Tuesday, 21 May 2019 07:45


South- south cooperation has been receiving attention in recent years. South-South cooperation has shown unprecedented dynamism in terms of trade, finance and investment thereby enhancing the productive capacities of developing countries hence contributing to long term economic growth and development.

The Bandung conference was a significant event in the initiation of principles such as economic win-win cooperation, mutual trust and political equality that provided a strong basis for SSC. Therefore, the underlying principles of SSC like respect for national sovereignty, national ownership and independence, equality and mutual benefit clearly shows exclusion of citizens, lack of transparency and accountability and promotion of commercial interests under the disguise of development assistance. The present-day model of south to south cooperation is characterized by unsustainable practices of production and consumption, monopolization of public services, non-environmental considerations in sectoral plans and programs and indecent jobs.[1]

 Moreover, South to south cooperation is mainly restricted to government to government affairs with no mention of citizens and civil society organizations participation in the development agenda despite being of great significance in the attainment of sustainable development goals. SSC tends to disengage from a more holistic approach to economic growth that involves the inclusion of people in development agenda so as to fulfill their full potential, contrarily it majorly focuses on extractive industries and public physical infrastructure.

The Busan Partnership agreement recognized Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) as important development actors in their own right. This is because CSOs play a crucial role in promoting government accountability and transparency, in representing the views of the marginalized and the poor and informing policy making with specialized knowledge and experience. However, in SSC agenda there’s little to no proof of CSOs involvement. Also, in many countries there are shrinking spaces for CSOs engagement. A lot of CSOs are facing opposition from the governments in the form of threats, attacks and legal harassment because governments are yet to see their meaningful input of participation in SSC agenda. For this reason, CSOs lack an enabling environment to operate and engage in the SSC agenda due to the antagonistic nature of the cooperation and also importance is given to trade, finance and investment processes and programs in this cooperation. CSOs participation in SSC agenda is essential and this is because CSOs ensures the needs and interests of citizens are better aligned with SSC agenda. And the fact the citizens are not only beneficiaries of development projects of SSC but also active players in the implementation processes, CSOs should partner with the government to create relevant institutional framework and legislation that will compliment their contributions in the development processes in their respective states.[2]

There is serious lack of transparency and accountability in SSC agenda. Reason being there is no availability and public accessibility of information on development process like aid information (terms &conditions), public financial management system and development results. The lack of transparency and paucity of information encourages corruption. Therefore, CSOs are unable to access information on aid flows and financial deals. This paralyses the citizens and CSOs efforts of demanding accountability from the government on the utilization of the finances and how beneficial the development projects are to the people, economy, society and the environment. This leaves citizens with the burden of repaying huge loans due to lack of transparency and accessibility of information. Therefore, without availability and accessibility of information there can be no meaningful participation in shaping policies and monitoring of development results of SSC from both the citizens and CSOs.[3]

Respect for national sovereignty as one of the guiding principles of SSC should not be used as a way of condoning human rights violations, corruption, bad governance and environmental destruction in host countries. In the same way, CSOs are not only advocating for a just society which is pro-poor but also on issues touching on human rights. CSOs have been critical about the practices of some of the Southern aid providers. For example, China provides development assistance in total disregard of the awful human rights history of some of their partner governments. Giving development assistance without paying attention to human rights violations, social and environmental considerations is accepting behaviors that are morally wrong and offensive in the interest of accessing a country’s resources. This approach has received a lot of criticism from the CSOs because it infringes the rights of citizens.[4]

From the above discussion it clears there’s no citizen involvement in South-South Development Cooperation agenda and also CSOs and the community are not supported in anyway in SSDC projects. This because SSC does not see the real value of participation of the above-mentioned actors. Therefore, the African CSOs together with the intergovernmental stakeholders came together to dialogue so as to have a joint position to influencing the outcome of the UN Second High Level Conference since the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA) for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries. The Pan African CSO Conference under the underlying theme ‘African CSO Voice Towards A People’s collaborative Agenda on South - South Co-operation’ was a platform used by African CSO to consolidate their positions for the preparation of the UN Second-High level meeting (BAPA +40). The key priorities of the African CSO for the SSC Agenda was mainly to ensure a people centered approach which included the following:[5]

·         Adopt a people centered approach to South-South and Triangular cooperation. People are excluded in South-South cooperation agenda and yet they are important players in the achievement of development goals.

·         Create a mutistakeholder partnerships and Enabling Environment for relevant actors more so the CSO in the development process

·         Address the illicit financial flows in the South so as to prevent the loss of resources that will contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals in the continent

·         Address Youth Empowerment. Youth and children should be included in the development agendas because they are key development actors in their own right and majority of the population.

The BAPA + 40 Conference as a global platform gave opportunity to all relevant actors from Civil Society Organizations, Private Sector, National Governments and Multilateral Institutions to contribute to the Agenda of shaping the South-South cooperation and the triangular cooperation. Reality of Aid Africa Network together with CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness held a side event as members of the Southern CSO Alliance on South-South Cooperation to push for institutionalized support for CSO to be included in all South-South Cooperation processes and also promote a people centered approach to SSC agenda in a way that people are fully engaged in development agenda within the framework of solidarity, justice and mutuality. [6]


In order to achieve a people-centered approach in South-South cooperation agenda both the Southern providers and partner countries must take responsibility on the quality and the impacts of South-south Development cooperation Agenda. The following recommendations when put in practice will ensure people are fully included in SSC agenda:

v  Development of strong policies and institutional frameworks by both parties that will promote democratic ownership of development process, transparency and achievement of development results that will contribute to poverty eradication and empower people.

v  People participation in SSC agenda should be institutionalized, promoted and supported through capacity building and financial resources.

v  Partner countries need to strengthen information systems to ensure greater disclosure and public oversight on aid flows, disbursements & expenditure considering the role of CSOs and citizen in the accountability processes.

v  CSOs should be funded so that they can be in a position to monitor and evaluate government projects and programs mainly on how development assistance impacts the citizens or not more so those living in extreme poverty.

v   Increase accountability to citizens and taxpayers through a more open and political space and improvements in media freedoms

v  The Southern providers and partner countries should work closely with CSOs to provide an enabling environment that maximizes their contribution to development.


In summary, people’s active participation in SSC agenda is paramount and lack of it clearly shows that human rights standards, instruments and principles are not guiding the SSC development process. Civil society organizations are important development actors in SSC agenda. Reason being citizens often speak through CSOs because CSOs are committed to holding the government accountable to its people. Due to restrictions from the government CSOs are unable to fully participate in development processes that will result to aid effectiveness. Therefore, there is need to fund and create an enabling environment for CSOs so that they can perform their role effectively.


[1] South Centre. (2009). South-South Cooperation Principles: An Essential Element in South-South Cooperation. Geneva: South Centre.

[2] Vaes, S (2013). ‘Time Out for Civil Society? BIC’ positions on the role of civil society in South-South cooperation with Africa. Leuven: KU Leuven; HIVA – Research Institute for Work and Society.

[3] Goss Gilroy, Inc. (2014). International Development Evaluation: Comparing DAC and Non-DAC Approaches. Beijing: United Nations Development Programme

[4] Mawdsley, E. (2014). Human Rights and South-South Development Cooperation: Reflections on the “Rising Powers” as International Development Actors. Human Rights Quarterly, 36 (3), 630-652



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