Welcome to the South-South Global Thinkers e-discussion on "Personnel Exchange as a Cooperation Model for South-South & Triangular Cooperation", jointly organized by the Norwegian Agency for Exchange Cooperation (Norec) and United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC). The e-discussion will be moderated by Mr. Helge Espe, Senior Advisor from Norec and facilitated by Mr. Zanofer Ismalebbe, Chief, Knowledge Management (zanofer.ismalebbe@unossc.org) and Ms. Naveeda Nazir (naveeda.nazir@unossc.org) from UNOSSC.  The e-discussion is open from 07 November to 12 December 2022. You can use the google translate function (from the main menu bar above) to switch languages. Contributions are also welcomed in Spanish and French.

We look forward to your contributions and active engagement!


Background:  

Knowledge exchange has become the most important and dynamic pillar of South-South and triangular cooperation.  It has gained prominence among developing countries that are increasingly recognizing that the good practices generated from the Global South have been cost-effective and easily adaptable. Exchanges of Southern expertise and knowledge offer viable pathways to address common challenges among developing countries and to accelerate progress in the achievement of the SDGs. 

The BAPA+40 Outcome document called for the enhancement of South-South and triangular cooperation through peer learning, sharing knowledge and experiences in the attainment of sustainable development and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, South-South and triangular learning and cooperation have been and are of critical significance.  It has played a catalytic role by providing opportunities for peer learning among the global South to share their policy experiences and innovative solutions to recover and build forward better.

As such, it is well established that sharing of relevant competence amongst countries, development actors and international networks is essential for the successful implementation of these agendas.

Norec’s main mandate is to facilitate and finance the international exchange of personnel for a period of one year within a framework of institutional cooperation, with the purpose of learning and sharing competence in a reciprocal fashion. The NOREC model of exchange of personnel relates to three levels: (i) the individual level, i.e. the people going on exchange, (ii) the institutional level, i.e. the organizations administering the sending, hosting and return of individuals; and (iii) the community level and wider society in which the exchange is embedded at home and abroad. This three-level distinction is a useful point of departure for analyzing how change may happen through the Norec model. The participants broaden their professional horizons, deepen their cultural understanding and develop as responsible citizens. Partner organizations benefit from new ideas, benefit from stronger international networks and build better products, while the home community receives fresh impulses upon the return of the participants. Norec’s approaches are built on the exchange of employees or volunteers between organizations that have worked together to set individual goals. Partnerships are organized such that the exchanges produce mutual learning.

UNOSSC works to promote, coordinate and support South-South and triangular cooperation globally and within the United Nations system. Jointly supported by UNOSSC and UNDP, the South-South Global Thinkers initiative: a Global Coalition of Think Tanks Networks brings together over 250 think tanks from the South (with some from the North) and has been instrumental in bringing fresh perspectives on the various aspects of exchange cooperation. Furthermore,  UNOSSC also manages the South-South Galaxy, combining knowledge sharing and partnership brokering through a database of Good Practices and organizations.

As a long-standing partner of UNOSSC, Norec would like to leverage this community of practice and engage with think tanks so that its programmes, activities and other initiatives can be informed by evidence-based research. UNOSSC is uniquely positioned to utilize this vast network of competent professional resources to put such research into practice, especially through its secretariat function of the South-South Global Thinkers.

Launch of the e-discussion:

Given the context above, Norec and UNOSSC would like to launch an e-discussion, seeking insights and perspectives from the think tanks on various aspects of personnel exchange cooperation model and practices (success stories and lessons learned) from the Global South, including that relevant to Norec, as a key triangular cooperation partner working on exchange cooperation. The e-discussion s in line with the “Human and institutional capacity development” was highlighted as one of the research priority areas identified by the Global Thinkers Steering Committee.

International development cooperation can be improved by mutual exchanges. Such exchanges can lead to new perspectives, knowledge, and skills, enabling people, businesses, and local communities to develop and grow. There is still a need to begin building or strengthening human and institutional capacities within and across countries to complement national development plans.

The exchange of personnel in development cooperation allows for an intensive exchange of knowledge and skills that promote effective and sustainable development. In addition to North-South projects, the exchange of personnel also supports South-North and South-South dialogue and exchanges. In addition to supporting development activities in the South, the exchange of personnel in development cooperation also affects societies in the North.

