Recover Stronger Together through Decentralised Cooperation: Learning from South-South Cooperation

Latin America and Asia-Pacific Collaboration for Greater Impact to the World

Global South: Challenges & Opportunities

Cooperation among countries in the Global South is not new. In 1955, newly independent countries gathered in Bandung, Indonesia for the Asian-African Conference. Drawing on the principles of the Conference, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was established in Belgrade, former Yugoslavia. Both the Conference and the Movement set the stage for “South-South Cooperation (SSC), a movement of reciprocal self-reliance in which developing countries collectively assist each other.[1]However, the countries of the Global South are facing some challenging issues along the way. Reflecting on the occurrence of global issues, such as climate change,[2] the refugee crisis,[3] and the COVID-19 pandemic,[4] that have disproportionately affected developing countries, the Global South’s roles in the South-South Cooperation (SSC) have never been more relevant and important.

As international cooperation has become more open and participatory, developing countries have become increasingly active in the global policymaking process.[1] Moving forward at different speeds, some southern countries have become global policy shapers. Multilateral organisations, like the United Nations (UN), have also included South-South aspects in their core business models. Most importantly, southern countries have implemented technical knowledge sharing and policy exchanges that allow them to learn from one another.[2] This article will explore how the Asia-Pacific and Latin American countries, as part of the Global South, can strengthen knowledge sharing under the SSC.

Voices of Local Governments

Cooperation and collaboration should be implemented not only at the international and national levels but also at the local level. Local governments, as the sphere of government closest to people, are ideally placed to understand the local needs and experience of localising national commitments and global agendas. With its inherent understanding of cultural, social, environmental, and economic realities, feedback from local governments can safeguard these assets.

Cooperation between local governments can support the aligned vision of the national governments through paradiplomacy and decentralised cooperation.[1] In Latin America, the role of MERCOCIUDADES in encouraging local governments to join hands shows that local government networks can lead various actors to cooperate for a greater common interest.[2] In Asia and the Pacific region, the United Cities and Local Governments Asia Pacific (UCLG ASPAC), the largest regional section of UCLG, advocates the interest of cities and local governments to take part in the national and regional levels.[3]

Through cooperation, local governments could be able to overcome challenges, such as limited financing capabilities,[4] lack of authority and capacity,[5] and lack of enabling environment.[6],[7] Furthermore, local governments will be able to bridge the gaps presented by those challenges and open new opportunities through international action.[8] Considering the importance of cooperation, there are several topics of collaboration implemented by cities and local governments in Asia and the Pacific:

  • Climate Change and Resilience

UCLG ASPAC puts climate change and resilience as one of its core activities. We are currently implementing the European Union (EU)-funded Climate Resilience Inclusive Cities (CRIC) project. Taking the role of the Secretariat of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM) for Southeast Asia and the coordinator for the GCoM Global-regional Coherence (GRC) in Asia Pacific, UCLG ASPAC is committed to supporting cities and local governments on climate actions. UCLG ASPAC also facilitates learning and training on resilience by applying the Resilience Module developed by UCLG World and UCLG ASPAC.Sustainable Development Goals

  • Sustainable Development Goals

In the Asia-Pacific region, cities and local governments have played a significant role in the SDGs achievement and encouraged strategic partnership at the local level. UCLG ASPAC implemented LOCALISE SDGs in Indonesia and is implementing LEAD4SDGs in Pakistan. Moreover, as decentralised cooperation forms an essential part of the SDGs localisation process, UCLG ASPAC supports UCLG World in developing and implementing a module on “Localising the SDGs through Decentralised Collaboration.”

  • Pandemic Solidarity

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed most of the core of government activities, including the provision of basic services to citizens.[1] Embracing the spirit of friendship and solidarity amid the pandemic, UCLG ASPAC has strongly facilitated inter-cities support. Donations of disposable medical masks and various insight-sharing activities were positively welcomed by members.[2] With support from CUF (Cites Unies France), a small-scale project on post-disaster in Palu (Indonesia) including local economic development, capacity building, and construction of public space for community was completed.

Scaling Up the Cooperation and Collaboration

It is understood that: (1) the Global South’s role in the SSC is essential and (2) cooperation and collaboration should be implemented at the local levels. Thus, we may conclude that there is an imminent necessity for cities and local governments from the Global South to cooperate and collaborate further. 

