Denis Nkala: Asia is experiencing tremendous growth in terms of mega-cities

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12th September is the International Day for South-South Cooperation. To mark the occasion, interviewed the Regional coordinator for UNOSSC regional office in Asia pacific, Denis Nkala, to talk about the Belt and Road Initiative and South-South Cooperation.


Denis Nkala: Asia is experiencing tremendous growth in terms of mega-cities How do you see the relationship between the Belt and Road and South-South Cooperation?

Denis Nkala: South-South Cooperation is a relationship between developing countries. China has created the Belt and Road Initiative partly for developing countries, so in as much as it relates to developing countries, it actually becomes an element of South-South cooperation. A number of initiatives have sprung up under the umbrella of the Belt and Road which will be implemented between China and developing countries, and to us that is South-South cooperation. One such initiative is the Maritime Alliance of Cities. With this project, we have the Ministry of Commerce for the People’s Republic of China (MOFCOM) and the UN office for South-South cooperation working to bring together mayors and senior officials from cities along the maritime road. The goal is that where these cities have addressed issues relating to the growth of cities, provision of jobs for youth, mitigating climate change, providing public services, and management of data for development, these people can come together and share their experiences, and in cases where one city has already adopted and implemented a certain level of technology or methodology, they can just share with the others with no need of going back to the source of the technology to procure it. For us, this is very tangible South-South cooperation which is already happening under the Belt and Road initiative. This year, we will have the South-South Exhibition. Can you share some information about that expo to our audience and readers?

Denis Nkala: Since 2008, at the request of the member states of the United Nations, we have convened an annual global South-South Expo. The global South-South Expo is a forum whereby member states, NGOs, United Nations Organizations, and the private sector all come together to share their development experiences. Each year we choose a specific theme and the participation is related to that theme. Last year we had our expo in Dubai in November; this was the first time that we actually held it at a developing country, hosted by a developing country. This year it will be in Antalya in Turkey, from 27th-30th of November. Its main theme is to prepare for the 40th Anniversary of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Cooperation among developing countries. It will explore the challenges that we are facing in the economy, the environment, and social sectors across the board. People will be coming up with their solutions on how we can tackle these problems going into this 40th anniversary.

The other thing is that we have various forums that will be discussing specific issues as well as parallel exhibitions. For example, the government of the People’s Republic of China might have an exhibition on what China is doing in the area of poverty reduction. This is one forum that we are very proud of because it is a proponent of South-South cooperation. It also tells people what is there for other countries to look at and if they are interested, they can pursue it with the government of China or the government of another country so that they can learn and adapt to their own countries. The South–South Cooperation Office will work with MOFCOM to initiate the alliance of city projects. Can you elaborate more on the project, how it will work and the mechanism behind it?

Denis Nkala: Basically this project is focused on the leaders of cities. As you know Asia is experiencing tremendous growth in terms of mega-cities, but the same thing is happening at a lesser extent in Africa as well. In this project, there is a lot of learning that can take place between cities. The format that we are going to use is that every year we will have a big conference of mayors, and during the conference each mayor is going to present the innovations they have introduced in their cities. It could be green growth in their country, or how they have improved public service delivery. However, after sharing that information, there may be another city that is interested in doing something similar.

The departure from what we have done in the past is that we are actually going to provide resources for follow up, for example if a mayor from another country wants to go to another continent to study what is happening, we will actually facilitate that or alternatively they can ask for somebody to come from another country to their own city to help them with the innovation that is taking place. That will enable them to follow up on discussions so that we don't end with the discussions only. As we launch the official website in multiple languages for the Belt and Road under, can you say a few words to our audiences at home and abroad?

Denis Nkala: At the UN we work with a lot of countries but we are aware of the particular interest of the people that we work with in the Belt and Road initiative. As much as possible, when we work with you we are responding to what our partners want us to assist them with. In the past, we have had requests, for example, from a region on how can we work with the Belt and Road initiative. Some people come up with very specific areas. I have heard forum where they say can we work on technology with The Belt and Road initiative. What I can say is that we are already a partner not only with the initiative of the cities but a lot in other ways including climate change as well.

Secondly, as much as possible, we would like to support other UN agencies and other institutions that are also looking forward to building relationships and working with you.

I wish you all the luck in terms of moving forward with the program. Thank you sir for granting our interview today. On behalf of our staff members, audience and readers we wish you all the best in your future endeavours. Thank you again.

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