South-south cooperation revs up

Brazil has been using its growing strength to forge ties with other countries in the global south.

Lula and Ban Ki-Moon
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and former Brazilian president Lula da Silva have long been supporters of cooperation between countriesin the global south [EPA]

As one of the world’s emerging economic powerhouses, Brazil is vigourously pursuing one of the key economic objectives on the UN’s development agenda: South-South Cooperation.

The Brazilian Cooperation Agency is currently participating in scores of economic projects, mostly in the agricultural sector, in more than 80 developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The projects range across industries from livestock and fisheries to horticulture and food production.

Brazil is supporting the development of an experimental cotton station in Mali, a rice station in Senegal, a vocational training centre and food security programme in East Timor and soybean production in Cuba.

Additionally, it is providing technical expertise and assistance in the development of agricultural technology in Haiti, a vocational training centre in Paraguay and the creation and consolidation of the Institute of Agriculture and Livestock in Bolivia.

In 2010 alone, Brazil signed 21 international agreements with just one single regional organisation, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), along with bilateral agreements with Jamaica, Guyana, Suriname and Haiti.

The six Brazilian ministries involved in South-South cooperation initiatives are the ministries of rural development; social development and the fight against hunger; fishery and acquaculture; environment; agriculture, livestock and supply; and external relations.

Brazil’s role, however, has also taken added importance as one of three partners, along with India and South Africa, in one of the most vibrant coalition of developing nations: IBSA.

Ambassador Gilberto Moura, director of the Department of Inter-Regional Mechanisms, said IBSA’s identity is strongly committed to promoting development not only within its members, but also in the developing world as a whole.

The IBSA Forum, he said, supports developing nations through the IBSA Facility Fund for Alleviation of Poverty and Hunger.

The fund was inaugurated by the three IBSA heads of state and government during the UN General Assembly sessions back in September 2003.

Moura said each of the IBSA countries donates $1m annually to the fund, and these resources are used to implement cooperation projects for developing countries, especially least developed countries (LDCs) and countries that are recovering from conflict.

These initiatives, he pointed out, conform to some of the principles of South-South cooperation, including the strengthening of national capacities, participation of national stakeholders, as well as the promotion of national ownership of enterprises and their sustainability.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a strong supporter of South-South Cooperation, says developing countries that pool know-how, exchange ideas and coordinate plans can attain much greater gains than they ever would on their own.

He says South-South cooperation is a vital component of the world’s response to fight hunger and poverty worldwide.

Helen Clark, the administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) who signed an agreement last year reinforcing her agency’s activities in Brazil, points out that UNDP is “committed to facilitating South-South cooperation, and looks forward to working more closely with Brazil in programme countries around the world”.

The IBSA projects funded by the three countries include a sports complex in Ramallah, in the occupied Palestinian territories; a solid waste collection project in Haiti; and the refurbishment of two geographically isolated local health units in Cape Verde.

Moura said that the fund has concluded four projects (in Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti and Palestine); runs four projects (Burundi, Cape Verde, Cambodia and Guinea-Bissau); and has seven to be initiated (two in Guinea-Bissau, one in Laos, two in occupied Palestine, one in Sierra Leone and one in Vietnam).

Other projects are being analysed and will be approved in a timely fashion, including those for Sudan, South Sudan and East Timor, he added.

Asked about the specific areas covered under the IBSA umbrella, Moura said that all activities within IBSA demand active engagement of the three member countries.

Currently, the informal and rotational secretariat, which coordinates meetings, is under the responsibility of South Africa, which will host the next presidential summit in October, near Durban.

Prior to the summit, Brazil will host an IBSA seminar on Information Society in Rio de Janeiro from September 1-2. Civil society fora usually meet in parallel to the summits.

To date, seven civil society meetings have been held: the Women’s Forum, Editor’s Forum, Academic Forum, Parliamentary Forum, Small Business Forum, Chief Executive Officer’s (CEO) Forum, and Local Governance Forum.

Asked about the specific areas of cooperation, Moura said these fields are being developed through 16 existing working groups.

They cover different areas: revenue administration, public administration, agriculture, tourism, human settlements, science and technology, trade, culture, defence, social development, education, energy, environment, health, information society and transport.

The actions of these working groups enhance the exchange of experiences and the development of common initiatives, Moura said.

In the field of science and technology, IBSA has undertaken a programme, titled IBSAOCEAN, involving scientists from all three countries.

“They are also working on an IBSA Satellite,” he added.

In trade, there has been steady collaboration with the Federal Revenue Services to facilitate commercial exchanges through the institution of a safe and secure trade lane for authorised economic operators.

Efforts to normalise trade rules are being undertaken under the umbrella of the WG on Trade.

In the field of health, he said, the IBSA delegations to the World Health Organisation have been working jointly on a large spectrum of resolutions.

A version of this article first appeared on the Inter Press Service news agency.

Source: IPS