The Network of Southern Think Tanks (NeST) was established on the sidelines of the first high-level meeting (HLM) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) in Mexico in April 2014, and as a follow-up to the Conference of Southern Providers held in Delhi in April 2013. The network has committed itself to ‘generating, systematising, consolidating and sharing knowledge on South−South co-operation (SSC) approaches to international development’. A collaborative initiative for the South by the South, NeST is primarily a think tank and academic forum that provides policy inputs into the arena of SSC. NeST welcomes inputs from a diversity of Southern stakeholders, through the open engagement of governments, civil society organisations (CSOs), private sector institutions and various Southern practitioners, to contribute towards creating a unified understanding and framework for debates around SSC.
Though present for decades as one of the elements of international development cooperation, South-South Cooperation (SSC) has been growing in prominence due to a rise in both quantum as well as diversity in approaches and delivery of new forms of development partnerships.
This has largely occurred over the last decade against a background of declining aid flows from North-South Cooperation, due to the global financial crises, and efforts by traditional donors to share global development responsibilities with the new emerging economies. While Northern donors have pushed for the inclusion of new development partners in the DAC-led systems, this has been met with resistance by the Southern partners who do not wish to conform to the current global regimes, which they did not create and which they feel inappropriate for their specific types of cooperation.
There is nevertheless growing consensus among partners that SSC is often poorly understood and many knowledge and evidence gaps exist in this arena. This often stems from SSC’s data limitations and weak information management systems. Demands for accountability and more impactful development programming are also increasingly coming from citizens, tax-payers and civil society of emerging economies, as well as from the mutual benefitting sides of South-South Cooperation. While the narrative of North-South cooperation has evolved for 50 years, South-South Cooperation needs a platform for the exchange and systematization of knowledge and the development of a common narrative among South-South partners. Knowledge endogenously generated in the South can assist in the consolidation of a stronger common position among Southern partners at the various global policy fora that would allow the South to interact more effectively with the dominant OECD-DAC discourse.
Following the consensus reached on many of these issues at the High Level Conference of Southern Providers in Delhi (March 2013) and the establishment of the subsequent Core Group on South-South Cooperation within the UNDCF (June, 2013), the Network of Southern Think-Tanks (NeST) was thus established on the fringes of the 1st High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation in Mexico (April, 2014).
The purpose of NeST is to provide a global platform for Southern Think-Tanks to collaboratively generate, systematize, consolidate and share knowledge on South-South Cooperation (SSC) approaches in international development.