Ibero-American South-South and Triangular Cooperation on Culture

Culture is recognized for its important contribution to individual and social transformation.

Culture has a key role to broaden the scope of social, economic and environmental policies (SEGIB, 2021a, p. 128). Although no specific Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) is dedicated to Culture, the 2030 Agenda does include an explicit reference in SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities) and a cross-cutting recognition to it as a means to “leave no one behind”.

Ibero-American countries are contributing to strengthen Culture in the region through South-South Cooperation (SSC) and Triangular Cooperation (TC). Between 2007 and 2022, 688 initiatives were implemented: 336 actions, 330 projects and 22 programs, representing around 7% of the total cooperation that was carried out during that period. Regarding the modalities under which these initiatives were developed, almost 90% corresponded to Bilateral SSC (609), while the remaining 10% were executed through Regional Programs (46) and Triangular Cooperation (33).

Graph 1 shows the evolution of the initiatives that were specifically related to Culture, by cooperation modality and their share overall Ibero-American cooperation. The graph confirms the clear prevalence of Bilateral SSC over Triangular and Regional initiatives over time. It also shows a steady growth in cooperation to strengthen Culture: specifically, from 2007 to 2022, this sector’s participation almost doubled from 4.5% to 8.5%. This trend has remained constant throughout the entire period, with the exception of the biennium of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Graph 1. Evolution of SSC initiatives on Culture, by modality. 2007-2022.

In units and percentage.

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

Graph 2. enables a more detailed analysis on the topics these initiatives addressed: almost 30% of Bilateral SSC initiatives on Culture correspond to actions, projects or programs related to Historical and cultural heritage, through which the enormous tangible and intangible heritage of the region is safeguarded and protected.

Graph 2. Thematic categories addressed by Ibero-American Bilateral SSC initiatives on Culture.

In units.

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

Initiatives related to Heritage are followed by those on Cultural diplomacy, which represent almost 22% of all Bilateral SSC in this sector. Cultural diplomacy is understood as an instrument to promote intercultural dialogue and to strengthen relations between countries. It should be pointed out that this significant amount of initiatives is the result of actions in the framework of Escuelas Chile and Escuelas México. This category also includes initiatives to teach Spanish to public officials.

Initiatives on Cultural and creative industries (around 18%), which address various topics such as arts, crafts, music, cultural tourism and intellectual property, rank third. These are followed by cooperation on Interculturality, which shows how culture contributes to a greater recognition of the rights and identity of Indigenous Peoples, with emphasis on the promotion of linguistic diversity, the philosophy of “living well” (“buen vivir” in Spanish), and racial equity.

It is also important to highlight those initiatives related to the transforming power of Culture for social change and for the reduction of gaps and inequality. This is the case of those grouped in the Community culture category (ranking fifth), which include, for example, the strengthening of community libraries, youth choirs and orchestras, the promotion of protective environments for children, and the use of art to prevent violence and foster coexistence.

Cooperation on Cultural education is closely related to the above. This mainly focuses on promoting specific training, the teaching of Spanish and/or Portuguese, the training of teachers in cultural management, the institutional strengthening of cultural government institutions, and training in librarianship, among others. Finally, initiatives seeking to contribute to the consolidation or strengthening of satellite accounts for culture, the optimization of legislation in this area, and decentralization processes, were grouped in the Cultural planning and management category.

Graph 3 shows the Ibero-American countries that were most active in Bilateral SSC on Culture. Colombia stands out for its cooperation to improve museums, for its support in the implementation of cultural satellite accounts, the strengthening of youth choir and orchestra systems, and for its bilingualism programs with countries in the Caribbean Basin. Its exchanges with countries that have indigenous populations such as Peru, Bolivia or Guatemala, for the defense and protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, should also be highlighted.

Graph 3. Distribution of Bilateral SSC initiatives on Culture, by country. 2007-2022.

In units.

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

Mexico, in turn, focused much of its Bilateral SSC on the conservation of Cultural heritage (tangible and intangible), specifically on the protection of indigenous languages and cultures, on the assessment of the impact of archaeological sites declared as world heritage, and the restoration of murals. It also played a major role in Cultural diplomacy, almost entirely through Escuelas México, directly contributing to the improvement of higher education in several countries of the region.

The work carried out through Escuelas Chile was very representative for this country’s cooperation, as well as its support for the transformation of school libraries in Costa Rica, the exchange of experiences on memory museums, the recovery of national monuments, and the application of the intercultural approach to support indigenous communities.

Argentina and El Salvador also stood out in terms of Bilateral SSC in this sector. The former mainly acted as provider in different areas such as the application of its Geographic Information System (SIG by its Spanish acronym) for the management of historical and cultural heritage, the strengthening of memory museums, in archeology and forensic anthropology, cinematography, dance, and in design and innovation for the camelid textile industry.

On the other hand, El Salvador was able to increase its capacities by participating in Escuelas Chile and Escuelas México, and its youth choir and orchestra systems were also strengthened. Ibero-American partners also supported this Central-American country in the training of cultural managers, in community-based rural tourism in conflict zones, the development and marketing of new handcraft products, and in training in patents and intellectual property.

Finally, regarding the contribution of Ibero-American initiatives on Culture to the 2030 Agenda, and as expected, 1 out of 3 Bilateral SSC projects were aligned with SDG 11 (Sustainable cities and communities). Likewise, more than 28% were aligned with SDG 4 (Quality education) and SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), the latter mainly associated with Cultural and creative industries.

June 2024


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

Photos: Ibero-American initiatives that strengthen Culture in the region “Ibermemoria sonora y audiovisual”, “Iberorquestas” and “Ibercocinas”. Image bank on South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Ibero-America. SEGIB-PIFCSS 2021.