In a quickly changing world, today’s Latin America is pursuing development with increasing self-confidence and stronger capacities. At the same time, expectations are growing that a more prosperous Latin America also contributes to international development, for example through South-South cooperation. A key question is how the region will get involved in the global governance of development, and in particular in the new Global Partnership that emerged from the recent High Level Forum in Busan, Korea.
With this background, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador invited the Directors-General for international cooperation of Latin American countries, in order to assess the lessons learned in Busan and agree on a series of next steps. They were joined by a small group of representatives from civil society and academia. A total of twelve countries participated in this inter-governmental seminarheld in San Salvador on 13 and 14 February.
The Salvadorans convened the meeting on a fairly short notice, so this broad participation also reflects the strong interest of many governments to position themselves within the global agenda, that is, beyond the existing regional coordinates. It also shows that the region features a new generation of decision makers, who are more pragmatic and highly motivated to play a strong role in the deep global changes. Post-Busan wise, this space was the first regional initiative led by developing countries, while in Africa and Asia-Pacific talks between the governments are still incipient and to a good degree dependent on support from multilateral organizations, including UNDP and the regional development banks.
Framed by reflections on the global political context, such as the G20 and the Rio +20 conference, participants discussed potential contributions from Latin America to the construction of the new Global Partnership agreed in Busan (click here for recommendations, Spanish only). Happening in parallel to the first meeting of the Post-Busan Interim Group (PBIG) in Paris, the debate in San Salvador generated several inputs which are strategically important to regional and global dynamics:
1. The new Partnership should be built at the regional level. - For now, the PBIG follows its mandate of "country focused, global light". However, for developing countries, the debate and decision making on the new global partnership will take time, especially if the existing achievements are to be preserved and the most relevant national actors to be involved. Several countries have already highlighted that it is their sovereign decision to determine the details of the 'monitoring frameworks' that are encouraged by the Busan agreement.
From the Latin American perspective, it seems obvious that a proactive (and more permanent) regional coordination around the new partnership would not only improve the flow of information, but also facilitate peer learning and generate mutual political support. It is likely that this is best done through informal mechanisms, while high-level political mandates can be further defined in the medium term (for example, through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Iberoamerican Summits, etc.).
2. The Latin voice will be better heard if it comes in all pitches. - It is essential to recognize the specific situations of different groups of Latin American countries. Current post-Busan action is concentrated in the SICA+ group, which currently brings together all members of the Central American Integration System, plus the Dominican Republic and Bolivia, all countries where Official Development Assistance has a significant impact in national development policies.
Complementing the clear voice of SICA+ in the PBIG and other spaces, there is a second tier of more developed countries which play a 'dual role': As recipients and providers. These players are affected by specific systematic shifts in the international setting, such as the European Commission's decision to withdraw financial support from middle-income countries. In this regard, participants agreed to work on a joint response from all Latin American countries, including the SICA +, to the European Union’s plans. Here, a key will be to coordinate the SICA+ core with the second tier - which includes countries such as Chile, Colombia and Mexico - to ensure the greatest possible synergies and mutual support.
3. National leadership requires a shared commitment. - Some Latin American countries have already taken the lead on the new Global Partnership. Honduras was a very proactive sherpa in the demanding Busan negotiations, and continues as a PBIG member. El Salvador has a strong interest this agenda, which is reflected in the organization of this event and its close communication with Honduras, by which the two neighboring countries already conform a "Central American axis". Moreover, Colombia is in charge of the Building Block on South-South and Triangular Cooperation, certainly a very dynamic pillar of the new Global Partnership.
In all these cases, other countries need to engage in a more coordinated way, in order to generate strong political support and provide substantial contributions to technical agendas. Ideally, this would lead to a growing division of labor between Latin American countries willing to participate in the post-Busan agenda. This shared commitment is indeed a precondition for a strong impact of the region on the global agenda. It is now time to harvest the generous "regional capital" generated by individual national efforts and the decisive leadership of directors and their teams in different governments.
4. It is time to take action. - According to the plans of the PBIG, new indicators to measure the quality of international cooperation shall be defined by June 2012. These indicators will be the marrow of the new Global Partnership for at least three, possibly eight years (until 2020). With some countries being immediately affected by these decisions, it is urgent to get on board of this exercise of designing the indicators. The process is open to countries’ participation, but it simply lacks means to give voice to those still remaining mute. A key incentive to engage will be the need to respect current national processes, where existing government systems for monitoring and evaluation should be adapted and strengthened, rather than being rebuilt completely.
A first batch of indicators is expected to be finalized by 27 February, a certainly somewhat unrealistic deadline. However, for Latin American countries it will be critical to raise their flags, as a developing region and as the SICA+ group in particular, while in parallel agreeing on the procedures to ensure that the new global indicators reflect and respond to national priorities. Importantly, SICA+ also continues to work on a series of regional indicators, which are more closely adapted to the characteristics and needs of its members.
Given this broad range of commitment, capacities and leaderships, Latin America can draw on an ample margin to take action and influence the new Global Partnership, so that it starts to make sense not only to the region, but provides strong incentives for the developing world as a whole. The next Latin American stopovers have already been scheduled and will take place in another Directors-General's meeting in Uruguay on 11-13 April and an inter-regional retreat with champions from Africa and Asia-Pacific to be held in Honduras on 5 and 6 May.
The seminar "Latin America in the new global partnership for development" was held on 13 and 14 February 2012 in San Salvador, more here and here. At the event, governments that were represented by their DGs included Argentina, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.