The South Commission’s report “The Challenge to the South” was launched in 1990

3 August 1990: The Report recommended creating a South Secretariat that would provide the technical foundation (analysis, research and negotiation support) needed by the South for working collectively. The South Centre was established in November 1990 to follow-up the Report’s recommendations and became an intergovernmental organization established by treaty in 1995.

31 July 1995: The Agreement to Establish the South Centre entered into force

The South Centre was established as a permanent intergovernmental organization mandated to provide policy advice, undertake research and analysis, support coordinated actions by developing countries in negotiating processes, and promote South-South cooperation.

“As the premier source of research on issues affecting the South, and growing out of the work and experience of the South Commission, the (South) Centre plays a role whose value for the developing world cannot be underestimated”

Nelson Mandela, in his speech to the Second Meeting of the Council of Representatives of the South Centre held in New York, in 1998.

The South Conference reviews the challenges ahead

The annual South Conference of the South Centre has become a major event for developing countries to review the state of the world, their development prospects, and the continuing and emerging challenges that the South faces.

North-South Dialogue

The South Centre seeks to promote North-South dialogue on issues of common global concern on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

Promoting the South at international events

The South Centre participates in major international conferences, particularly those supporting South-South cooperation such as summits of the G77 and China, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Asian-African Conference. In the organizations where the South Centre holds observer status (UN General Assembly, WHO, UNCTAD, UNFCCC, WTO, WIPO among many others) it promotes the views and perspectives of the South.

Providing analysis on global macroeconomic and financial issues

The South Centre carries out forward-thinking analyses of global macroeconomic and financial issues, highlighting the development implications and prospects for the South and providing recommendations for appropriate action.

Addressing the challenges of climate change

The South Centre is actively engaged in the climate change and sustainable development negotiations where it promotes the development rights and interests of developing countries.

Making the global trade system fairer and inclusive

Making the trade and investment systems fair and inclusive to the benefit of all its members has always been one of the main priorities of the South Centre. In this regard, the South Centre assists developing countries in understanding the development implications of WTO, free trade and investment agreements.

Innovation, health, and development of the South

Innovation, health and development are inter-linked issues that affect the peoples of the South. These are areas in which the South Centre continues to engage in to identify specific concerns  of developing countries (such as access to medicines, transfer of technology, antibiotic resistance, biodiversity protection, intellectual property rights).

Helping create future leaders of the South

Creating an informed South for the future depends on providing information and analyses to young future developing country policymakers.


The South Centre provides seminars and workshops to expose students, policymakers, and other professionals from the South to multilateral policy issues that affect the development of their countries.

South Unity in diversity, South Progress through cooperation

Promoting South-South cooperation through cooperation with the South’s other institutions such as the G77, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and regional organizations is an important part of the South Centre’s work.

South Unity in action

Promoting South-South cooperation in practice at multilateral policy negotiations is a key aspect of the South Centre’s work, as it seeks to build South unity and progress.

From the South Commission to the South Centre

The journey continues in strengthening the multilateral intergovernmental policy research institution of the South towards South Unity and South Progress.


Map shows South Centre Membership as of 2015.

Analytical Note, January 2017

The WTO’s Discussions on Electronic Commerce

The WTO has a 1998 Work Programme on E-commerce. This Work Programme provides for the discussion of trade-related issues relating to electronic commerce to take place in the relevant WTO bodies: the Council for Trade in Services; the Council for Trade in Goods; the Council for TRIPS; and the Committee for Trade and Development. The General Council was envisaged to play a review or oversight role.

From July 2016, the debate on Electronic Commerce at the WTO intensified when several Members proposed to negotiate new rules in addition to the existing ones in the WTO Agreements. This suggestion for negotiations was opposed by many developing countries because it goes beyond the 1998 mandate. Many are also keenly aware of how the digital divide still presents enormous hurdles for their full participation in E-commerce, and especially cross-border E-Commerce which the proposed rules would liberalise. This paper sets out to explore the following questions:

I. The Digital Economy and New Business Models

How is the digital economy going to change the business models that we have? How will production and supply patterns change? Where will developing countries’ suppliers be situated in this new scenario?

II. What are the Proponents of New Rules (in July 2016) Asking For?

What new rules are being proposed? What are the interests behind them? What are the implications for most developing countries?

III. What is the Reality On the Ground in Developing Countries vis-a-vis E-commerce?

Where are developing countries, for example, Africa today in terms of E-commerce competitiveness? What are the challenges their suppliers face? How are the basic issues of infrastructure, skills upgrading to be overcome? It is not only about having connectivity that we can be successful in e-commerce exports – developing countries’ suppliers must also be content creators on the internet.

IV. Questions on the Work Programme: What and Where?

What is the scope of the WTO’s E-commerce Work Programme? What are the priorities on the WTO’s negotiating agenda? Where and how is this Work Programme to be organised?

V. What Kind of 21st Century Trade Route Would Support Development?

The trade route we currently have is open in places and closed in others for strategic reasons including employment and the needs of domestic suppliers who may not yet be competitive on the world market. As technology advances, this electronic trade-route would become more and more dominant – particularly for services and non-agricultural products. In the context of developing countries’ more limited production capacities and the digital divide, what kind of trade route do we want for the 21st century so that development can take place?




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