Fiocruz was one of the Brazilian institutions represented at the 2nd High Level Conference of the United Nations on South-South Cooperation (PABA+40), which took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, between March 20 and 22, promoted by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).
The event marked the 40-year anniversary of the UN Conference on Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries, also hosted in Buenos Aires, in 1978, and established the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA), which proposed the term and the practice of South-South Cooperation.
According to the UN, South-South Cooperation. is a tool used by States, international organizations, academic organizations, civil society and the private sector to collaborate and share knowledge, abilities and successful initiatives in specific areas, such as agricultural development, human rights, urbanization, health, climate change, etc.
The former president of Fiocruz and director of the Fiocruz Center for Global Health (Cris-Fiocruz), Paulo Buss, attended the meeting as Brazilian delegate in the side discussions about South – South cooperation in Health.
“The roots of South-South cooperation are prior to 1978”, recalled Buss. He explained that the practice arose out of demands from countries considered to be “third-world”, in an anti-colonialist context.
The political South-South concept had its roots in the 1950’s, at the peak of the Cold War, having as an initial milestone, the Asia-Africa Conference, held in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, which establishes among its principles, respect for sovereignty, non-intervention and the fostering of mutual interests in cooperation.
“The movement was a response to the dominant model of international cooperation, in which the funding and the decisions are generated by the wealthy countries and applied to the countries of the southern hemisphere”, affirmed the director of Cris. This logic also applies to the NGO’s and other international organisms, since the decisions are taken in the cities where their headquarters are located, generally in the United States and Europe.
Thus, a vertical cooperation is established, which reflects the history of colonization. In the specific case of health, this type of cooperation is usually marked by the focus on the elimination or control of infirmities, which seeks to avoid their possible spread to the old capitals. Often, priority themes for countries receiving the help are far different than of the priorities of the donating countries and organizations.
The technical cooperation between States of the South thus emerges as a pioneering effort of association to strengthen the diplomatic influence of these countries. It is also a way of establishing a more horizontal cooperation, in which countries with similar characteristics and problems might exchange successful experiences, establishing their own priorities.
The South-South cooperations can be bilateral, when they occur between two countries, triangular, when a third country or entity of the northern hemisphere acts as mediator or financier, and also regional or inter-regional, when they occur among or between blocks of countries.
South-South cooperation in Brazil and at Fiocruz
Brazil has 380 South-South cooperation initiatives underway in 63 developing countries around the world. The projects are coordinated by the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE), created in 1987 to coordinate, execute and assess the country’s technical cooperation initiatives, either received or rendered.
Fiocruz is one of the institutions that promote these initiatives, acting in the area of health, under the coordination of the ABC. Cris is designed as a Collaborating Center of the Pan-American Health Organization (Opas/OMS) for South-South Cooperation, with a project for training personnel and regional networks of technical schools and of national health institutes, principally with countries of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. The Human Milk Bank networks (rBLH), which has already been able to implement more than 330 Milk Banks in various countries, is another example of success.
For Buss, it is important that these cooperation initiatives be structured, focused on assisting the countries themselves to deal with their problems, through the education of people and the strengthening of institutions. “That is not to say that a specific health problem must not be tackled, but it needs to be addressed by the health systems”, he explains.
Reaffirmation of commitments and focus on Agenda 2030
Besides the reaffirmation and review of the commitment of the last four decades, the central theme of the discussions of Buenos Aires was South-South Cooperation as an opportunity to achieve Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.
Cooperation for development has been a recurrent theme in the discussions of the United Nations, which, before Agenda 2030 had already established the Millennium Development Goals.
However, with the economic crisis of 2008, the economic aid of wealthy countries to the development of countries of the southern hemisphere suffered a setback. This scenario makes South-South cooperation even more important for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In Buenos Aires, the UN agencies recognized the importance of these partnerships and assumed the commitment to improve the assistance provided through them.