Trade unions call for strong political will for development at BAPA+40

An ITUC global delegation participated in the United Nations’ High-level Conference on South-South and Triangular Cooperation. Organised by the UN Office on South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and the Government of Argentina, the Conference took place in Buenos Aires on 20-22 March 2019.

The Conference has been known under the acronym BAPA+40 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC), approved in Buenos Aires in 1978 and called Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA).

During the three days of the event, the delegates brought forward the core messages of the labour movement on South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) via many advocacy and networking discussions with officials from governments, international institutions and other key stakeholders, including the OECD, ILO, CEPAL and UNSSOC.

Members of the delegation with the Director of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC). From left to right: Ruy Pereira (ABC), Thiago Maeda (CUT-Brazil), Giulia Massobrio (ITUC), Andrés Larisgoitia (CTA-Argentina), Marita González (CGT-Argentina) and Hugo García (UGT-Brazil)

The delegation was also very active taking the floor in official sessions, interactive sessions and side-events of the Conference.

Official sessions

Our messages were included in the CSOs’ joint-speech, which was delivered by Meja Vitalice, Director of Reality of Aid Africa at the opening plenary session. The delegation participated in the discussions to draft the speech and managed to include language on 1) decent work and climate justice; 2) business accountability; and 3) using SSTC to promote universal social protection coverage, build progressive fiscal systems and ensuring living wages.

Giulia Massobrio (ITUC) delivered the delegation’s closing speech to the BAPA+40 during the closing plenary. She encouraged governments and International Institutions to show more political will on SSTC and reminded them that trade unions are ready and willing to share their expertise and experience in SSTC to shape, implement and support all the necessary reforms that would enable SSTC to deliver its full potential as a driver of the SDGs and of the Decent Work Agenda.

Giulia Massobrio addresses BAPA+40 at closing plenary session.


Official interactive sessions

Maria Emeninta (KSBSI- Indonesia) talked about trade unions’ best practices on SSTC. Among other examples, she highlighted the triangular cooperation programme of the Asean labour movement, which established a permanent network among trade unions in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. With the support of Belgian trade unions, the network built a strategy to standardise labour rights in multinational companies and their supply chains, as well as to promote best practices of social dialogue with multi-stakeholders.

Thiago Maeda (CUT- Brazil) focussed on the what trade unions consider to be the main challenges facing SSTC and how these should be addressed. He stressed the importance of challenging and addressing key shortfalls such as the shrinking space for trade unions and CSOs, the lack of strong accountability mechanisms in general and of business accountability in particular, and the need to address systemic issues on technology access and transfer.

Finally, Marita González (CGT - Argentina) talked about ways to scale up SSTC on the basis of trade unions’ longstanding experience in this field. She insisted on the need for SSTC to be SDG and Decent Work oriented. She also mentioned the potential of SSTC to become a channel through which countries could put in place progressive mechanisms to mobilise national resources, including progressive fiscal systems and balanced multilateral trade agreements among others.

Marita González addressing the official interactive session on scaling up SSTC.


Official side events

In the side event organised by the ILO, Kjeld Jakobsen (TUCA) debated the future of work and youth employment in the frame of SSTC, together with ILO representatives, young entrepreneurs and Costa Rica employers. He insisted in the need for all SSTC actors to adapt to the changes that technology advances are bringing about. He especially stressed the need for trade unions and employers to step away from a vision of work that is strongly based on a frame from the 20th century, which is barely applicable now at days. However, such a shift does not imply moving away from respecting rights.


Our brief “Trade Unions South-South and triangular cooperation: Our contributions to the SDGs” was presented at the event of the Global Partnership Initiative for Effective Triangular Cooperation. Maresa Leroux (CGSLB- Belgium) intervened during that session and talked about trade unions’ contributions to the OECD’s most recent report on this topic. She also mentioned briefly the CGSLB’s triangular project to support collaboration between unions in Burkina Faso and Niger for them to enhance their advocacy skills at national and regional level.

Final statement

At the end of the Conference, the delegation produced a reaction to the BAPA+40 Outcome Document. In the reaction, the delegation explains that the Outcome Document is a mere starting point to broaden the scope of South-South and Triangular Cooperation and enhance STTC’s true potential as a driver of the Sustainable Development Goals. The reaction also lists the seven key points that are central to SSTC from the labour movement’s point of view:

  • SDGs and decent work at the centre of SSTC;
  • Enhanced effectiveness of SSTC;
  • Enabling environment and social dialogue;
  • Democratic ownership of SSTC policies;
  • Domestic resource mobilisation;
  • Shared technology and Just Transitions; and
  • Business accountability;