Building site in Bogota, Colombia

Triangular cooperation New forms of cooperation

Countries such as Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa, which are part of the group referred to as emerging economies, are increasingly getting involved in development cooperation. They are now in a position to support other developing countries by offering expertise, funding and staff. Their increased aid activities are facilitating a new form of development cooperation: triangular cooperation.

In most cases, an industrialised country – a traditional donor and member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) – joins forces with an emerging economy (Southern donor) and a third country (recipient country) with a view to carrying out joint activities. This form of cooperation results in a particularly intense international knowledge transfer and promotes joint learning for all three partners. In engaging in such cooperation, Germany is also pursuing the goal of further enhancing the effectiveness of development projects.

Triangular cooperation aims to provide a framework in which partners work together as equals, jointly developing solutions for global development challenges. Triangular cooperation also offers opportunities to develop a common understanding of development policy and to discuss standards, criteria and values.

Triangular projects can now be found in all regions of the world, and in a broad range of sectors – for instance water, agriculture, sustainable economic development, the environment, education and good governance.

Germany's approach

There is no internationally agreed definition of triangular cooperation. Germany's involvement in this type of development cooperation works as follows: Germany, as a traditional donor, works with an emerging economy that acts as a second donor. Together, they mobilise knowledge, experience and funding to jointly support a developing country (the recipient). All countries with which Germany engages in development cooperation can be triangular cooperation recipients.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) attaches importance to all three partners being involved in planning, implementing and financing the project. Germany wants to be more than just the provider of funds or contacts; we want to be actively involved in designing the projects. The focus is on mutual learning. Each partner should bring their specific expertise and skills to the table.

In order to prevent conflicts and ensure that funds are used efficiently, the interests of each partner need to be defined in detail before any further steps are taken. Triangular cooperation projects, just like all other BMZ development projects, should be exactly tailored to the needs and development goals of the recipient country. Ownership of the projects must also be certain.

So far, almost all the BMZ's triangular cooperation projects have been carried out within the framework of Technical Cooperation. In principle, though, projects involving Financial cooperation can also be considered.

There are also other forms of cooperation, which Germany uses when cooperating with new donors who are not part of the OECD-DAC, or with private actors such as foundations. They include, for instance, regional cooperation arrangements or programme-based approaches. However, these arrangements fall outside the BMZ's narrow definition of triangular cooperation.

International cooperation

Triangular cooperation arrangements and development cooperation between individual developing countries (South-South cooperation) have been receiving greater international attention since the fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (2011 in Busan, South Korea). The final document of the Busan conference stresses the importance of these new forms of cooperation.

A number of fora and networks under the auspices of the United Nations and the OECD are dealing with this topic. They include, for instance, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and the UN Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), which is attached to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) and meets every two years.