The BetterAid platform has submitted comments to the official statement to the High Level Event on South South Cooperation and Capacity Development in Bogota (yet to be released) :
The Bogota High Level Event on South-South Cooperation (SSC) and Capacity Development aims to showcase the experience of development actors in SSC as “contributions to a more effective and inclusive cooperation architecture.” The event is expected “to boost the voice of partner countries, as both providers and recipients, towards a more inclusive global development agenda.”
Unfortunately, the Bogota HLE focuses only on capacity development, thus misses many of the valuable lessons that can be drawn from examining the diverse and multilayered expressions of SSC and its potential contribution to development in the South.
Moreover, while the agenda of the event and the Bogota Statement that tries to distill lessons from SSC is framed in terms of the Accra mandate, they have not picked up on the commitments already made in the Accra Action Agenda (AAA) which need to be further developed and advanced on the road to the 4th High Level Forum in Seoul for the development effectiveness of development cooperation. As such it misses the opportunity to move the whole effectiveness agenda forward -- from the third generation reform commitments started but undeveloped in AAA; and in leveraging the specific advantages of SSC in terms of respect for sovereignty, equality and mutuality.
For instance, the AAA made a step forward beyond the Paris Declaration in recognizing that “gender equality, respect for human rights, and environmental sustainability are cornerstones for achieving enduring impact on the lives and potential of poor women, men, and children” (§3) and that “developing countries and donors will ensure that their respective development policies and programmes are designed and implemented in ways consistent with their agreed international commitments”, the Bogota Statement does not even mention the need to ensure that international humanitarian laws and internationally agreed development goals (not just the millennium development goals) are integral to the basic framework of SSC despite concerns repeatedly raised by civil society that human rights and other social and environmental considerations are too often set aside in South-South as well as North-South development cooperation.
Moreover, the statement does not address the serious lack of transparency in the terms and conditions of many SSC transactions that precludes any meaningful citizen participation in shaping policies and holding development partner governments accountable for their aid interventions.
The AAA (in § 19.d) rightly affirms the view that "South‐South cooperation on development aims to observe the principle of non‐interference in internal affairs, equality among developing partners and respect for their independence, national sovereignty, cultural diversity and identity and local content" and the Bogota statement correctly emphasizes “horizontal cooperation as an effective development cooperation modality”. However, both the AAA and the Bogota statement fail to acknowledge that aid relationships are power-based relationships and that disparities among Southern countries can also translate to unequal relations between SSC partners. Hence there is very little in the document by way of commitments to ensuring the alignment of SSC to democratically-determined national development and poverty reduction strategies and priorities of program countries.
The BetterAid Platform, an open platform of civil society organizations (CSOs) from around the world, supports the promotion of SSC as a strategy by which people and countries of the South pursue economic independence and self-reliance based on shared interests, common objectives and solidarity. But BetterAid believes that SSC should adhere to certain norms and principles – expressed in the BetterAid Policy Paper on South-South Development Cooperation -- to ensure that Southern development assistance truly impacts positively on the lives of poor and marginalized populations.
Fundamental reforms in prevailing aid priorities and practices of donors, including those from the South, are urgently needed to ensure that international development cooperation promotes sustainable change that addresses the root causes as well as the symptoms of poverty, (gender) inequality, marginalization and injustice; and affirms the role of impoverished and marginalized populations as central actors and owners of development.