By Santo D. Banerjee
NEW YORK | BUENOS AIRES (IDN) – South-South and triangular cooperation has triggered over decades the vigorous economic growth of countries of the global South such as Brazil, China, India and the Gulf States, and proved to be an important solution for many of today’s development challenges. It should, therefore, be seen as a critical complement to North-South cooperation, says a new report by the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP Group) and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).
Launched at the Second High-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40) in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 21 it is the first joint ACP Group-UNOSSC publication, and the latest volume of the ‘South-South in Action’ series. The report finds that South-South trade and investment are continuing to grow, while Brazil and China play increasingly influential roles.
The report, which follows the Memorandum of Understanding established in 2016 between the ACP Secretariat and UNOSSC, further points out that knowledge-sharing between developing countries can facilitate South-South and Triangular cooperation, and that the ACP Group will play a vital role in this respect, including through the establishment in December 2018 of a new knowledge hub in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
The joint report comes at a time when the ACP Group is in a process of reorientation and transformation to become a more effective global player, building on its significant experience in international development cooperation, trade and political dialogue, particularly through its partnership with the European Union.
In this context, the Group not only aims to align its programmes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but it also has taken concrete measures to enhance its approach to South-South and Triangular Cooperation, giving them more prominence and structure in its mid- and long-term strategies. This is reflected in the Strategic Management Plan 2017–2020 of the ACP Secretariat.
The joint report illustrates the intersections between SSTC practices and global development and policy arrangements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“The report showcases South-South and triangular cooperation programmes implemented in ACP countries,” said Jorge Chediek, UNOSSC Director and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation. “It is expected to help disseminate the experiences and knowledge of the ACP countries and strengthen the already-existing partnership between the ACP Secretariat and UNOSSC.”
Dr Patrick Gomes, Secretary General of the ACP Group of States, said: “Owing to the experience of a number of ACP States that have accumulated a wealth of knowledge, expertise and lessons learned from their South-South and triangular cooperation initiatives, including the implementation of intra-ACP programmes, the ACP Group is committed to playing a bridging role.”
The Hub and Spokes Programme
Intra-ACP programmes cover a number of areas including ocean governance, climate change and multilateral trade. One of these is the Hub and Spokes Programme, an innovative Aid for Trade initiative that helps to strengthen trade capacity in developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific by enhancing the capacity of national governments and regional organizations to draft effective trade policies as well as to better negotiate and implement international agreements.
The Hub and Spokes is a joint programme of the Secretariat of the ACP Group, the European Union, the Commonwealth and OIF (the International Organization of la Francophonie), with the EU as the main funder. The backbone of the programme lies in the South-South cooperation nurtured not only in the active promotion of regional integration into policy formulation and implementation but also in the deployment of a network of African, Caribbean and Pacific trade experts to provide expertise, advice and training in other ACP countries.
These experts are either national trade advisers (referred to as “spokes”), who boost the capacity of government ministries, or regional trade advisers (the “hubs”), who provide similar technical assistance to key regional and national organizations.
The first phase of the Hub and Spokes programme operated from 2004 to 2012 with the budget of €29 million, of which €21.4 million were provided by the European Union, €5 million by the Commonwealth and €2.6 million by OIF.
For the second phase, €12 million were secured from the intra-ACP 10th European Development Fund for Hub and Spokes II. The Commonwealth and OIF are co-donors and executing agencies, contributing €2.5 million and €1.2 million, respectively. A further €5 million from the European Union were committed in 2017, extending the second phase to 2019. The ACP Group Secretariat is the global partner and a facilitator for this important programme.
More than 70 developing countries in the ACP Group are eligible for assistance from the Hub and Spokes programme. The Commonwealth is implementing the programme in eastern and southern Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific regions and is managing a network of seven hubs and 22 spokes. OIF is implementing the programme in central and West Africa and has placed four regional and 14 national advisers.
Reviews of the programme and feedback from beneficiaries have proven the value of the Hub and Spokes approach in building the capacity of poor and vulnerable countries to trade. Significant contributions were made to the drafting of national trade policies in Botswana, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Micronesia, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sierra Leone, and Trinidad and Tobago. In addition, joint trade policy reviews were prepared and presented to the WTO by countries including Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Congo and Gabon.
Phase II of the programme has already made significant inroads. In 2016 alone, the trade advisers are estimated to have aided more than 5,000 national and regional stakeholders and helped to draft a range of trade policies, for example delivering the first- ever national trade policy of Fiji and helping the country to become a Pacific trading and investment hub.
ACP Sugar Research Programme
According to the report, the development of commodities and agricultural value chains contributes to eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development in ACP countries, allowing for increased revenues, job creation and capacity-building as well as addressing food security. One key commodity for ACP countries is sugar, which is produced by 38 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.
Since 2006, the EU has continued to reform its sugar regime successively, and it eventually renounced the Sugar Protocol with effect from 2009, granting duty-free and quota-free access to a wider group of countries. Since 2009, the EU has granted additional access under new free trade agreements and in October 2017 completed its reform by removing domestic quotas and thus any restrictions on the amount of domestically produced sugar that can be sold within the EU.
