By Eva Weiler | IDN-InDepth NewsInterview
ROME (IDN) – A broad framework for collaboration among countries of the South, also known as South-South cooperation, is important but it cannot serve as a substitute for existing forms of cooperation between developing and developed countries, according to an expert.
“We must not see South-South cooperation as idyllic, we need to take into account a number of realities. Even if conditions are not imposed, each country has its own interests. South-South cooperation does not automatically lead to more democratic relations between countries: it depends on their policies. The challenge lies in countries maintaining their South-South Cooperation spirit in relations with other developing countries,” said Youssef Brahimi on the eve of his retirement from Global Mechanism (GM).
The Global Mechanism (GM) is a specialized body of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) that supports countries to mobilize financial resources and increase investments in sustainable land management, helping reverse, control and prevent desertification, land degradation and drought. Brahimi worked at the GM for more than ten years, six as Programme Coordinator for North Africa and South-South Cooperation. Prior to that, he spent two decades engaged in the negotiation and implementation processes of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The latter part of his career was dedicated to advancing the UNCCD agenda by building partnerships, platforms and capacities. Here Mr Brahimi explains why cooperation is key when it comes to development.
South-South Cooperation takes place in a global context in which the principles and methods of development financing are currently being reviewed. Profound changes are being made to the ways resources are allocated as countries operate under the premise that partner countries must be in charge of their own development policies and strategies as well as coordinate actions in support of development.
Following are excerpts from the interview with Brahimi:
Q: How did GM start promoting South-South Cooperation?
A: We started in 2006 by promoting a South-South Cooperation programme, SolArid, in North African and Sahelian countries. This programme brought together countries and actors of the Sahel and the Sahara regions: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia.
By offering a platform for knowledge-sharing among stakeholders with different outlooks and by encouraging research on fundamental, albeit sensitive, cross-cutting issues (such as migration, gender, local development and decentralized cooperation), SolArid inspired solidarity, based on the principles of diversity and complementarity, among UNCCD stakeholders in the Maghreb and the Sahel.
To secure and increase the allocation of financial resources for sustainable land management (SLM), an enabling environment that encompasses policy issues and those relating to human, financial and information resources is essential.
Q: How did SolArid attract global interest?
A: In fact, SolArid’s vision was of a non-linear process that offered increasing opportunities for capacity-building and resource mobilization, fully in line with the philosophy of South-South Cooperation. As a result, we attained the interest of partners, such as the European Commission (EC), who essentially upscaled it to ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries by funding the GM’s project called “scope|acp”.
The implementation of scope|acp led us to another very emblematic South-South Cooperation programme: the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative (GGWSSI). It is worth noting that the GGWSSI resource mobilization strategy, which was agreed upon by the more than 20 country members of the GGWSSI, is based on the GM’s approach, in particular, its approach to South-South Cooperation.
Q: What makes South-South Cooperation successful?
A: The cooperation aspect is important as we always involve a number of different categories of actors together, which includes representatives of: the ministry in charge of UNCCD implementation, which is usually either the ministry of agriculture or the environment; the ministry of finance or economic development; civil society; local authorities – because we believe the local authority is the first level of development planning, so it is very important – and sometimes scientific institutions, depending on the issues we are addressing. We always encourage dialogue among these stakeholders so that all points of view are considered and an agreement is reached.
Q: What are the challenges to South-South Cooperation?
A: There are also challenges. We must not see South-South Cooperation as idyllic, we need to take into account a number of realities. Even if conditions are not imposed, each country has its own interests. South-South Cooperation does not automatically lead to more democratic relations between countries: it depends on their policies. The challenge lies in countries maintaining their South-South Cooperation spirit in relations with other developing countries.
The capacity of the developing countries to strengthen their own development is the determining factor. I mean, the problem is the same: when a country has to rely on external partners for its own development, it does not matter whether that country is in the North or in the South. You can be weak on an economic level, but if you have a strong vision of what you want, you undergo less external pressure, and that is a challenge. [IDN-InDepthNews – March 16, 2013]
Picture: Youssef Brahimi | Credit: global-mechanism.org