Following are a few guiding questions for the e-discussion:

Broad Guiding Questions:

  • What is the relevance of personnel exchange for achieving the development cooperation agendas and priorities?
  • How will Covid19 and the growth of virtual meetings and learning arenas impact on personnel exchange in the years to come? How the digital platform on SSC such as South-South Galaxy can be utilized to complement/ contribute to personnel exchange.
  • It is well realized that in addition to the explicit focus on technical knowledge, international personnel exchange has aspects of indirect learning, whereby those being hosted gain insight and often sympathy with social, political and cultural aspects of the host country. What is the Global South perspective on this form of “public diplomacy”?

Some specific questions include:

  • How can Norec’s model be further utilized and possibly refined as tools to initiate and strengthen sharing of competence through personnel exchange?
  • In Norec’s model of reciprocity it is essential that knowledge flows in multiple ways (i.e. improving technical skills, learning of languages and sharing of information on economic, social and political conditions/challenges of the countries involved among the few) and that all actors at the table have something to share and contribute. Is this really happening, or is the concept not as equal as we think?

Comments (2)

Helge Espe
Helge Espe Moderator

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the South-South Global Thinkers’ e-discussion on personnel exchange in South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTrC). I am Helge Espe of the Norwegian Agency for Exchange Cooperation (Norec), your co-moderator for the discussion. I look forward to a rich discussion with a diversity of viewpoints and new ideas. And ultimately, I hope for good research proposals and further analysis of this mode of cooperation, and suggestions for improvement.

Since 2019, the BAPA+40 outcome document has been the key reference for promotion of South-South and Triangular Cooperation. The document identifies personnel exchange as an important component for upgrading and communicating relevant knowledge. Norec’s mandate of facilitating exchange of personnel within the framework of institutional cooperation, where experts and stakeholders share their knowledge and experiences, has been well placed to play a role in this. Personnel exchange can be seen as a supplement to financial, technical, trade and other forms of development cooperation, of course it doesn’t replace these other forms.

For over a decade, Norec has had a close working relationship with the UNOSSC. We have been present at all the GSSD Expos organized. Our partnership has proven great for Norec to organize side-events, participate in policy dialogues, get updates on research, and for forging new relationships.

Why would an agency from Norway be interested in research on SSTrC? The background is that we have been financing and facilitating international personnel exchange over the last 20 years. Cooperating public institutions, corporates and civil society organisations have formed networks and exchanged employees, usually over a period of one year at a time. As for South-south exchange, it is completely mainstreamed into Norec’s programmatic framework. Out of 6-700 participants on exchange each year, roughly 1/3 are Norwegians going south, 1/3 are south participants going to Norway, and 1/3 are south-south participants.

To work together is no doubt a great way of mutual learning, skill development and transfer of knowledge between institutions. Too often in development cooperation, knowledge is seen as a package which can be transported from country A to B, so to speak. One makes a clear distinction between the holder of knowledge and the recipient.

To the contrary, in Norec we believe it is paramount to recognize that all parties bring knowledge to the table. We can both be teachers and learners at the same time. In our Norwegian language, to teach and to learn is in fact the same word, maybe for a good reason. In development cooperation, to recognize the resources and abilities of the “recipient” can be paramount to achieve sustainable results.

In our experience, there can be other aspects of meeting face to face and work together than pure technical learning. There can also be “soft” aspects like is the creation of confidence between the partners, the development of solidarity, the mutual cultural learning and public diplomacy aspects: We may understand countries better when they are represented by people you get to know personally through work.

The beauty of Agenda 2030 is that it is equally valid in all countries. It is not an agenda for traditional Global north-to-south development cooperation only. In order to reach the SDGs, Norway as a traditional donor country needs knowledge, insights and suggestions from the Global south as much as vice versa. We hope through this exercise that we will get new perspectives from the Global Thinkers Network that will help us to improve and develop our model of cooperation. Admittedly, there have been only a few reports launched by us with researchers from the south, and we would like to balance that.

