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Development Agencies in BRICS and Beyond – Experiences and Next Steps

Source:  BRICS Policy Center

Over the past years and resulting from deep changes in the global economy, BRICS and other emerging economies have started to invest heavily in their capacities as development players. Parting from decades-old South-South cooperation, governments are looking into the options to scale up and eventually institutionalize horizontal partnerships with other countries through dedicated development agencies.


In an increasingly multipolar world, global development has undergone deep changes over the past years. Millions of families have been lifted out of extreme poverty, and the group of emerging economies and middle-income countries has expanded. As members of this new 'middle class of nations', the BRICS group is now at the center of non-traditional development cooperation, along with other emerging economies such as Colombia, Mexico and Indonesia.

Building up on decades-old South-South cooperation, the contributions of these countries are not only complementing conventional aid by DAC donors and multilateral institutions. The good news is that emerging economies' cooperation also tends to enrich global development by triggering horizontal partnerships in both discourse and practice, rooted in trust, equity and mutual benefit. For example, knowledge exchange, one of the signature features for emerging economies role in development cooperation, reflects this new horizontality in a very concrete manner. Here, practice-proven expertise and successful solutions are shared, rather than sold to governments and institutions with scarce resources.

And indeed, expectations towards the BRICS are high, especially in sight of a financial and economic crisis melting down aid commitments from the industrialized world. Vividly reflected in their recent Summit in Durban (South Africa), BRICS members are well aware of the opportunities to take on a strong role as development actors, in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The joint preparations of a new Development Bank, initially focusing on infrastructure, send a strong political message towards the existing International Financial Institutions (IFI) such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which are struggling with reform, legitimacy and relevance. But the idea of a BRICS Bank also constitutes an inspiration for further collective efforts to institutionalize a multipolar world, where resources, ideas and solutions might come from virtually anywhere, and should therefore be also anchored in the new poles.

At the same time, BRICS countries and other regional powers are investing heavily in their institutional and operational capacities to engage in development cooperation in a systematized and sustainable manner. In a qualitative leap, dozens of developing countries are currently setting up or strengthening agencies and departments for international cooperation. It is true that some countries - such as China, Brazil, Indonesia or Thailand - have accumulated experiences as development cooperation providers for the better part of the last 50 years. But today, and largely due economic progress and stronger political will, this commitment is being institutionalized in a fast-paced way.

Over the past years, new agencies have been emerging in Colombia, Mexico, India, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa, while plans to strengthening existing institutional arrangements are under way in Brazil, China, Thailand and Turkey. Also smaller countries such as Kazakhstan, Peru and Vietnam are working on institutions dedicated to proving development cooperation in a continuous and efficient way.

So far, these processes of institutionalizing development cooperation, very complex by nature, are still happening in a largely disconnected way. In other words, when creating or reforming agencies, each country is facing its challenges and opportunities individually, and lessons are not being shared sufficiently among governments. While DAC members make extensive use of peer reviews and good practices, emerging economies still lack a structured mechanism for mutual learning and cannot revise the strength and needs of their agencies against a commonly accepted reference framework.

In this context and based on a strong mandate from the G20, a number of promising initiatives are underway to enable further exchange among agencies from emerging economies. This includes a recent ECOSOC Conference of Southern Providers in New Delhi (April 2013), a Dialogue series facilitated by the German government with Mexico, Peru and South Africa, among other partners (launched in Mexico in September 2012), as well an Indonesia-hosted and World Bank-supported High-Level Meeting on Knowledge Hubs in Bali (July 2012), translated in an online Community of Practice in early 2013. So far, the BRICS have not taken a specific stance in this area and are at best quiet partners in ongoing discussions, despite their clear potential to contribute to this agenda by sharing practical experiences.

A basic ingredient for further support to and for deeper exchange among countries building or scaling up agencies lies in the systematization of lessons learned. The following pages review key experiences made by both BRICS members and other regional powers, in a modest effort to bring together still very scarce and difficult-to-obtain data and information on the state of art of agency development in emerging economies.

subjects Russia & Ex-USSR | South/Latin America | Asia & Pacific | Global Partnership | BRICS | Development

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