Panama - May 8 to 10, 2012
Over the last decade, Latin America and the Caribbean has faced new realities that have favored the revitalization of SSC and its positioning as both a key tool of development and foreign policy for the countries in the region:
a. The dynamics of political, economic, social and cultural exchange have steadily increased. It is estimated that exports from the region grew by 27% in 2011, driven mainly by South-South trade; the movement of people has continued to intensify in recent years, with a significant intra-regional dynamic, in addition to country interest in creating and development of different policy integration processes, which are based on the region’s diversity and richness, like Aladi, Grupo de Rio, ALBA, CAN UNASUR, Mercosur, MCC, SICA, CARICOM, CELALC, ECLAC and the Mesoamerica Project, among others.
b. The positive economic growth and relatively good access to financing in the developing world in the last decade, contrasted with the economic crisis faced by many developed countries, has led to a change in development cooperation at a global level. The Latin America and the Caribbean countries have not been strangers to this dynamic. While many of its countries are consolidating themselves as emerging economies, expanding their SSC programs; traditional donors, pressured by difficulties arising from the crisis, are rethinking their cooperation strategies and substantially reducing their ODA flows. As recently as 2011, the European Union announced its withdrawal of OAD to 11 countries in the region, a trend previously announced with the withdrawal of bilateral donors, likely to deepen in 2012. Although SSC does not replace but complements OAD, it is true that the traditional aid models, dominated by OECD donor countries, will continue to be reevaluated to become partnership models that are more horizontal and inclusive, more aligned with a multi-polar world.
c. Increased South-South exchanges. Latin America and the Caribbean is consolidating itself as a region with an important presence of middle-income countries that have accumulated very relevant knowledge and experience in development and the fight against poverty. In turn, countries are seeking to emerge with an increasingly active role on the regional and global stage. These two elements favor the dynamism of South-South relations, as demonstrated by a number of countries including Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay, El Salvador and Honduras, which are firmly investing in institutional and operational capacities to provide this type of initiatives. This illustrates how the region views SSC as a tool to support and facilitate political and economic integration, promote financing for development and, above all, allow for better horizontal collaboration based on the exchange of knowledge to achieve the best development results.
d. In quantitative terms, SEGIB indicates that “during 2009, Latin American countries participated in 881 Bilateral South-South Horizontal Cooperation projects; almost tripling the number of cooperation actions (321). Nearly 96.5% of these 881 projects were implemented by Cuba and Venezuela (the first two offering countries of the region, with participation over 20%); Mexico, Brazil and Argentina (with over 10%); along with Colombia (8.7%) and Chile (6.2%). This year, however, also highlighted the emerging activity of Bolivia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Paraguay and Uruguay, which provided the remaining 3.5%” . These activities at the national level complement those promoted at the regional and sub regional levels, many times widely supported by multilateral agencies and especially by UNS agencies.
e. The region faces new global challenges that require a transformation of traditional methods of promoting development. The need to preserve global and regional public goods such as public safety, health – affected by pandemics – and Amazonian ecosystems, as well as natural disaster response, improving the quality of education and strengthening trade capacity, among other priority issues, requires innovative, long- term collective actions. In this context, SSC provides important contributions in terms of practices, models and alternative funding models, where the UN system can provide significant added value for the countries.
SSC has gained special attention in recent debates on global and regional development. The increasing role of Middle Income Countries, as providers of cooperation, has prompted the growing interest of the international community in their contributions, especially through SSC. In recent years, the United Nations General Assembly, as well as the Development Cooperation Forum of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Working Group on Aid Effectiveness of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the G-20 Working Group for Development have recognized the need to systematically learn more about developing country actions in South-South and triangular cooperation.
At the regional level, in preparation for the IV High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness of OECD, a group of Central American countries and the Dominican Republic adopted a joint position paper entitled “A Common Perspective: Road to Busan, Korea”. Likewise, 19 Latin American countries also endorsed the “Position on South-South Cooperation in the framework of the High-Level Forum in Busan”. These documents contain important proposals that should be taken into account in future discussions and regional processes that drive SSC, such the Southern Knowledge Fair.
SSC has significantly revitalized the practices, tools, modalities through which countries and other key actors from civil society, the private sector and academia cooperate and exchange experiences and knowledge about their national and regional development priorities. The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have been important agents of this transformation. Although most Latin American nations are not prepared to provide financial cooperation to their peers, there is an enormous potential for SSC in the region in the form of knowledge exchange resulting from the richness of experiences and the wide range of tools, initiatives and leaders working to meet the needs of national and local development.
To date, there have been several efforts to analyze these experiences and systematize them as good practices. Both the Task Team for South-South Cooperation, which prepared inputs for the IV Busan Forum with significant government and institutional participation in the region, and as Ibero- American Program for the Strengthening of South-South Cooperation, highlight SSC strengths in the creation of “Horizontal Partnerships”, with a long-term perspective, based on confidence, equity and mutual learning. The Special Unit for South-South Cooperation of UNDP has also put forward valuable efforts to systematize good practices and produced a study in 2009 on the status of SSC and its practices of policy, institutions and operations.