In Barbados and Jamaica, national advances towards achieving the 2030 Agenda have been severely threatened by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The main challenges associated with South-South cooperation in both countries were identified as difficulties in tracking and quantifying technical cooperation activity and the need for appropriate methodologies and procedures to man- age information gaps. Systems have not yet been developed to record, quantify, measure and evaluate the impact of such cooperation and much more could be done to consider the political value of South-South cooperation.
Towards a Solution
Under the Caribbean First Strategy of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Commission gives a prominent place to the Caribbean to better serve its member countries and address their specific needs and vulnerability. In this context, and in response to resolution 675 (XXXIV) of ECLAC, the Commission conducted a study on the evaluation of South-South cooperation in Barbados and Jamaica to share knowledge, experiences and best practices.
The main objective of the study was to examine how South-South cooperation has been implemented in Barbados and Jamaica in order to launch a broader discussion on the potential of such cooperation and foster partnerships to advance the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SAMOA Pathway in the region in such an unprecedented crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study includes conclusions and recommendations concerning the lessons learned that may be of broader interest to the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. In fact, Barbados and Jamaica illustrate the extent to which a country’s sense of national identity, its foreign policy and its development agenda will shape its attitudes towards South-South cooperation. Despite having similar historical backgrounds and development concerns in the 1960s, which resulted in significant joint regional initiatives, the two States demonstrated somewhat different foreign policy visions and directions.
South-South cooperation is a significant process in both countries that adds value to their development activities. Jamaica’s engagements are on a larger scale and are more institutionalized than is the case of Barbados, where South-South cooperation has been conservatively defined and its scope more cautiously delimited. Jamaica has reached the point at which it is both a beneficiary of, and a contributor to, South-South cooperation. The experiences of Barbados demonstrate that it has played a contributory part and can assume more proactive roles in such cooperation.
It was found that much more could be done in both countries in terms of exploring the full potential of South-South cooperation. Both countries need to strengthen and consolidate their institutional capacity to document and archive all their development cooperation, disaggregate the different categories of cooperation, analyse the data, evaluate the development impacts of their South-South cooperation and use the findings to inform future policy.
The advanced version of the study was presented on 11 December 2020 by ECLAC during a virtual Expert Group Meeting on the Evaluation of South-South cooperation in the Caribbean in the context of the post-pandemic recovery. The online format facilitated wide participation in the meeting that included 22 Member States and associate members of ECLAC, representatives of the CARICOM Secretariat, the United Nations Office of South-South cooperation, the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System and academia.
The study was very well received by member countries and by the invited experts. It generated a stimulating discussion on the current val- ue and the untapped potential of, and further opportunities for, harnessing South-South and triangular cooperation in the ongoing work to achieve Agenda 2030 in the Caribbean and also the agenda of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). During the meeting, Colombia offered to share its methodology for evaluating South-South cooperation with Caribbean countries. Other Caribbean governments request- ed to be part of a follow-up study to assess the potential of South-South, SIDS-SIDS and triangular cooperation in their respective countries. The study will be published and made available online and a follow-up online meeting will be organized in 2021 to broaden the scope of the discussions and foster the exchanges of good practices that could lead to cooperation agreements and other forms of regional collaboration.
As the attendees of the Expert Group Meeting realized, South-South co-operation holds possibilities that go way beyond traditional notions of technical cooperation. South-South cooperation partnerships should be used to explore new approaches to development financing, including debt swaps, public and private partnerships and other options. Likewise, many Southern actors, in Latin America and elsewhere are emerging as significant new partners in scientific and technological innovations, including in the areas of digital technologies. Relevant centres of expertise should be explored not only in those sectors but also in addressing ongoing social policy challenges that face the Caribbean subregion.