South-South Cooperation

International cooperation arose from the conviction that one part of the world, the industrialised North, on the strength of education, technical progress and experience, had succeeded in achieving a level of productivity and life conditions that should be replicable everywhere if only it where possible to export the same level of expertise to those countries that were lagging behind. In the wake of decolonisation, development aid was fashioned on this basic concept. Development was to be triggered through the transfer of expertise from the North into the underdeveloped countries which would then turn into developed ones. Especially in the sixties and seventies of the last century, gross conceptional mistakes, the ruins of dysfunctional and never-completed development projects, and the formation of inappropriate elites without connections to the majorities in their countries discredited this model of development aid, and it is true that development policies on all levels have learned from the initial blunders. But it took a long time to see that solutions that might be perfectly feasible in the context of developed industrial countries are rarely suitable under the framework conditions of unequal development, and that instead, solutions need to be preferred that are based on experiences made and developed in the South. Thus, the concept of South-South Cooperation began to emerge, carried by the conviction that South-South Cooperation ensures greater empathy between southern countries and a better understanding of realistic strategies for problem resolution.

South-South Cooperation has by now turned into a largely accepted model for international cooperation and is undisputedly supported by the large global political actors. Already in 1974, the United Nations established a Special Unit for South-South Cooperation. The World Bank, OECD, the EU, they all promote South- South Cooperation, and their initiatives are taken up on the regional level by the regional organizations and the regional development banks. Large international conferences, such as the High Level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation, held in Nairobi at the beginning of December 2009, or the Bogotá High-Level Event on South-South Cooperation and Capacity Development of March 2010, and ultimately the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness that took place in Busan, South Korea, from Nov 29 to Dec 1, 2011, are large fora for the exchange of principles and experience of South-South Cooperation in which governments and governmental organisation participate next to organisations of civil society.

A comparatively new angle for international South-South Cooperation has been developed by the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, India, China, South Africa and others), emerging countries that show an impressive level of economic power and invest large sums in projects of technical cooperation while, at the same time, still being at the receiving end of international cooperation themselves.

Cuba presents a special case of South-South Cooperation. Translating its idea of international solidarity into practise, this small country details large numbers of professional staff, especially in the fields of health and education to selected countries in order to support development models of socialist coinage.

Initiatives for South-South Cooperation are mostly funded by the large agencies of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, negotiated by governments and implemented by governmental institutions. Organisations of Civil Society in the South usually do not dispose of the financial means to commit themselves internationally. Therefore, the model of tri-angular cooperation is indispensable since it enables the deployment of South-South expertise through financial support from a northern donor. After all, in the countries of the South there is no lack of knowledge, creativity and expertise, and only a little help from the outside is required to tap its potential for joined South-South initiatives.

When looking at these developments it is impossible not to take notice of the important work of the Task Team on South-South Cooperation. This Task Team is attached to the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). You may learn more about this initiative on the web-page pdf. The Task Team documents and promotes concrete projects where partners from various countries from the South, sometimes in triangular constellations with partners from the North, engage in tasks of common and mutual concern and exchange knowledge and resources.

In this issue of our magazine we present some basic concepts of South-South Cooperation, especially from the point of view of civil society, and some examples of South-South Cooperation in practise. It is time that the old paradigm of North- South cooperation, with the Northern donors assisting the Southern receivers, but at the same time prescribing what they should do, and how they should do it, should expire.


Adult Education and Development


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