The EU reform has had significant impact on ACP producers, resulting in the drop of an estimated €430 million in global income for ACP countries. In this context, the whole industry is at risk and requires extensive, long-term investment to regain competitiveness. This will happen alongside drastic changes in the management of the ACP sugar industry through the control of production costs as well as improved efficiencies and performances.
The ACP Sugar Research Programme was designed to enhance the capacity of the sugar industries in ACP countries to transition to and take advantage of opportunities in a deregulated sugar market. A total of €13 million, financed from the intra-ACP envelope of the ninth EDF cycle, was committed to the implementation of 13 research projects as well as to operate a programme management unit.
That also included €800,000 for a “competitive fund” to support sugar cane stations in searching for additional funds. The programme not only has enabled the production of new knowledge and innovative methods to rapidly identify and screen improved varieties and improve cane processing but has also facilitated South-South transfers of that knowledge and expertise through various platforms for networking and knowledge-sharing.
The programme focuses on boosting research and innovation as well as knowledge-sharing and information among the ACP sugar-producing countries, including research centres and partner factories. Support is provided to five research stations in attaining their goals and fostering networking among ACP-country research stations to strengthen their capabilities, increase communication and enhance the sharing of information and outputs.
They include research institutes within the Sugar Industry Authority in Jamaica (SIA-SIRI), the West Indies Central Sugar Cane Breeding Station in Barbados (WICSBS), Swaziland Sugar Association Technical Services (TSSA), the Mauritius Sugarcane Industry Research Institute (MSIRI) and the Sugar Research Institute of Fiji (SRIF).
The programme has been successful in equipping sugar producers with enhanced technical knowledge to improve productive capacity, cut costs and diversify products, says the joint ACP Group-UNOSCC report.
Sustainable Development through Knowledge-sharing Networks as part of the EDULINK for higher education is yet another intra-ACP programme jointly with the European Union. It aims at building excellence in centres and establishments for higher education in ACP regions through dynamic and constructive partnerships and institutional networking with leading universities in European countries as well as among ACP countries.
The programme started in 2006 (EDULINK I) with the launch of three calls for proposals financed under the ninth EDF cycle, with an aggregate budget of €30 million. The three calls financed 66 grant projects involving 210 higher education institutions from 51 ACP countries.
The second phase (EDULINK II) started with the launch of a new call for proposals in 2012, resulting in 47 grant projects for a financing total of €22.5 million sourced from both the tenth EDF cycle and the EU budget. With a focus on two themes, “agriculture and food security” and “energy access and efficiency”, these projects involve the participation of 101 institutions of higher education from 43 ACP States as well as 50 such institutions from 13 European Union countries.
With multiple countries often involved in each project, South-South and triangular cooperation among them is self-evident. For example, the project LifeLong Learning for Energy Security, Access and Efficiency in African and Pacific SIDS (L³EAP) links the University of Mauritius and the University of the South Pacific based in Fiji to boost the capacity of institutions to provide high-level skills and training required for the energy labour market. This includes the development of a transnational teaching module as well as capacity-building seminars for teaching staff.
The project involves South-South collaboration between institutions of higher education in Botswana, Ghana, and Trinidad and Tobago and North-South cooperation with the University of Maribor in Slovenia, which has recognized expertise in the added value and health benefits of foods.
According to the report, these examples, along with numerous cases of South-South cooperation among institutions of higher education in African, Caribbean and Pacific regions, are supported by EDF financing of around €500,000 per project and last for several years to ensure greater sustainability and impact.
ACP Cultures Plus Programme
There is also the “No Future without Culture”: ACP Cultures Plus Programme. Culture is an integral component of the cooperation strategy between ACP countries and the European Union. Since 2007, the ACP Group and the European Union have supported the ACP cultural sector within the framework of three programmes: ACPFilms, ACPCultures and ACPCultures+. These programmes are implemented by the ACP Secretariat and financed by the intra-ACP ninth and tenth EDF cycle funds.
The ACP Cultures+ programme was allocated a budget of €30 million for the period from 2012 to 2017. It provided support to the entire sector (cinema/audiovisual and other cultural industries) and covered all parts of the value chain, for example production, distribution and training. Following two calls for proposals in 2011 and 2012, 55 projects were supported for a total of €23.3 million.
The programme aims to contribute to the fight against poverty through the development and consolidation of viable and sustainable cultural industries in ACP countries by reinforcing their contribution to social and economic development, as well as to the preservation of cultural diversity.
Specifically, it aims to reinforce the creation and production of cultural goods and services in the ACP States through supporting integrated distribution networks; increased access to local, regional, intra-ACP, European and international markets for the cultural goods and services of the ACP States; building the capacities of cultural-sector professionals in ACP States; and improving the regulatory environment of the cultural sector in ACP States.
One of the main objectives of the ACP Group is to “promote and strengthen unity and solidarity among the ACP States, as well as understanding between ACP people” as envisaged in the Georgetown Declaration, 1975. “The support to culture programmes is decidedly a successful tool for achieving this goal while fostering productive and constructive South-South cooperation in the process,” notes the report. [IDN-InDepthNews – 26 March 2019]
Image: Cover of joint ACP Group-UNOSSC report. Source: ACP
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