South-South Cooperation: The Experience of the Inter-American Social Protection Network

Americas (English Edition), September-October 2011 | Go to article overview

South-South Cooperation: The Experience of the Inter-American Social Protection Network


Given the urgent challenge of reducing extreme poverty and inequality in the world, the international community has committed to building stronger and more effective cooperation mechanisms that will make it possible for developing countries to reach their Millennium Development Goals. While the region of Latin America and the Caribbean is not the poorest in the world, it is the region with the most unequal distribution of income. That's why the OAS has taken such an important role in stepping up to these challenges through multilateral efforts within the framework of solidarity and cooperation.

At the global level, the declarations on aid effectiveness made in Paris in 2005 and in Accra in 2008 have helped to stimulate new ways of conceptualizing South-South cooperation within Latin America and the Caribbean. Special emphasis is being given to the horizontal generation of capacities and to the role that new international actors like emerging economies can play in this effort.

In the area of South-South cooperation, the transfer of knowledge and the exchange of social protection experiences have also become increasingly important. A high political priority is being given to publicizing the policies and programs in this area, and this is reflected in a diversity of recent activities.

One example is the United Nations Social Protection Floor Initiative launched in 2009 in response to the global economic crisis. Its purpose is to promote "strategies that protect a minimum level of access to essential services and income security for all."

The Millennium Development Goals Summit outcome document, adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2010, indicates that "social protection systems that address and reduce inequality and social exclusion are essential for protecting the gains towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals."

In the academic world, social protection has become a priority topic in public-policy analysis for developing countries. One study published in 2008 by the University of Manchester, England, Social Protection for the Poor and the Poorest: Concepts, Policies, and Politics, states that "social protection constitutes an effective response to poverty and vulnerability in developing countries."

Regionally, the Heads of State and Government of the Americas who met at the Fifth Summit of the Americas (Trinidad and Tobago, April 2009) committed to exchanging information about policies, experiences, programs, and best practices, in order to strengthen efforts to reduce inequality and social disparities and to halve extreme poverty by 2015. In order to facilitate this exchange, they supported the creation of an Inter-American Social Protection Network (IASPN).

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"This is one of the most important initiatives of our Fifth Summit of the Americas," said OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza at the New York event launching the IASPN on September 22, 2009.

In the same ceremony, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the IASPN "will help facilitate our efforts to share best practices to try to determine how we help lift up the people of our hemisphere."

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To make sure that the IASPN responds to the mandate of the Fifth Summit, it is necessary to examine some of the regional characteristics, lessons, and challenges that are emerging from the significant increase in South-South cooperation in the area of social protection.

One such point of evaluation occurred in July 2010 in Brasilia in a seminar analyzing the current state of social policy and international cooperation. The seminar was sponsored jointly by the OAS, Brazil's Minister of Social Development and Hunger Alleviation (MDS), and the Brazilian Agency for Cooperation (ABC), and provided an opportunity for Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico to share their experiences. The OAS also shared its experiences of coordinating various inter-American networks. …

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