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South-South Cooperation for Strengthening Health Systems in Developing Countries

Author(s): S. Islam*1, H. S. Jooseery2, M. Ly1
Affiliation(s): 1Programme Officer, 2Executive Director, Partners in Population and Development, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Keywords: South-South cooperation, PPD, health systems, collaboration, health workforce, developing countries

With changes in the global political environment and the development of a new economic order ushered by the growing forces of globalization, and the recognition of substantial progress in some developing countries, it was becoming apparent that there is potential for cooperation among countries with common socioeconomic and political background. South-South Cooperation became the guiding force and was recognized as one of the key route to attain success in the Health Sector. Countries with greater commonalities reinforced their cooperation ties and worked synergistically. South-South Cooperation is an excellent example of the way developing countries can help each other to accomplish much more than they can individually achieve. Achievements and lessons from one country can eliminate the need of trial and another, thereby reducing costs and enhancing efficiency. In a scenario where resources – whether financial or technical - are really scarce, such collaborative efforts can unlock potential resources. The essence of South-South Collaboration is that developing countries are not poor, and the wealth of knowledge and expertise that they possess can marvel and sprinkle extraordinary energy that can reshape their own destiny.


South-South Cooperation in the areas of Health and other population related activities is based on two premises. One, that a number of developing countries have in the last several decades acquired considerable expertise and experience in the design and implementation of highly successful and effective health programmes. Two, that the sharing of this expertise and experience among developing countries will enrich and strengthen the entire health policies and programmes. South-South Cooperation encourages long-term bi-lateral and multi-lateral relationships which permit implementation of a mix of modalities for deriving optimal benefit from such cooperation.


South-South Cooperation is increasingly seen as an innovative, cost-effective and result oriented modality for transfer or exchange among developing countries of relevant knowledge and experience in the field of Health. Through Networking it provides a useful database of the range of expertise and resources available in the health system. South-South collaboration can strengthen through the launching of inter-country projects, training and fellowship activities and research and documentation involving member as well as non-member states in the region. Regional Health Networks are launched and exchanges of expertise carried out in the form of policy dialogue, training and joint projects in many countries. Best practices and lessons learned can be easily replicated in another country of the south following a southern model rather than from the developed countries. This allows developing a cadre of national and regional health experts dealing with their own problems and assisting countries with similar problems.

Lessons learned:

It is here that a common voice is needed to push collaboration mechanisms that are aligned with members’ needs. A review of how technical cooperation is conducted would need to be looked at, as well as the political will of stakeholders to promote Health Systems in general. The majority of health interventions planned by countries are usually implemented within their borders; South-South Cooperation has thus possibilities of complications about ownership, management, and even regarding funding. This is a challenge, especially for developing countries, as they possess no easy means of collaborating with their neighbours to create joint projects on Health. To achieve stronger results in the countries we serve, we must strengthen the link between national, regional and global levels, paying due attentions to sub-regions and work together as one team.

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