Seminar on South-South Cooperation and the TUCA Cooperation meeting

Two seminars were held in Florianapolis (Brazil) between the 27-30 August where USO-Sotermun was represented by brother Santiago González. One of the seminars on Triangular and South-South Cooperation was organised by the ITUC Trade Union Development Cooperation Network (TUDCN). The other was a Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) meeting on Cooperation.

In addition to the TUCDN members with trade unions from the South occupying a significant presence, such as COSATU (South Africa), KSBSI (Indonesia) and unions from East Timor, Korea and the Republic of Congo, the first seminar brought together a large delegation of TUCA affiliated trade unions, Toni Tuján, spokesperson for civil society and trade unions that had taken part in various High Level Conferences on Cooperation, the most recent of which took place in Busan in 2011.
After reviewing the current situation, the participants discussed the different ways of shaping cooperation architecture and the conclusion was reached that the South-South cooperation practices were not all best practices that corrected the errors of North-South cooperation. On the contrary, in the case of China’s supposed cooperation, a straightforward exchange was passed off as cooperation i.e. cash for resources and raw materials from the receiving country was given in exchange for the building of infrastructure which did not even employ local workers, there was no transfer of technology and did not even use local suppliers.

This led to the rejection of a purely semantic distinction in cooperation, i.e. between North-South or South-South in favour of a distinction between fair and just cooperation and an intervention based on dependency and hand-outs. In any event, we have a better understanding of why in the Busan Conference mentioned previously; China and other countries forced the inclusion in the final declaration of the “voluntary” nature of the Paris, Accra and Busan principles in relation to South-South cooperation. They had identified some North-South practices as harmful and also so that they would not have to categorise their “cooperation” in any way. This along with the inclusion of profit-making private companies as development actors compromised a qualitative improvement of the declaration on cooperation.

The debate on South-South cooperation is above all an opportunity to highlight the mistakes but also the successes of North-South cooperation so that the new countries that join as cooperation donors such as Brazil, South Africa etc. have recourse to the best practices and so that the traditional countries can improve their practices.
The Seminar also examined and identified the criteria for governmental cooperation and what measures should be taken to achieve this by trade unions as development actors in close collaboration with social movements. The cooperation framework should always be based on human rights, the ILO standards and should also call for participation and social audits.

There was a specific discussion on cooperation between trade unions and the trade union influence on governmental cooperation policies and its coherence with trade and technological instruments etc. Trade union cooperation has already been defined in the TUDCN principles as, autonomy, democratic ownership, transparency, accountability, coherence, inclusiveness and equality and sustainability. The objective of cooperation between trade unions is to mainstream decent work with an emphasis on solidarity and transversality at all times.
Furthermore, a discussion took place on the financial instruments, which is even more pertinent in the light of the reduction of funds coming from the traditional donor countries in the OECD and Spain in Latin America in particular. It was a question of broadening the possibilities of obtaining funds through international calls for proposals (from the EU) or revising the allocation of funding between the ILO projects using Convention 94 on insolvency proceedings or in the UNDP UNDP The United Nations Development Programme is the UN’s global development network. It helps the countries to find solutions to development challenges and to achieve human development and the MDGs. . Emphasis was also placed on valuing the trade union role as development actors in those countries that are new to cooperation and also the synergies obtained from pooling resources in North-South-South triangular projects that lead to experience sharing and cost savings. Finally, there was a discussion on improving trade union self-financing on both sides for increased autonomy.

During the second meeting, the TUCA Secretariat presented a Draft Action Plan based on the 19 resolutions adopted during their last Congress. It was a genuinely ambitious plan, presented by a cohesive team who presented the challenges that they will face in the coming years in the different development areas such as sustainable development, decent work and trade union freedom, peace, democracy, participation and human rights, trade union self-reform and unity and development and strengthening of the institutions.
This project will be debated at the Executive Bureau and will be accompanied by on-going monitoring with the affiliates and a request to all governments from Canada to Chile to improve the taxation policy so that the countries’ taxation systems help to redistribute wealth and provide public services that ensure universal access to health and education, driving forces for sustainable development.

The meeting closed with details of a visit by a delegation composed of members of the Secretariat to EU countries where meetings are scheduled with ETUC affiliates. The discussions will range from the next steps for the inclusion of social clauses in Trade Agreements to a full discussion on development.

Article by USO. Originally posted on September 5th 2012 on the website of USO.