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A new initiative promotes cooperation on population and development.

The Earth Times

JULY 31-AUGUST 14, 1994


A new initiative promotes cooperation on population and development.

SOUTH-SOUTH initiative promises active role despite ‘new-organization fatigue’


JAKARTA, Indonesia—Asserting that many developing countries had gathered valuable experience and expertise I population and reproductive –health programs over the last decade, representatives from donor and recipient nations have launched a new initiative that would build on this records and enhance national and regional cooperation in the South.

The project, titled ”Partners in Population and Development: A South-South Initiative,” was enthusiastically endorsed by President Soeharto of Indonesia during a two-day meeting here that ended August 2.  Participants agreed to establish a secretariat and on international management board although the location of the secretariat was not named.  Initial funding –perhaps to the tune of $3 million-would come from the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Bank, among other sources.

Initial programs planned would include a global information exchange on population projects, with special emphasis on reproductive health services and the role of girls and women in their societies. “The secretariat will promote and find support for specific South-South initiatives and manage a global network of information to link need to capacity, problems to solutions,” the organizers said in a statement issued at the conclusion of the meeting.

“The capacity and knowledge for the next generation of population activity will be found primarily in the successful programs already existing in many countries of the South,” the statement said, “The time has come for an energized and expanded ‘Partnership for Population and Development’ to take maximum advantage of this capacity.”

Representatives of Bangladesh, Egypt, Kenya, Korea, Morocco, Mexico Indonesia, Tunisia, Thailand, and Zimbabwe attended the event here.

Also present were representatives from France, the Population Council, Rockefeller Foundation, the United Nations Population Fund, the United States Agency for International Development, World Bank, Japan, and the European Union.

Meeting with delegates, President Soeharto said, “I hope that the meeting we are holding at present will enhance closer South-South cooperation.” He added: “Regarding the upcoming International Conference on Populaton and Development to be held in Cairo next month, we in our capacity as chairman of the Nonaligned Movement, have taken the initiative to appeal to its members to close ranks and promote a positive partnership.”

The Indonesian president, a longtime supporter of family planning, will address the Cairo Conference on September 6, officials said.

In an interview with The Earth Times, Indonesia’s Minister of State of Population, Haryono Suyono, said: “If this initiative is successful, developing countries will no longer be just a target of development.  Developing countries are now ready to assume responsibility to become active in development.  This wasn’t the case in the previous population conferences in Bucharest and Mexico.  At the Cairo Conference in September, however such partnerships are being initiated, Developing countries are now the real players.”

The concept of a South-South partnership began with an initiative by Indonesia at a meeting organized by the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy in October 1993.  That meeting was attended by representatives of donor agencies and leaders of developing countries.

They decided that countries with successful family planning programs could provide valuabel technical assistance to other developing nations.

Subsequent meetings led to the creation of the South-South initiative.  Indonesia, as one of the leaders of this partnership, agreed to host a working group meeting in Jakarta on August 1-2 to elaborate on the ways in which a successful collaboration between countries of the South could be achieved in the field of technical assistance, exchange of information training for population programs, and the creation of a mechanism to mobilize resources frolm donors.

Referring to cooperation with other countries, President Soeharto said: “Indonesia is planning to expand its activities in sharing its various experiences with other developing countries related to a number of development sectors, such as; the management of family planning programs, population and other development activities.”

At the meeting, Steven W. Sinding, director of population sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation, said that because it is now recognized that some developing countries have the expertise and talent to create effective population programs, they are in a position to articulate their needs to donor countries for increased resources.  He added that his foundation would support such an initiative.  Sally Shelton, Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, said that one of the important advantagesof having a South-South partnership is that financial and technical dependence on international donors would be reduced.  She also said, “I hope that the partnership will not only look at family planning but how to do more toward the empowerment of women.”

Vice President George Saitoti of Kenya, welcoming the South-South initiative, said, “There is a wealth of experience and knowledge in countries of the South which can be shared, especially in the area of population and development.

Margaret Catley Carlson, President of the Population Council, pointed out that while the world is “very fatigued” by the creation of new organizations and structures, there were several good reasons why a South-South initiative would be useful.  Apart from the fact that it is developing countries that have the expertise in family planning programs, she said, Southern nations also know how to wok with limited resources, reach remote rural areas and how to deal with cultural and religious considerations.  “It would be a shame,” she said,” not to use this wealth of information.”

Jyoti Shankar Singh –executive coordinator of the Cairo Conference –pointed out that the strength of the South-South partnership was that with minor adjustments, already successful programs could be used by other developing countries.  He noted that the concept olf the new “partnership” had emerged from more than a decade of experience and that it had been endorsed by the Nonaligned Movement, of which Indonesia is currently chairman.

Participants at the Jakarta meeting said that they expected that all 130 members of the South would eventually join the new “partnership.” “It is hoped that both existing and additional donors will want to use the Partnership concept to increase programming effectiveness,” the participants said in their concluding statement.


Summary of priorities

  • The proven value of South-South technical collaboration needs to be significantly expanded in such a way that longer term relationships can be developed among the Partner countries, specifically aimed at improving reproductive health and family planning services at the field level, and in demonstrating the synergistic impact of investments in related areas of human development.
  • The initiative to expand South-South technical collaboration should be led by the South but with the full technical participation of the donors. In order to enjoy the full potential of South-South exchanges, investments need to be made to strengthen developing country capacities to provide such technical supprt.
  • The experience and expertise of the NGO and private sectors need to be added to that of the public sector for an expanded program of South-South exchanges.