The Caribbean has the second highest HIV prevalence rate among adult population in the world, behind Sub-Saharan Africa. In April 2006, the Government of Brazil signed a 5-year Technical Cooperation Agreement with CARICOM/PANCAP to provide technical support in the thematic areas of provision of commodities, institutional strengthening, technical capacity development, youth empowerment and strengthening civil society organizations. The goal of the Agreement was to reduce the spread and mitigate the impact of the AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean.
The evidence indicates that tangible gains have accrued to the Caribbean particularly in the areas of provision of commodities, institutional strengthening and technical capacity development. Benefits were much less realized in the areas of youth empowerment and strengthening civil society organizations primarily due to financial constraints. Additionally, Brazil reported a deepening of cross-cultural awareness and development of new perspectives that would enrich future technical support to the Caribbean and other jurisdictions.
The unique multi-country and multi-agency character of the South-South Cooperation (SSC) Activity demanded a number of innovative approaches to implementation. The nesting of the Activity within the established regional framework of CARICOM/PANCAP, the creation of an oversight body with wide stakeholder participation, the clear articulation of roles and responsibilities among implementing partners and the appointment of focal points at institutional and country levels were all pivotal to the success of the Agreement.
The results of the initiative reinforced many of the established principles of effective South-South Cooperation while some new insights emerged. The synergy to be gained from several countries and institutions working together around shared goals and common priorities, as well as the importance of the receiving partner assuming critical ownership were strongly reinforced. At the same time, strengthening public policies on HIV/AIDS from the apex of the political directorate in the Caribbean and Brazil proved to be both catalytic and sustaining to the SSC activity. Already, concrete measures have been taken to institutionalize the gains and to expand the framework for knowledge exchange and mutual learning between the Caribbean and Brazil.
The SSC activity experienced challenges due to a fragile design methodology. Baselines were not established and a results framework to measure developmentally sensitive outcomes was not well articulated. Further, the cost of implementation was not carefully determined and precise commitments were not extracted from contributing financial partners. This resulted in a truncation of many critical activities which proved debilitating to the process and crippled the participation of civil society organizations which were most affected by the shortfall.
Overall, the process highlighted key lessons in the design, ownership, knowledge exchange and mutual learning that may contribute to the global discourse on South-South Cooperation.