An initiative promoted by PIFCSS which focused on capacity building for the management of the pandemic and the mitigation of its impacts.
In August 2020, the Ibero-American Program for the Strengthening of South-South Cooperation (PIFCSS by its Spanish acronym) invited its 21 member countries to participate in the Partners facing COVID-19 call for proposals, which aim was to support initiatives in response to the challenges of the emergency context caused by the pandemic. This call was launched in the framework of one of the most significant instruments developed by the region to achieve the strategic objective of strengthening institutional capacities of the institutions in charge of South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Ibero-America: the Structured Mechanism for the Exchange of Experiences of South-South Cooperation (MECSS by its Spanish acronym) (SEGIB, 2022). In this way, the PIFCSS, together with the countries, adapted the traditional MECSS to provide a concrete response to the pandemic, based on these specific objectives:
• Strengthen the management of South-South and Triangular Cooperation through the exchange of knowledge/experiences between PIFCSS’ member institutions and other institutions which are part of national cooperation systems.
• Strengthen Ibero-American governments’ capacities to respond to the emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Address the different needs of key stakeholders involved in South-South Cooperation management in Ibero-America, in a context where working mechanisms and countries’ cooperation agendas are being redefined.
Partners facing COVID-19 considered initiatives proposed by institutions responsible for international cooperation, sectoral institutions and/or subnational/local governments, to address the impacts of the pandemic in the health, social policy, education, employment, and science and technology areas, among others.
Interested parties were invited to submit one proposal per country (not exceeding USD 10,000) or in collaboration with others (with an additional 50% budget). In addition to submitting projects and/or specific actions, countries were also allowed to hire experts to provide technical assistance and/or to support the design or implementation of diagnoses, studies, strategies, applied research and/or projects in different areas. This mechanism also included the possibility of purchasing specific goods or services to support the strengthening of development processes or project implementation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic (for example, specific supplies, software licenses, publications, among others). Finally, Partners facing COVID-19 included short-term academic training for government officials (2020-2021 Annual Report, PIFCSS, P.14).
Given the exceptional nature of the context and temporary travel restrictions, one of the most distinguishing features of this mechanism was the possibility to submit a proposal without the need to invite other partners for its implementation (PIFCSS, 2022).
Since 2020, PIFCSS has launched 4 specific calls of this special mechanism and 38 proposals in different thematic areas have been financed in this framework. In addition to stressing the importance of conceiving and materializing shared solutions —specifically based on regional efforts and capacities— in the face of crises which have an impact on development, Partners facing COVID-19 accounted for South-South and Triangular Cooperation’s flexibility and its capacity to adapt to unexpected scenarios, while proving to be an effective mechanism for capacity building, as proposed in SDG 17 Partnerships for the goals.