EU-LAC Triangular Cooperation: characterization and main trends

In 2021 almost two thirds of Ibero-American triangular initiatives were with the EU or its member states.

In recent years, Triangular Cooperation (TC) has received increasing attention from the international community. The European Union (EU) and its member states were no exception to this trend. An example of this is the European Commission’s (EC) Adelante Program, a pioneer in this area that is now in its second edition, and the project An innovative Triangular Cooperation for a new development agenda, which the EC carried out together with SEGIB and that has, among other things, developed research studies that shed light on the potential of this modality to address certain development problems.

In addition, Latin-America and the Caribbean (LAC) is the region in which TC has been most dynamic, both from the point of view of the implementation of concrete initiatives as in terms of political and technical reflection (Olivié and Santillán, 2022).

The first graph shows the evolution of TC initiatives involving countries in Europe and Latin-America and the Caribbean (LAC), according to data available in SIDICSS. In this sense, a growth stage can be identified – especially related to an increase in the number of projects – reaching 108 initiatives in 2017; as well as a phase when exchanges decline, between 2017 and 2021. This second period, however, is characterized by a greater strength in terms of the instruments (almost all initiatives are projects and not specific actions), which is also an indicator of the consolidation of bi-regional TC.

The same graph also portrays the evolution of EU-LAC initiatives’ share in the total number of triangular initiatives in Ibero-America. Until 2015, when the 2030 Agenda was adopted, this proportion remained between 25% and 35% approximately. However, since 2015, the growth trend was sustained reaching its maximum in 2021: 64.8%. This is an indicator of the importance the bi-regional relationship has to develop this modality and the potential Triangular Cooperation has to strengthen this partnership.

Graph 1. Evolution of EU-LAC Triangular Cooperation projects and actions and its percentage overall Triangular Cooperation in Ibero-America. 2007-2021 (*)

In units and percentage over the total

(*) EU-LAC initiatives are those in which at least one European Union member country, or the European Commission as such, and at least one country of Latin-America and the Caribbean participates.
Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates-General for Cooperation.

In addition, the second graph confirms Environment has been the sector most strengthened by bi-regional TC between 2015 and 2021, as it accounts for one fifth of the initiatives. Strengthening institutions and public policies and Other services and social policies followed, with approximately 10% each.

Graph 2. Sectoral distribution of EU-LAC Triangular Cooperation projects under execution between 2015 and 2021

In percentage

Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates-General for Cooperation.

Apart from the above, if the analysis focuses on the sectoral evolution of EU-LAC Triangular Cooperation and compares it with that of Ibero-America as a whole, in the same period (see the third of the graphs), it is possible to identify some differences. For example, although only 5% of EU-LAC triangular initiatives between 2015 and 2021 corresponded to Energy, this sector was increasing very steadily during the period and increased from 0% in 2015 to 10.2% in 2021. While this growth occurred in all Ibero-American TC, it was much more evident in the EU-LAC bi-regional TC, reaching an absolute difference of 3% in 2021.

Graph 3. Evolution of Triangular Cooperation projects in EU-LAC and in Ibero-America, by selected sectors. 2015-2021

In percentage

Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates-General for Cooperation.

The evolution of EU-LAC TC in Environment is very similar to that of Ibero-America as a whole, but bi-regional TC is, on average, 6% higher in absolute terms in all the years that were analyzed. The behavior of Agriculture and livestock is completely opposite: while this sector, together with Environment, has been the one with the greatest relative importance in Ibero-American TC in recent years, its share in EU-LAC triangular initiatives is, on average, 7 percentage points lower.

This analysis suggests a common interest of the EU and its members in TC and issues that are key to sustainable development at a global level, such as environment care and clean energy production, in addition to institutional strengthening and social cohesion.

September 2023


Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates-General for Cooperation, SIDICSS (2022) and Olivié and Santillán (2022).