Mr. Christophe Bahuet, UNDP Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific and Director, Bangkok Regional Hub

“South-South cooperation is important for UNDP because it embodies the ideal of international cooperation and multilateralism. It is the value we are standing for, mutual learning among countries. It is a major contributor to the domestic development of other countries”.  (Christophe Bahuet)

The UNOSSC Regional Office team spoke to Mr. Christophe Bahuet on South-South and triangular cooperation. During the interview, Mr. Bahuet shared his experiences and the strength of his belief in South-South cooperation and its importance to the work of UNDP, and how to encourage a South-South cooperation-oriented mindset. Furthermore, Mr. Bahuet spoke about UNDP’s 2021 initiatives in South-South cooperation and his perspectives on how this work can be upscaled in Asia and the Pacific region.

The Importance of South-South Cooperation in UNDP’s Work

“…I have experience in working on South-South cooperation, but there are a number of colleagues at UNDP that have worked directly with counterparts and engaged with thematic units to make sure it is mainstreamed in the UNDP Programmes and to support and facilitate the exchange of South-South cooperation…” said Mr. Bahuet as he kicked off the conversation. He further noted that South-South cooperation is important for UNDP’s work as it embodies the ideas of development cooperation and multilateralism, that it has a role to contribute to the development agenda as a source of knowledge and financing.  

Focusing on how a UNDP country office can nurture that focus on South-South cooperation, he relayed his experience as a previous Resident Representative and Deputy Regional Director.  He emphasized that the starting point is a mindset that looks for opportunities in South-South cooperation. “For instance, the mindset to identify the opportunities, define scope of South-South cooperation that will be useful, not only looking into your own country’s confined contexts, and including some sense of vision and anticipation since cooperation should not be limited to only one study/exchange, and lastly identifying the required partnerships”, he added.   That mindset can be driven by a South-South focal point/unit in the country office.  He relayed his belief that mainstreaming of South-South cooperation and the substantive work that UNDP leads to significant outcomes.

Looking back at some of the initiatives that he has initiated, been part of or observed, he underlined the effectiveness of South-South cooperation in cross-border development issues such as human trafficking, air pollution, green financing and other complex development issues. Mr. Bahuet also emphasized that learning is an important dimension of South-South cooperation that can be structured through exchanges and facilitated by UNDP.

Reflecting on the role of UNDP as a capacity builder for institutionalization of South-South cooperation, he provided examples including its support and contributions to White Papers on South-South and development cooperation policies/strategies in a number of countries. He suggested that as a number of countries in the region become providers, there is a need to support this upstream policy work for effective institutionalization and to build the capacities of the development cooperation organizations created by the new provider countries.

Asked to reflect on UNDP plans for scaling up South-South cooperation in 2021, he mentioned the number of initiatives that are ongoing particularly on Climate Solutions and a Blue Economy with its new dimensions.  He underlined how South-South cooperation should be harnessed to capture and respond to new trends. “It is about making a deliberate effort to look at emerging issues and make sure that South-South cooperation helps to address them,” he stated.

South-South Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region

Mr. Bahuet thought that there is scope for South-South cooperation to be scaled up in the region and inter-regionally. He also expressed his desire to see more triangular cooperation. To scale up South-South and triangular cooperation, he recommended continuing the ongoing work and recognize South-South cooperation as such.  “We also need to look at the effectiveness of South-South cooperation,” he said.

Mr. Bahuet shared that it is important that South-South cooperation projects  align with the international development agenda as this is the agenda that has been agreed to by the international community. He concluded his remarks by restating the special institutional arrangement between UNOSSC and UNDP, “we are in the same house,” and looked forward to the development of more cooperation.

Mr. Christophe Bahuet (France) has been appointed UNDP Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, effective 1 October 2020. Since January 2019, he has been UNDP Resident Representative in Indonesia, and was Country Director in the same country for the period 2015-2018. His earlier assignments with UNDP included China, Vietnam, Ghana, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. Mr. Bahuet also worked at UNDP Headquarters in New York, in the Evaluation Office and then in the Partnership Bureau. Prior to joining UNDP, he was posted in the French Embassy in Yugoslavia. Mr. Bahuet holds a Master’s Degree with Honours from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, a Diploma in Southeast Asian studies from the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilisations in Paris, a Law Degree and a Degree in Slavic languages from the University of Bordeaux. He speaks French, English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and other Asian languages. He is married and has two children.