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Triangular cooperation Pursuing new forms of cooperation

Global challenges require joint efforts The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development therefore calls for more international partnerships and, with SDG17, has specifically created a separate goal for such partnerships. Triangular cooperation can contribute to achieving this goal.

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Cover: Triangular cooperation in German development cooperation

Triangular cooperation in German development cooperation

File type PDF | Date of status 03/2022 | File size 1 MB, Pages 20 Pages

Triangular cooperation means a development project that is jointly planned, financed and implemented by three partners:

  1. a beneficiary developing country, which has requested support to tackle a specific development challenge;
  2. a pivotal partner, which has relevant domestic experience of addressing the issue and shares its financial resources and knowledge; and
  3. a facilitating partner, which may help connect the other partners, and supports the partnership financially and/or with technical expertise.

The Global Partnership Initiative on Effective Triangular Co-operation (External link) (GPI) applies the same definition. Pivotal and facilitating partners may be either industrialised or developing countries.


Win-win-win situation

The roles in triangular cooperation are not set in stone; each of the partners involved may be the beneficiary, knowledge bearer or facilitator.

The partners develop their roles dynamically in the course of their cooperation. In doing so, they generate added value compared to bilateral cooperation: all sides learn, share their experience and knowledge, and take on responsibility. Ideally, this will create a win-win-win situation.

For instance when it comes to protecting coral reefs: In a trilateral cooperation project with Costa Rica and Germany aimed at protecting coral reefs, the Dominican Republic was able to benefit from Costa Rica's experience with financing mechanisms for coastal protection. Costa Rica and Germany, in their turn, found the Dominican approach of breeding corals and later placing them in the sea very interesting.

In another triangular cooperation project, Honduras took up this idea together with Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

Triangular cooperation has a proven impact at the project level, but also and above all at the partnership level. Jointly implementing a project offers ideal conditions for learning with regard to many practical questions concerning the coordination of development cooperation.

Possible partners

Possible partners for triangular cooperation (apart from the responsible agencies of the countries involved) include line ministries and specialised organisations, local and regional authorities, organisations from the private sector, civil society, and academia, multilateral and regional organisations, and private charitable organisations such as foundations.

This means that there is a considerable number of possible actors, and the number of countries involved need not necessarily be limited to three.

Germany's approach

The BMZ strengthens joint action by donors. This also includes triangular cooperation, which Germany uses in its development cooperation to contribute to

  • building global strategic partnerships for sustainable development, and
  • improving the effectiveness of development measures in recipient countries.

Germany views its role as that of a learning partner, too, and intends to further strengthen that aspect in the future. Engaging in trilateral cooperation is an opportunity for Germany to enhance its political and strategic credibility and legitimacy and to help make development more participatory, sustainable and effective.

At the international level, Germany participates in various multilateral forums on triangular cooperation, in particular at the United Nations (UN), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Global Partnership Initiative on Effective Triangular Co-operation (GPI) and the Ibero-American Program for Strengthening South-South Cooperation run by the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB).

Practical examples

Germany is one of the largest bilateral donors in the field of triangular cooperation. It has now been involved in more than 150 projects, through which it has helped to launch many development processes and achieve tangible results.

Training course for cashew processing by Brazilian experts in Ghana

Ghana | Brazil | Germany More efficient cashew production in Ghana

In Ghana, under a triangular cooperation project with Brazil and Germany, high yielding and better quality cashew varieties were introduced, as were more efficient cashew processing methods. In this way, the income of Ghanaian farmers could be increased and their food security improved.

As the project entailed the planting of trees, it also made a contribution to climate protection and created new work opportunities.

Measuring instruments in a wooden box

Mozambique | Brazil | Germany Improved quality infra­structure in Mozambique

In order to improve the quality infrastructure in Mozambique, the country’s National Institute for Standardization and Quality (INNOQ) was supported under a trilateral cooperation project with Brazil and Germany. The cooperation focused on strengthening the institute through advice and training, provided by experts of the National Institute of Metrology, Quality and Technology (INMETRO) in Brazil.

The measures were financed by the Brazilian development agency Agência Brasileira de Cooperação (ABC) and the BMZ.

Seamstress in the textile factory of the Desta Garment company in Addis Ababa, which produces for a German retail chain, Ethiopia, 2.12.2019

Ethiopia | Germany | China Higher standards for the Ethiopian textile industry

In 2019, 60 per cent of all new foreign direct investment in Ethiopia came from China, with a large part going into the textile industry. A joint Ethiopian-Chinese-German triangular cooperation effort was launched in this sector to improve the environmental, social and labour standards in the Ethiopian textile industry, through capacity development and awareness-raising among Chinese investors and factory managers and their local business partners.

In addition to Ethiopia's and China's textile industry federations, another important partner in this endeavour is the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The experience from this triangular cooperation is to benefit in other countries of Africa and Asia, too.

Central wholesale market in Mexico City

Mexico | Guatemala | Honduras | Germany Better access to the Mexican market for suppliers from Central America

From 2015 to 2019, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Germany jointly provided support to small and medium-sized companies in Central America that supply Mexican food retailers. The virtual platform ANTAD.biz (External link), which was set up by the association of Mexican retailers, has given more than 500 partner companies easier access to the Mexican market.

The companies committed to compliance with environmental standards and were able to improve their position within the value chain. The platform also provides companies with an opportunity to exchange experience, learn from each other and develop common solutions to improve the competitiveness of the retail sector. A new business model with a focus on economic, environmental and social sustainability is emerging.