Panama - May 8 to 10, 2012
“Our goal is to facilitate connectivity between countries of the continent”
From May 8th to 10th, Panama will become the hub of exchange of knowledge and experiences of South- South Cooperation (SSC) of Latin America and the Caribbean, thanks to the organization of the Fair Knowledge from the South, organized by the Government of Panama with support from the United Nations system, coordinated by UNDP.
The fair organizers are expecting the presence of heads of cooperation agencies from different countries of the region, representatives of foreign ministries and experts in the field, who will discuss the policies and mechanisms that have been used to facilitate SSC processes, as well as their achievements and the challenges that they have faced. Beyond showcasing and sharing experiences, Knowledge from the South is intended to facilitate the establishment of new cooperation agreements between the countries present at the fair.
To better understand the vision of the Government of Panama regarding the Fair, the Knowledge from the South team spoke with Foreign Minister, Roberto Henríquez, who explained to us what this event represents for Panama and what results are expected, among other things.
Mr. Minister, in several events, for example the VI Summit of the Americas, the countries of the region have expressed the need to affirm common values and commit to act together to address the current and future challenges faced by Latin America and the Caribbean. Can the South-South Cooperation be a tool to consider for achieving this goal?
Absolutely, in Latin America and the Caribbean we are moving in the crystallization of joint initiatives in political, economic, social and cultural matters. The current challenges of development and integration initiatives being carried out in the region have led to intensified efforts to establish effective mechanisms, including the South-South Cooperation, which can respond to common challenges to achieve social and sustainable development.
Let us also remember that horizontality, cooperation from building consensus and the principle of equity are three characteristic features of the SSC that make it an effective mechanism to address common challenges.
What has motivated the Government of Panama to host this fair of South-South Cooperation?
The Government of Panama is aware of the current trends and the evolution of South-South Cooperation (SSC); it is become a driving force of national development agendas in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is a kind of cooperation that is appropriate given the context of the region, since it allows promoting policies of social and sustainable development while developing the leadership of the countries involved, as well as the national and local capacities. Acknowledging the role of CSS, the Government has a special interest in expanding their knowledge regarding the experiences of cooperation carried out so far in the region, the mechanisms used and results obtained. For that reason, it has offered to host the Regional South-South Cooperation Fair: Knowledge from the South.
It is important to emphasize, moreover, that an event of this kind allows us to present our country as a place of encounter between knowledge and experiences that arrive from all parts of the region.
Already positioned as a financial center in the region and as a secure place for foreign investment, Panama aims to become a place of encounter for humanitarian issues, development and knowledge exchange. We want to turn the country into plethora of wealth and experiences arriving from such diverse areas, which at the same time have so much in common as the Caribbean, the Andean region, the Southern Cone and Mesoamerica.
Our goal is to facilitate connectivity between countries of the continent, because in this way we facilitate the integration of the region.
What is the comparative advantage of Panama?
We have a unique environment for the exchange of knowledge to occur in optimal conditions. The City of Knowledge, the venue that will host the Fair has become a hub in which diverse organizations that share, transfer and create knowledge merge together. Therefore, we hope it will lay the grounds for a rich discussion for everyone involved.
On the other hand, geostrategically Panama has a privileged place to facilitate the participation of the representatives from all countries of the region. We have an international airport with flights to all of the countries in the region and we are currently working on the expansion of the Tocumen International Airport, which will be one of the largest in Latin America.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that numerous Regional Offices of the United Nations are located in Panama, which has facilitated collaboration with the Government in the organizing of the fair.
What do you expect from the fair?
We hope that Knowledge from the South will be a space in which the exchange of experiences and lessons learned prevail and where enduring ties of cooperation are established. Since this is the first Regional Fair of its kind, it is our desire to collaborate with stakeholders in developing an agenda that defines the next steps to further South-South Cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean and serves as a reference in the future. The fair also aims to facilitate new cooperation agreements between countries with the aim of contributing to sustainable development, which also gives a political dimension to the event. When the Fair is over, follow up to the agreements reached will be done. We also plan to systematize the experiences presented and create a sample to be displayed in different countries of the region, as well as in the Global South-South Development Expo in Vienna.
What message would you like to send to the delegates about their upcoming experience in Panama?
I would say that Panama and the Panamanians are very pleased to host this event and we are waiting for all of you with open arms. We are working around the clock to provide the best possible fair. Our teams are finalizing the agenda, organizing presentations and in short, doing everything in our power to ensure that Knowledge from the South is a success. We ask the participants to come eager to share ideas, discuss and comment not only their experiences, but also those of their peers, so that the discussion is as rewarding as possible.