The aim of this ACMECS Human Resource Development (HRD) case study is to explore synergies between South‐South cooperation (SSC) and the aid effectiveness agenda through the mandate of the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA). Specifically, the study aims to examine critical success factors (CSFs) and failure factors, so as to reveal and record good practices and success stories for future replication; and failures, which will highlight problems and obstacles to be prevented and solved in future. Informants represent project policy makers, implementers, and beneficiaries from the Thailand International Development Cooperation Agency (TICA), other relevant agencies, and ACMECS countries. Secondary documents and primary data from a workshop as well as individual and focus group interviews are triangulated to validate the findings.
The ACMECS HRD programme aims to bridge the economic disparities within and among member countries, namely Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam. Such disparities include the uneven level of development and uneven distribution of the benefits of development, the persistence of poverty, especially in rural areas, unequal access to social, health and educational services and gender inequality, and problems related to environmental degradation. TICA has been designated as a core agency for Human Resource Development to enhance capacity of the personnel and institutions in the member countries of ACMECS and prepare them for global competitiveness. In adapting aid effectiveness principles, the programme is proved effective because it corresponds to the needs and the commonly shared development framework according to the eight priority development areas of Trade and Investment Facilitation, Agricultural Cooperation, Industrial and Energy Cooperation, Transport
Linkages, Tourism Cooperation, Human Resource Development, Public Health, and Environmental Cooperation among the participating countries. The mechanism designed to ensure such support at the policy level is the ACMECS Summit and Ministerial Meeting. Close coordination among the ACMECS countries is also encouraged through each sector working group to discuss and update implementation progress.
Ownership and mutual accountability is ensured by the mechanism to enhance strong commitment of participating country leaders through meetings at policy level and the signing of the Summit Declaration, which signifies common benefits, significant outcomes, reviews and progress, common needs of ACMECS countries and future directions for implementation. At the sectoral working group meetings, the mechanism to enhance effective cooperation is the set up of the coordinating country on a voluntary basis to discuss and update implementation progress. Involvement of other actors is promoted through the ACMECS Business Council.
The sense of ownership also increases through participatory learning and problem‐solving processes. The challenge, however, is effective information management. ACMECS still needs a systematic measure or an agreed performance assessment tool with key performance indicators to follow up the results. Sound results‐based management should be designed and implemented to show the scope, relevance, and impact of the programme.
The ACMECS HRD programme also acts as a catalyst to enrich the aid effectiveness agenda by involving Southern champions, knowledge exchange and mutual learning. The comparative advantage of South‐ South activity as reflected in the ACMECS HRD programme is the shared need for the same development framework leading to narrower gaps in social and economic development and common development issues. The horizontal cooperation relationship is further strengthened through peer learning and joint working processes. ACMECS HRD programme knowledge exchange seems to be more cost‐effective and more adapted to human resources than traditional technical cooperation. The role of champions also increases incentives for policy and institutional reforms. The main difficulty, however, is the effective implementation of knowledge gained in the local context of the participating countries.
In the ACMECS HRD programme, complementarities between South‐South and North‐South cooperation are formulated by triangular cooperation. Though triangular cooperation among ACMECS participating countries is time consuming and faces difficulties in management and coordination among partners, it has a great potential for horizontal partnership and win‐win‐win situations. The strengths of ACMECS HRD triangular cooperation are lower transaction costs, technical know‐how from the development partners, complementarity of technology transfer, and wider networking.