SouthViews No. 211, 30 December 2020

The Making of the South Centre

By Branislav Gosovic

A contribution to the institutional history of developing countries’ collective action in the world arena on the occasion of the South Centre’s 25th anniversary as an intergovernmental organization


The South Centre was first established by the South Commission at its last meeting in Arusha, Tanzania in October 1990, as its temporary two-year follow-up office which was to be chaired by its own Chairman, Julius K. Nyerere. In fact, the office was referred to informally as “the Chairman’s window in Geneva” and its task was to assist Mwalimu Nyerere to spearhead personally the follow-up process.

The South Centre began to function on 1 January 1991. The South Commission thus became the first among independent international commissions to leave a follow-up structure after ending its activities, a structure with a former head of state, world-renowned leader and personality at its helm. The Centre was given the task to promote the policy and action recommendations contained in the Commission’s report “The Challenge to the South,” especially its recommendation concerning the establishment of a “South Secretariat”, for which it provided a detailed blueprint.

At its Arusha meeting, the Commission also decided to reconvene, in two years’ time, as “former members of the South Commission”, in order to review the work undertaken by the Centre and to consider further action, if any. At that meeting, which was held in June 1992, the ex-Commissioners commended the work and performance of the Centre and decided to extend its mandate, so as to enable Mwalimu Nyerere to pursue the idea of transforming the Centre into a permanent institution. His endeavours were successful and led to the adoption in 1994 of the “International Agreement to establish the South Centre” as an intergovernmental organization (IGO). A brief essay follows highlighting main points of the Centre’s “touch and go” genesis, until the moment when it was formally inaugurated as an IGO in September 1995.

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