South-South and Triangular Cooperation and Indigenous Peoples

An opportunity to advance towards global public goods.

Latin-America is the continent that has the largest indigenous population and heterogeneity on the planet (25.8 million in 2018), with more than 800 peoples. Indigenous peoples have a wide diversity of territorial and demographic realities and socio-political status. However, there is something that binds them together: as well as people of African descent and people with disabilities, the indigenous population has significantly lower indicators of socio-economic well-being than the general averages of the rest of the population. This situation has been aggravated by the health and socio-economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which accentuated the long-standing political and economic exclusion of these peoples.

According to the Ibero-American Integrated Data System on South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SIDICSS by its Spanish acronym), the number of Triangular Cooperation initiatives aimed at improving the living conditions and the effective exercise of the rights of these populations is strikingly low. The research South-South and Triangular Cooperation and Indigenous Peoples carried out in the framework of the SEGIB and the European Union project An Innovative Triangular Cooperation for the new Development Agenda, confirms the above.

Only 1.2% of the initiatives registered in SIDICSS are associated with triangular initiatives for and with indigenous peoples. This figure corresponds to 96 of the 7,967 initiatives registered between 2000 and 2019. Furthermore, no indigenous institution is listed among the entities responsible for managing these Triangular Cooperation initiatives.

In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognized Triangular Cooperation as an instrument to advance a comprehensive and multidimensional development. The capacity of this cooperation modality to provide innovation and more flexible structures that facilitate partnerships and tailored responses for local realities, make it a very valuable instrument for indigenous peoples to become both active objects and subjects of development processes which focus on people and the planet, thus fulfilling the mandate to leave no one behind.

Cooperation efforts to come to agreements to address issues of common interest are challenged by the great and complex diversity of indigenous peoples, stakeholders, policy frameworks and political processes. However, this same diversity also implies accumulated knowledge and a wide range of perspectives that can provide answers to the main challenges of our time, which are set in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For example, it is worth stressing the relevant role played by indigenous peoples in the protection of water resources and biodiversity of the Amazon Basin, as well as in monitoring hurricanes and storms and managing their impacts on the population living in affected areas.

The research also reveals the evident lack of specific resources dedicated to enforce rights which are already widely recognized in countries’ constitutions and laws. South-South and Triangular Cooperation for and with indigenous peoples can become significant instruments to bridge the existing gap between the recognition of these rights and their actual systematic violation.

Related to the above, and in line with the conclusions of the report, South-South and Triangular Cooperation for and with indigenous peoples will not be able to reach their full potential if there is no recognition of the right of indigenous peoples and communities to: 1) define and pursue their development priorities; 2) represent themselves and have a role in the political-technical dialogues in which decisions on South-South and Triangular Cooperation for and with them are made; and 3) provide or withhold their consent to the exchange of knowledge over which they have rights. Finally, it is essential to consider that cooperation efforts should be based on recognizing their importance in the protection of common interests.

March 2022


Source: Zúñiga, G. (2022). South-South and Triangular Cooperation and Indigenous Peoples. Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB). Madrid.

Photograph: Azzedine Rouichi in Unsplash