What is South-South Cooperation?
South-South cooperation, loosely defined as an exchange of expertise between governments, organizations and individuals in developing nations, is gaining importance and momentum. More and more, developing countries help and support each other with knowledge, technical assistance, and/or investments.
South-South cooperation is a multi-layered form of development cooperation with a history of more than 50 years. Initiated in South-East Asia, SSC was promoted in the 60s and 70s by the United Nations (UN), particularly the G-77, and other multilateral platforms such as the Non-Alignment Movement. A key policy document is the 1978 Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries, which is followed up by a High-Level Committee at the UN General Assembly. SSC achieves particular relevance for MIC in the aftermath of the international agreements on concentrating aid and development efforts in less developed countries, such as the 2000 Millennium Declaration and the 2002 Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development. While potentially receiving increasingly limited development financing, but simultaneously engaging in the provision of SSC and particularly South-South technical cooperation, MIC intend to position themselves in a shifting aid architecture as recipients and providers of aid.
Today, SSC constitutes a complex mosaic of actors, scales and modalities, ranging from rather isolated activities to budget support and large-scale loans. A basic distinction can be made between technical and financial cooperation, the latter including loans, debt relief, as well as budget and balance of payment support.
Triangular cooperation, with traditional donors supporting SSC among developing countries, is often observed as an additional booster for SSC and could create a corridor for the complementarity between SSC and traditional North-South cooperation. However, there is still a gap of research, analysis and data on the effectiveness and impact of SSC, as well as its political and technical features within the new aid architecture.
The unique diversity of SSC and its modalities creates an inspiring environment for understanding its synergies with the aid effectiveness. Most developing countries receive a “mix” of SSC with much appreciated support in crucial areas for their development, such as trade and foreign direct investment. Furthermore, SSC entails a strong political component as SSC delivery is often related to foreign policy agendas and a high-level commitment to Southern development agendas and more horizontal relations, for example at the UN level
While acknowledging the diversity and underlying dynamics of SSC in all its expression, the analytical efforts of the TT-SSC will focus on technical cooperation (TC), although other forms of cooperation, especially if a TC component is included, should be considered on an ad-hoc basis. The TT-SSC has identified this specific niche on the basis of its comparative advantages as a Southern-led platform committing to the implementation of the Accra Agenda for Action, but will engage as actively as possible in coordination with other complementary analytical efforts which are currently being conducted, for example at the UN Development Cooperation Forum.
Within the aid effectiveness agenda, the following distinctive features of SSC can be highlighted:
- Capacity development: South-South technical cooperation tends to strongly focus on capacity development as a process (as opposed to a “product”), where technical cooperation is embedded as a tool for mutual learning
- A broader choice of support, leading to horizontal partnerships: South-South technical cooperation offers a different type of relationship and might improve the diversity of choices for technical cooperation at the country and regional level, while also creating more horizontal forms of development partnerships
- Cost effectiveness: Drawing on regional and national resources, value for money of South-South technical cooperation is perceived as clearly superior
- Demand-driven character: Given the scarce resources and the horizontal relations between the partners, South-South technical cooperation is more aligned with recipient’s priorities and needs.
- Adaptability: Since recipient and provider share similar development challenges, South-South technical cooperation might provide highly-adapted and relevant solutions (e.g., in technological, cultural and linguistic terms)
- Southern knowledge: South-South technical cooperation diversifies the generation of knowledge and expertise beyond “industrialized models”