Sector institutions in South-South and triangular cooperation - Lessons and prospects in Chile

Representatives of line ministries active in Chile's South-South cooperation, during the workshop on 20 August in Santiago

In recent years, developing countries have successfully developed and implemented specific solutions for poverty reduction, in areas such as social inclusion, agricultural technology, public transport, and tripocal health. As a public good, these experiences are rooted in line ministries and sector institutions, which in turn are connected with homologues and peers in other countries, for example through inter-governmental networks, regional platforms and multilateral programs. Both the experiences and the networks are vital contributions to South-South cooperation on behalf of these institutions, which act as implementing organizations in close interaction with national agencies.

As part of a workshop held on 20 August 2013 in Santiago, eleven Chilean sector institutions discussed their progress and barriers to scale up their South-South cooperation activities. As part of an initiative by the International Cooperation Agency of Chile (AGCICHILE), funded by the Chile-Spain Fund and facilitated by MultiPolar, the gathering served as a platform to exchange information on the portfolio and the lessons learned by these institutions with a long-standing engagement in Chile's South-South and triangular cooperation.

As examples, since the mid-90s the Solidarity and Social Investment Fund (FOSIS, in its Spanish acronym) shares its experiences with social protection and inclusion programs, mainly with countries in Central America and the Caribbean, in partnership with AGCI and and donors such as CIDA and GIZ. An active South-South partner since 1997, the Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG) focuses part of its collaboration with regional counterparts in agricultural and phytosanitary standards to support compliance with Free Trade Agreements. Especially since 2006, the Cooperation Office of the Ministry of Health is very active in a wide range of projects, from managing hospitals and improving transfusion medicine to social networks and mental health initiatives. The vast majority of Chilean ministries hosts international cooperation offices with small specialized teams, and maintain close relationships with AGCI as the national coordination mechanism.

Undoubtedly, Chile's cooperation will continue to grow substantially in the coming years, being part of the political programs of the main candidates for the presidential elections in November 2013 and goal of shared ambitions of different public sector institutions in the country. In this context, from the perspective of line ministries and sector institutions, there are important lessons to be learned to ensure the quality, effectiveness and sustainability of a cooperation system mainly fueled by the expertise and knowledge of the sectors:

  • Public policy should be based on consensus and provide strategic guidance on the South-South and triangular cooperation, with clarity in the division of competences and responsibilities between the national agency as a regulating body, sectoral institutions as implementers, and other stakeholders, particularly civil society and the private sector, as key partners in the future.
  • Informed by public policy, result orientation and accountability should permeate not only in the project management cycle, but also in the certification of sector experiences (for example, through knowledge catalogues) and the design of modalities, ie. the "know-how", of knowledge exchange.
  • Program-based approaches, including Joint Committees and Country Programs, are a vital tool to scale up, ensure effectiveness and create synergies between different cooperation activities in partner countries, while also leveraging a shared vision - and visibility - of a 'country brand' guiding all efforts by the national agency and the implementing sector institutions.
  • In order to scale up, there needs to be a coordinated commitment to organizational and operational development of the agency and the sector institutions enabling greater maturity and discipline of South-South and triangular cooperation, for example when it comes to managing financial and human resources.
  • Triangular cooperation with traditional donors can inspire a higher quality of institutional management, to the extent that the practices and procedures of these actors tend to leave powerful 'footprints' in the work of the ministries.
  • Financing South-South cooperation by ministries usually yields better results when it is predictable throughout each fiscal year, to allow proper planning shared with the national agency.
  • The quality of the contributions of sector institutions depends largely on the flow of communication and information, and on continuous intra-government dialogue around the principles and procedures for South-South and triangular cooperation under the coordination of the national agency.

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