By Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn, German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development
Germany is often regarded as a so-called “traditional donor country”. The word “traditional” may sound a little antiquated at first. But I believe that Germany has shown that its policy is anything but old-fashioned. Germany is ready to embark on new avenues and forge new partnerships.
One of the new avenues on which we want to embark is to expand the instrument of triangular cooperation. Germany has been supporting this form of cooperation for a long time, since the mid-1980s in fact. Since then, geopolitical changes and the growing importance of emerging countries have led to the appearance of new actors and donors in the global development landscape. To increase the involvement of these new rising powers, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) strives to further exploit the potential of triangular cooperation. We emphasised this intention in the Busan Outcome Document. To us, triangular cooperation arrangements act as an important link between South-South and North-South cooperation.
Together with Japan and Spain, Germany is one of the most active, sought-after and biggest supporters of triangular cooperation. At present, the BMZ and its implementing agencies are carrying out more than 20 triangular cooperation projects in partnership with various emerging countries. The majority of projects are in Latin America and the Carribean, with major partners such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile or Peru. Another major partner for triangular cooperation projects is South Africa, which cooperates with Germany and a number of African partner countries. Most of the projects are financed through our joint triangular cooperation funds in Latin America and South Africa. While the majority of triangular cooperation projects are with Latin American countries, Germany also wants to increase the use of this instrument in Asia and Africa as a whole. Some projects in Asia already show great promise.
A global group for joint learning and collaboration on triangular cooperation is what we should be striving to cement.
For Germany, triangular cooperation is an additional innovative instrument of cooperation with emerging economies, with a particular focus on our partner countries Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa. These countries are hereinafter referred to as Germany’s “global development partners”. Besides mobilising transfers together with our emerging country partner – from whom we expect a significant contribution – Germany wants to share knowledge, help develop the institutional architecture of development agencies in emerging countries and foster joint dialogue on values, modes of cooperation and interests. Triangular cooperation can have a particularly significant impact when all three partners succeed in jointly addressing sensitive topics, such as the protection of global public goods, that none of them could have tackled alone. Topics should always be selected according to the interests and needs of the beneficiary country. We believe it is essential that the beneficiary country takes the lead and steers the entire process. This, however, is not an easy task. We see ourselves neither as pure donors nor as pure intermediaries; rather, we see ourselves as an equal partner in a joint project. Contributions at the first High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation in Mexico made clear that development agencies in many emerging economies are already in the process of forming adequate structures, developing mechanisms and mobilising resources to fully unfold their potential. Triangular cooperation arrangements are a means of supporting this process further, since they combine political and technical dimensions of cooperation with our “global development partners”.
In the last few decades, the international community has gained considerable experience with triangular cooperation. This is definitely true of Germany. In many cases, however, exchanges of experience are limited to certain groups or topics. One way to further improve mutual learning and collaboration would be the creation of a global group on South South and Triangular Cooperation. The key issues to be taken into account by this group should include the following questions: How can we further reduce transaction costs and maximise ownership on the part of the beneficiary country? What are appropriate, well-matched instruments for monitoring and evaluating triangular cooperation projects? What are suitable formats for reporting, or communication and cooperation structures? We need to integrate experiences and lessons learnt on South-South cooperation, as well as the findings of think tanks already working to better understand various approaches and impacts. Germany therefore also supports the independent work of think tanks from the South and the North in this effort. The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) and the UN Development Cooperation Forum (UN DCF) have a very important role to play in this regard. Germany would like to encourage all actors to share their experiences. A global group for joint learning and collaboration on triangular cooperation is what we should be striving to cement.
Thomas Silberhorn is Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. He was previously Deputy Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Parliament (Bundestag). He is also Germany’s Governor at the African Development Bank and is responsible for bilateral development cooperation with the continent of Africa. Another regional focus is on Near and Middle East countries.