A South-South dialogue: Capacities for Knowledge Exchange

The energy for South-South and triangular exchange of development knowledge is mounting every day. Strong political drive is coming from the G20 whose Development Working Group has endorsed policy recommendations and practices for using knowledge sharing more systematically. Hundreds of practitioners are sharing their experiences under the umbrella of the Task Team on South-South cooperation (TT-SSC) in order to inform the upcoming Busan High-Level Forum. Southern academia is analyzing in-depth country experiences in sharing development solutions, while positioning themselves through the Bangkok Call as long-term learning partners of policy-makers and practitioners in the developing world.

While this sets a very dynamic environment for the future of knowledge exchange, one key concern is the ‘how to’ of larger-scale mutual learning among the developing countries. Some countries have advanced in setting up specific agencies and institutions, where, as Máximo Romero highlights, Mexico just recently announced the creation of a national Agency for Development Cooperation (AMEXCID), geared towards its double role as provider and receiver. Others clarify the strategic and policy framework for their South-South activities, where, as Fang Cai explains in our blog, China’s White Paper is an interesting example. Some initial efforts are made in transparency and result orientation: According to Bruno Ayllón, Brazil is creating a model for comprehensive accounting of the public South-South resources (COOP-BRADI).

However, in today’s ever more complex world there are no shared detailed guidelines for South-South partners and the discussion among countries investing in knowledge exchange is still incipient. A strong first step has now been made in a video-dialogue among agencies and ministries from China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Singapore, hosted by the World Bank Institute (WBI) on 28 June 2011. Fulfilling its role as global connector, the WBI is currently offering opportunities to engage in peer-to-peer conversations through video conferences facilitated by the Global Development Learning Network.

In the very vivid discussion, the countries addressed a wide range of policy, institutional and operational implications of how to become strong knowledge actors at the regional and global levels, stressing the following areas as particularly relevant:

1.- There is a need for developing and broadening existing institutional and operational capacities of South-South partners. A key issue can be found in institutional arrangements which enable a stronger focus on results and continued learning around the ‘how to’ of sharing development knowledge.

2.- Coordination among ministries and with other national players providing South-South cooperation, including sub-national governments, civil society and private sector, requires further efforts, especially with a view of harnessing the full potential of knowledge and ensuring sustainability over time.

3.- Funding is often scarce, but good experiences are available around cost-sharing (which often leads to a shared sense of commitment and responsibilities) and involvement of the private sector, which has many lessons to share around efficiency and effectiveness.

4.- Most South-South partners feel that they can learn from international organizations and traditional donors in order to improve their own cooperation efforts. Areas of interest include information management, result orientation and M&E systems. Also mutual learning models, such as peer reviews, can be highly relevant for improving institutional and operational capacities of knowledge sharers.

According to the participants, there is an essential niche for a continued South-South dialogue around capacities. The richness of institutional models and country-led tool kits entails a great potential for countries to learn from each other and identify good practices. In practice, there is much to discover and to learn from each other, in order to address shared challenges to scale up knowledge exchange through sustained and effective leadership of the countries.

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South-South Cooperation Exchange Mechanism. First online portal dedicated to SSC for sustainable development.

Mapping Multilateral Support to South-South Cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean: Towards Collaborative Approaches. UNDP, 2011. Download PDF (English version) (Versión en Español)


IDB  Magazine - Regional Public Goods: An innovative approach to South-South Cooperation, 2014 version here in English and Spanish.

Using Knowledge Exchange for Capacity Development: What Works in Global Practice? KDI and The World Bank Institute



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