Innovating Development: The South-South Opportunity

By Han Fraeters, Manager, Knowledge Exchange, The World Bank Institute

This article originally appeared in the UNDP's South-South In Action Winter 2009 newsletter; the newsletter has yet not been published online.

Developing country policymakers have gained a great deal of experience and insight on how to formulate and implement policy on the ground. But an invaluable asset base of wisdom and good practice has remained largely untapped.

The Accra Agenda for Action, which encourages greater country ownership in development, highlights South-South and Triangular Cooperation as effective ways of sharing the kinds of knowledge and expertise that can yield appropriate solutions to shared development challenges.

Recognizing the opportunity that South-South exchanges present for advancing the global development agenda, the World Bank has set up a multidonor South-South Experience Exchange Facility (SEETF) supported by a dedicated practice group of experts on knowledge exchange and South-South Cooperation—the World Bank Institute’s (WBI’s) Knowledge Exchange Practice.

The World Bank launched the SEETF one year ago as a flexible funding mechanism to facilitate just-in-time knowledge and experience exchanges among development practitioners. The Facility is designed to respond to specific demands from low-income countries that want to learn from their neighbors or from counterparts on other continents. Six donor countries including China, Denmark, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom have contributed 4.35 million USD to the trust fund, with Denmark recently making its second contribution.

Affirming its strong commitment to South-South Cooperation, India has also announced its intention to join the Facility. At the World Bank’s Annual Meetings in Istanbul, Turkey, World Bank Managing Director Mrs. Ngozi-Okonjo Iweala, who conceived of the SEETF and chairs its oversight committee, indicated that this unique blend of donor support—both from emerging-market countries and more traditional donors—is what distinguishes the SEETF from other development funds.

So far, the SEETF has funded 35 projects ranging from working with at-risk youth in the Caribbean to outsourcing Information Technology services in Africa. To better understand how to keep boys out of risky behavior such as crime, drugs and alcohol, Saint Lucia asked the World Bank to connect it with other Caribbean countries. Together with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the SEETF helped Saint Lucia to identify successful programs working with at-risk youth and set up a Best Practices Fair to showcase them. The countries then agreed on a Common Platform for Action, the creation of a network of experts, a website and a resource kit for working with youth in the Caribbean.

In Africa, many countries would like to develop a skilled workforce that can compete in providing IT services—a field with a global potential of 500 billion USD annually. In early 2009, a 54-member delegation from Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Rwanda and Tanzania visited India for a first-hand look at IT-enabling policy models and the corporate workings of Infosys, Microsoft and other industry leaders. Each country drafted an action plan for advancing their national IT economies. Today, five countries have already begun implementation.

The SEETF has great potential to increase its size and impact. “Now we need to continue the momentum and so are looking to countries to contribute to the multi-donor trust fund to help meet the continuing demand from developing countries to be able to learn from each other,” Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said.

The World Bank’s new practice group for knowledge exchange and South-South Cooperation has begun capturing examples of successful solutions so they can be replicated and adapted to other countries. “One great catalyst of change is when practitioners get inspired by other practitioners,” said Sanjay Pradhan, the Bank’s Vice President in charge of the World Bank Institute. “Our ability to connect practitioners to each other on the practical ‘how-to’ of reform is an agenda of rapidly increasing importance.”

WBI has set up a one-stop shop to help World Bank staff design, develop and deliver learning and knowledge exchange events, strategies and programs. It has also started an online community of South-South practitioners. Called The South-South Opportunity (www.southsouth.info), the platform offers a space for sharing knowledge, discussing, learning and connecting with people and resources. In fact, the site is being shaped by the users themselves and includes a blog, discussion groups, user profiles, relevant news and notices of upcoming events. It also hosts the international Task Team on South-South Cooperation (TT-SSC)—an inclusive platform that aims to explore how South-South Cooperation can contribute to the aid effectiveness agenda. A number of rich discussions have already begun on good practices and opportunities for cross-regional learning. To join, simply sign up at www.southsouth.info.

For more information about the South-South Experience Exchange Trust Fund Facility or the World Bank Institute Knowledge Exchange Practice, please contact Han Fraeters, Manager, hfraeters@worldbank.org or +1 (202) 458-2941.

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