners to step up their efforts to increase knowledge- and expertise-sharing, which remain invaluable tools for supporting small-scale farmers.

SSTC is central in the activities that we carry out in the ACP countries. The COVID-19 threats cannot be successfully addressed independently by one country, region or continent,” said Escipión Joaquín Oliveira Gómez, Assistant Secretary General for Structural Economic Transformation and Trade of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. Touching on the central role of private sector actors in SSTC, he added: “We believe that private sector collaboration is essential to this work. Agricultural production in our countries plays a critical role to improve livelihoods.

Three years after the release of the Joint Roadmap towards BAPA+40: Strengthening collaboration among Rome-based Agencies on South-South and Triangular Cooperation, the representatives of FAO, IFAD and WFP renewed their commitment to working together to achieve the Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals by promoting and leveraging SSTC activities on the ground.


  • Michela Baratelli, Communication Specialist, South-South and Triangular Cooperation Division, FAO
  • Elena Bertusi, SSTC Specialist, Global Engagement, Partnership and Resource Mobilization Division, IFAD
  • Carola Kenngott, Programme Officer, Programme – Humanitarian and Development Division, WFP

For more information, visit the event page.