In this e-discussion, we aim to raise the interest among the Global Thinkers membership in research on the features and roles of personnel exchange in south-south and triangular cooperation. We look forward to your insights, thoughts and opinions on this, and to receive your research proposals. Let’s hear from you!

Best regards,

Helge

JorgeP
JorgeP

Dear moderators and colleagues, thanks for the invitation, here my initial contribution to this e-discussion

  • What is the relevance of personnel exchange for achieving the development cooperation agendas and priorities?

I consider that personnel exchange is a very valuable asset/ strategy to acvhieve particular cooperation goals. It has been part of the tradition of development cooperation, and by its nature, a very common tool in south-south cooperation and projects. The fact that is based in local resources (human local resources), that use to work for government, civil society or academia, provides a low cost for this actions. Most of the time the key expense has to do with travel and accommodation, but since most of them use to have a fix salary on their own countries, this facilitate expenses, beyond travel allowance, that in some cases are expenses that can be shared or offered by the recipient or partner country/institution.

  • How will Covid19 and the growth of virtual meetings and learning arenas impact on personnel exchange in the years to come?
  • How the digital platform on SSC such as South-South Galaxy can be utilized to complement/ contribute to personnel exchange.

Among the changes imposed by the recent pandemic, we can see the proliferation of virtual meetings and learning. Certainly is a good alternative with many advantages, among them: a good tool to reduce some costs on the cooperation projects (travel, accommodation, travel allowance, etc), it can reach a broader audience, it can be recorded and used many times if needed, it can be used in a very frequent way, among others. However it may have some disadvantages as well, that may be considered, for instance: it would not replace any way the in-person meetings, depending the topic or issue the in-person activity cannot be replaced by a virtual meeting. No matter what, digitalisation and the expansion of virtual work will be used more frequently. Finally to improve the offer of data availability on SSC & TC through the platform as it has been done with knowledge sharing (publications, calls, projects, etc).

Regarding the SSGalaxy platform it can be a reference point to strength knowledge sharing, knowledge exchange, improve peer learning and facilitate the exchange of good practices. At the same time it can keep some of their current functions, around knowledge and partnerships.

  • It is well realized that in addition to the explicit focus on technical knowledge, international personnel exchange has aspects of indirect learning, whereby those being hosted gain insight and often sympathy with social, political and cultural aspects of the host country. What is the Global South perspective on this form of “public diplomacy”?

As i mentinoned before, personnel exchange has been a key part of the SSC identity, reinforcing not only cooperation among countries, but solidarity, cultural bounds, exchange, knowledge, friendship, and eventually common solutions, common agendas or common contributions. In that regard, every tool, action, program or project that can facilitate or reinforce exchange personnel will be valuable, positive and welcome to keep advancing on development goals, contributing to some principles of aid effectiveness such as Ownership, Alingment, or Harmonization, as some principles close to south, such as mutual benefits, knowledge over financial aid, reciprocity, or efficiency on resources.

  • How can Norec’s model be further utilized and possibly refined as tools to initiate and strengthen sharing of competence through personnel exchange?

I think one big challenge of the current agenda, has to do with the improvement of multiactor, multisector  and multilevel partnerships, so considering its experience, NOREC`s model can facilitate this sort of partnerships in concert contexts and projects, initially in triangular cooperation, and supporting SSC in other cases. For instance, supporting on the development of protocols of exchange personnel considering the previous sets of possible partnerships, helping to make them more successful on the implementation process, on the accountability and on the result phase. Show how digitalisation and IT can contribute to facilitate such alliances and exchanges.

  • In Norec’s model of reciprocity it is essential that knowledge flows in multiple ways (i.e. improving technical skills, learning of languages and sharing of information on economic, social and political conditions/challenges of the countries involved among the few) and that all actors at the table have something to share and contribute. Is this really happening, or is the concept not as equal as we think?

May be is happening in some particular case, but I think still there's a need to disseminate more such tools as NOREC´s model. As I mentioned above there are still many challenges on how to bring and engage different actores as is demanded buy the current 2030 Agenda. And one of the main challenges has to do with the coordination of different actors and how can be shown the benefits for all. At the same time the model can contribute to show how different actors learn and share knowledge, and how to improve knowledge sharing and innovation


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