The role of South-South co-operation in the implementation process of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

By Gina Casar, Executive Director, Mexican Agency for International Development Co-operation (AMEXCID)  

The outcome document of the 2009 High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Co-operation in Nairobi remains the most internationally acknowledged document in this matter. It says that South-South co-operation is a “manifestation of solidarity among peoples and countries of the South” (article 18), “takes different and evolving forms, including the sharing of knowledge and experience, training, technology transfer, financial and monetary co-operation and in-kind contributions” (Article 12), and “embraces a multi-stakeholder approach” (Article 19).

South-South co-operation can be seen as an expression of the growing capacity and political willingness of developing countries to do their part to attain the 2030 development agenda. This builds on their own resources, which in many cases emanate from knowledge gathered by facing their own domestic experiences, and less on financial support. It is in this context that the widely accepted formulation of “South-South co-operation not being a substitute, but rather a complement to North-South co-operation” must be understood.

Indeed, South-South co-operation is an increasingly important element of international co-operation for development. The 2030 Agenda and the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals strive to make co-operation impactful, focused on results, inclusive and, overall, effective.

In that regard, South-South co-operation faces some particular challenges to increase and assess its development impact, while consolidating the institutional and technical capacities of southern countries. These challenges include:

  • systematising and publishing information collected on the national level,
  • increasing predictability and strategic engagement,
  • avoiding proliferation of short-term and isolated activities,
  • establishing specific procedures for monitoring and evaluation and reinforcing results-oriented approaches, and
  • improving the means of coordination and communication.

These challenges need to be tackled to take full advantage of the potential and specific value-added of South-South co-operation. Consider the enormous promise of South-South co-operation.

  • It offers a significant resource channel that is additional to — and different from — Official Development Assistance funds.
  • It builds on “real and proven” development expertise, which is valued by partner countries because of the similarities and relevant know-how among developing countries.
  • It has lower transaction costs, is more demand-driven vis-à-vis traditional North-South co-operation and comes with fewer conditionalities than traditional development co-operation.

The strengths, increasing relevance and potential of South-South Co-operation rightfully have been acknowledged in the context of the 2030 Agenda and financing for development efforts. For example, with SDG 17 focused on revitalising the global partnership for sustainable development, the global community acknowledges the importance of South-South co-operation to fulfill the SDGs. This goal aims at enhancing North-South and South-South co-operation to support national plans to achieve all the targets. Additionally, paragraphs 56 and 57 of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda acknowledge South-South co-operation as an important element of international co-operation for development. The action agenda calls on developing countries to strengthen South-South co-operation and further improve its development effectiveness.

Mexico is an important actor in South-South co-opoeration. As a provider, our priority is with our neighbors in Central America, while also focusing on Latin American and the Caribbean region as a whole. This priority does not mean excluding co-operation beyond our own region as we also undertake development projects in the Asia-Pacific area and Africa. We are increasing our development actions in these places through an enhanced strategic approach. Promoting triangular co-operation is a strategic tool to strengthen our capacities beyond our traditional areas of action, and beyond our own individual capabilities.

Through the establishment of the Agencia Mexicana de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (Mexico’s international development co-operation agency) in 2011, Mexico has tools to better and more strategically deliver its development co-operation. Notably, we continue advancing more systematic planning and monitoring frameworks, as well as a system for registering our development co-operation in monetary terms (RENCID). In terms of financing, Mexico has a national trust fund (FONCID) as well as a number of bilateral trust funds (Chile, Germany, Spain, Uruguay), which are lively tools for increased and improved delivery.

In this context, Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Claudia Ruiz Massieu, is serving as co-chair of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC). Within the GPEDC, we are promoting discussions on how to maximise development co-operation impact. We led sessions on this topic at the First High-Level Meeting (HLM1) of the GPEDC in Mexico City in 2014. At HLM2 to be held in Nairobi next November, we will promote a lively, constructive, open and inclusive dialogue for enhancing exchanges on South-South co-operation and triangular co-operation.

In a global community with a great diversity of actors at different development levels, we all share a responsibility to be as effective as possible. Inclusive and flexible partnerships are what we need to achieve the SDGs.

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