Programme for South-South Cooperation between Benin, Bhutan, Costa Rica and the Kingdom of the Netherlands (PSC)

Nira Gautam, Mary Luz Moreno, Carolina Reyes and Marianella Feoli

 In 2005, based on the priorities agreed at the World Summit of Sustainable Development (Johannesburg) and the Millennium Development Goals, Costa Rica, Benin and Bhutan came under the umbrella of South-South Cooperation, and received funding of US$13.2 million from the Netherlands.). The “south” countries worked together setting out a number of goals that included poverty reduction, gender equality, change in patterns of production and non-sustainable consumption, improvement of sustainable tourism, efficient use of energy and management and protection of natural resources. Between 2007-2011 they arranged meetings, created policy, wrote reports, shared knowledge and crucially monitored and evaluated each other’s progress at each stage. The program was hailed as highly successful with each country making progress towards meeting their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The unique nature of this collaboration between countries that are vastly different in location, language and culture raised many eyebrows. However, the programme has demonstrated that with strong planning, commitment, partners, and reciprocal respect this sort of South-South collaboration can produce impressive results on a very small budget. Language and cultural difference cease to matter when collaborators share their technology and knowledge in a reciprocal setting, and most beneficiaries have adapted the skills that they learned during PSC projects to improve their incomes in an environmentally sustainable manner.

While SSC is an innovative approach to development, the role of the North in this collaboration cannot be ignored. Traditional North-South cooperation, while commonly criticized for its problems, has developed essential tools of project management, organization and accounting that PSC has successfully applied in the SSC context. In other cases, many ideas being implemented in SSC were generated in the North and are not being adapted to the realities of the global South. PSC’s experience indicates that a trilateral North-South-South Cooperation based on mutual respect, reciprocity, participation and the willingness to teach and be taught can provide a new and improved path towards achieving global development goals.

Year of publication: 
South-South Opportunity
Themes and sectors: 
Climate change
Themes and sectors: 
Economic development
Themes and sectors: 
Education and training
Themes and sectors: 
Environmental protection
Themes and sectors: 
Themes and sectors: 
South-South cooperation
Case story length: 
25 pages

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