South–South Cooperation is a term historically used by policymakers and academics to describe the exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge between developing countries, also known as countries of the global South.
In 1978, the United Nations established the Unit for South–South Cooperation to promote South–South trade and collaboration within its agencies.
However, the idea of South–South cooperation only started to influence the field of development in the late 1990s. Due to the geographical spectrum, activities are known as South America-Africa (ASA) cooperation as well as, in the Asia-Pacific region, South-South cooperation.
The ASA cooperation has so far held two summits. The first summit was held in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2006 where 53 delegates from Africa and 12 from South America attended. The second and most recent one was held on the Margarita Island in Venezuela in Sept 2009 where 49 heads of states from Africa and 12 heads of states from South America attended.
The Leaders of South American and African countries hope that this cooperation will bring a new world order and counter the existing Western dominance socially, economically and politically. Late president Hugo Chávez saw the formation of this cooperation as the "beginning of the salvation of [the] people," and as a major anti-imperialism movement. Like President Hugo Chávez, the ex-Libyan Leader Muammar al-Gaddafi was also very critical of the Western dominance of the "third world" nations.
One of the key goals of the cooperation is to strengthen and improve economic ties. Some of the areas which these "southern" nations look forward to improving further include joint investment in energy and oil, and a common bank. Among other regional trade agreements which were reached during the 2009 summit was Venezuela signing an oil agreement with South Africa and a memorandum of understanding with Sierra Leone to form a joint mining company. Meanwhile, Brazil has developed an increasingly successful model of overseas aid provision of over $1 billion annually (ahead of many traditional donors), which focuses on technical expertise and the transfer of knowledge and expertise. Brazil's form of South–South development aid has been called a 'global model in waiting'.
The two continents have over one quarter of the world's energy resources. This includes the oil and natural gas reserves in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Algeria, Angola, Libya, Nigeria, Chad, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
In recent years, the South–South cooperation has recognized the importance of effective financial inclusion policy in order to better deliver appropriate financial services to the poor. Because of this, financial policy makers from nearly 100 developing and emerging countries now comprise a global knowledge-sharing network called the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI).
Representatives from the developing south meet annually at the Global Policy Forum (GPF), making it the most important and comprehensive forum for regulatory institutions from emerging economies with an interest in promoting financial inclusion policy. The forum is focused on developing and improving national financial inclusion strategies and policies, and is used as a platform for senior financial regulators to exchange ideas and engage in peer-to-peer learning activities.
Peace and security responsibilities are also on the top of the agenda for cooperation. During the 2009 summit, Colonel Gaddafi proposed a defence alliance between the two continents. He called the alliance "a Nato of the South." This type of alliance aims to act as an alternative to the Security Council none of whose permanent members is from the two continents.
Another area that some of the leaders intend to see big developments in is in the political arena. This is to say that cooperation will give the continents more political power when it comes to the global arena. Some leaders hope that the cooperation will offer greater freedom in choosing a political system. For example, Hugo Chávez hoped to use South–South cooperation as a stage on which to get his message of what he called "21st Century Socialism" across.
Challenges and critique
Regardless a continuing interest of many states in Africa and South America, cooperation is still faced with major challenges. One example of the challenges is a lack of big enough capital to start a "South–South bank" (as an alternative to the IMF and the World Bank).
The most apparent critique is that there are just a few voices still heard. These voices are often from the comparatively rich and powerful states of the south (e.g. Brazil, South Africa and Venezuela).
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