The South Working for the South: The India-Brazil-South Africa Fund

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by Jorge Chediek and Bernardo Kliksberg


In a joint report, FAO, WFP, FDA and WHO reveal that the number of hungry people in the world rose to 815 million this year, the highest number of people experiencing hunger in the past 15 years. Ending hunger and malnutrition, from 2015 to 2030, is the second of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. The first is to end poverty.

SOUTH-SOUTH cooperation that complements North-South cooperation is advancing by the day, implementing projects and concrete solutions. A model of just how concrete and effective its contributions can be is the IBSA Fund, created by India, Brazil and South Africa, with the cooperation of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), and which opened its doors in 2006.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres states: “The IBSA Fund shows how developing countries can work together to eradicate poverty and build a more peaceful and sustainable world for all. As countries intensify their efforts to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, South-South cooperation is a strong asset for exchanging knowledge, transferring technology and sharing development solutions.”

The IBSA Fund is headed by three of the developing world’s leading countries—India, Brazil and South Africa—through their ambassadors to the UN, and it is managed by UNOSSC. It has produced 27 projects, providing US$33 million in contributions and directly benefitting 15 countries, among them some of the world’s poorest. Some of the countries receiving assistance from the Fund are Haiti, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan, Timor-Leste, Comoros and Fiji. Almost two thirds of the resources were invested in least-developed countries, while the remaining third were received by other developing countries. Africa heads the list of regions receiving 32% of IBSA’s contributions, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (24%), Arab countries (21.1%), and Asia (22.1%).

All funds were allocated to projects linked to SDGs, frequently several of them. The impacts have been very tangible, including, among others, these:

  • Some 39,000 reproductive health encounters per year in Burundi.
  • 180,000 people gained access to improved solid waste management in Guyana.
  • 12,000 now have safe water in Cabo Verde.
  • 25 villages are using solar energy in Guinea-Bissau.
  • The creation of 4,500 labor-intensive jobs in Sudan.
  • Greater crop diversity and improved yields for 1,400 Comoros farmers.
  • Improved employability of 1,000 youth in Cambodia.
  • 163 subsistence farmers have greater resilience and food security in Timor-Leste.


In all cases, the projects were aimed, together with their specific targets, to building local capacity.

To show how the IBSA Fund works, let’s look at some cases. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has a population of 11.2 million, with a per capita income of US$1,200. In 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake devastated the country, killing 300,000 people and leaving 1.5 million homeless. It has a large population of unemployed, marginalized youth.

IBSA trained 400 vulnerable young people in vocational activities that can give them access to the labor market, labor certifications and connections to jobs, including in business, carpentry, construction, environment and sports. Brazil’s National Service for Industrial Training provided technical support to the project and brought Haitian technicians to learn about the Brazilian experience. In another project, 400 young people were trained in waste management in a high-crime community. Public health and the environment improved and crime dropped.

Cabo Verde, with a population of 536,000 and a per capita income of US$4,000, suffers from a systemic lack of safe water. The IBSA project built a desalinization plant, which now provides safe water to 13,500 people, greatly improving public health. It did not compromise the existing water supply because it added new sources from desalinization of seawater.

Guyana, with a population of 746,000 and a per capita income of US$7,500, has serious waste management problems. IBSA helped 180,000 residents by providing 3 municipalities and 15 councils with garbage compactor trucks and mini-excavators, distributing 2,000 trash cans in schools, and carrying out a mass education campaign. It taught the entire community how to use the new system, with a direct impact on public health.

IBSA helped Sierra Leone, one of Africa’s poorest nations, with 7.3 million inhabitants and a per capita income of US$800, on a strategic issue—capacity-building for senior government officials. The project worked with the Office of the President, his cabinet and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to modernize social structures and policies. Among other aspects, the president and his cabinet traveled to Ghana and India to observe local experiences.

The projects completed thus far have been evaluated very positively and their goals were met to a high degree. Within the overarching goal of addressing poverty, the scenarios were varied, but there was a common thread—the environment of respect for the recipient countries that characterizes all of IBSA’s work.

Behind the intense and fruitful South-South work that was rolled out, a guiding principle has been articulated by H.E. Mr. Adonia Ayebare, Ambassador of Uganda to the United Nations and President of the most recent session of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation: “South-South cooperation is about human solidarity in addressing challenges that are too big for any one country in the global South to deal with singlehandedly; and when India, Brazil and South Africa joined efforts to establish the IBSA Fund, they have embraced human solidarity.” Funds such as IBSA are good news for humanity.


Jorge Chediek is director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation

Bernardo Kliksberg is strategic adviser to the Director of UNOSSC