UCLG ASPAC enhances cooperation amongst cities and local governments and with the wider international communities in the region.[1] Through the establishment of several Committees, local governments in this region have platforms to partner and collaborate. They are engaged in programmes facilitated by UCLG ASPAC that promotes collaboration, such as localisation of SDGs, inclusive public space, disaster risk reduction, culture, tourism, climate change, Belt and Road local cooperation, capacity development and learning, and many others. The collaboration between UCLG ASPAC and MERCOCIUDADES in the GCoM platforms enables cities and local governments in ASPAC and LATAM regions to exchange their knowledge on climate-related issues, particularly on climate finance.[2] This type of collaboration across both regions needs to be leveraged and scaled up as there will be more opportunities to learn from multiple perspectives, and thus, an innovative formulation can be accelerated.]

Next Steps

It is worth mentioning that the Global South is now taking a more strategic role at the global level. Reflecting on the collaboration between UCLG ASPAC and MERCOCIUDADES, a knowledge exchange platform can be established. The magnitude of the platforms can bring benefits to the ASPAC and LATAM regions as the innovation related to climate, local economic, and sustainable development has been the common interest of both regions and there are more to be shared. To conclude, local-to-local cooperation will align the interest of multiple stakeholders, which will amplify the impacts. Having a stronger impact is even more relevant in times of pandemic recovery. Borrowing the tagline of G20 Presidency Indonesia, Recover Together, Recover Stronger, let us cooperate and collaborate to act together, and to recover stronger for the prosperity of both regions, Latin America and Asia and the Pacific!

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United Cities and Local Governments Asia Pacific (UCLG ASPAC)

Jakarta Capital City Government Office (City Hall of Jakarta)
Building H, 21st Floor. Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan No. 8-9
Central Jakarta 10110, Indonesia

Phone: +62 21 389 01 801 | Fax: +62 21 389 01 802 | WhatsApp: +62 811 8047 002


[1] Gray, K. & Gills, B. (2016). “South-South cooperation and the rise of the

Global South”. Third World Quarterly 37:4, 557-574

[2] O’Sullivan, F. (2022). The World’s Fastest-Growing Cities Are Facing the Most Climate Risk. Accessed on 28 Oct 2022 in

[3] World Economic Forum. (2022). The Global Risks Report 2022: 17th Edition. Accessed on 28 Oct 2022 in

[4] Ibid.

[5] Inge, K. (2013). The Rise of the Global South: Implications for the Provisioning of Global Public Goods. Accessed on 28 Oct 2022 in

[6] Beleboni, R. (2019). “The Rise of the Global South: Can South–South Cooperation Reshape Development?” Kennedy School Review. Accessed on 9 Nov 2022 in

[7] UCLG. (2021). Learning Module 4: Localizing the SDGs through Decentralized Cooperation. Accessed on 8 Nov 2022 in

[8] Filho, A. (2013). “Paradiplomacy and the Diffusion of Regional Integration: An Analysis of the Mercociudades Network”. Perspectives: Review of International Affairs. Accessed on 3 Nov 2022 in

[9] Haryati, A. et. al. (2018). “The Involvement of Surabaya and Semarang as Subnational Actors in Diplomacy”. Accessed on 3 Nov 2022 in

[10] Roberts, B. & Lindfield, M. (2014). The Role for Local Government in “The Future We Want”. UNESCAP. Accessed on 8 Nov 2022 in

[11] UCLG. (2010). Local Government Finance: The Challenges of the 21st Century. Accessed on 8 Nov 2022 in

[12] UCLG ASPAC, Cities Alliances, UNDP. (2018). City Enabling Environment Rating: Assessment of the Countries in Asia and the Pacific. Accessed on 9 Nov 2022 in

[13] UN-HABITAT. (2015). The Challenge of Local Government Financing in Developing Countries. Accessed on 8 Nov 2022 in

[14] UCLG ASPAC. (2021). Decentralised Cooperation to Localise the SDGs. Accessed on 9 Nov 2022 in

[15] UCLG ASPAC. (2021). Fighting COVID-19 while Sustaining Collective Work Towards SDG and Better Local Cooperation. Accessed on 9 Nov 2022 in

[16] UCLG ASPAC. (2020). Friendship and City Solidarity amidst COVID-19 Pandemic. Accessed on 9 Nov 2022 in

[17] UCLG ASPAC. (2021). UCLG ASPAC Manifesto 2021-2025. Accessed on 28 Oct 2022 in[1] UCLG ASPAC. (2022). UCLG ASPAC Newsletter Vol 37: May-Oct 2022 – Local Governments: People, Planet, and Government for Sustainable Future. Accessed on 10 Nov 2022 in