Agustín García-López, executive director of the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation. Photo by: International Transport Forum / CC BY-NC-ND

WASHINGTON — Lack of coordination between Latin American development agencies and the Organization of American States, which has a development secretariat, is preventing the region from reaching its full potential on development cooperation, the Mexican development chief said.

Weak lines of communication between the regional bloc and national agencies such as AMEXCID — the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation — inhibits OAS’s ability to effectively tackle similar development challenges facing the region, said AMEXCID Executive Director Agustín García-López.

But García-López is hoping this is changing: He recently chaired a high-level OAS dialogue on development cooperation and disaster resilience at OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

He said more coordination is particularly useful in the region because it has both kinds of cooperation: North-south — the ability to work with the United States and Canada — and south-south — the ability to work among developing countries. This provides a lot of opportunities for knowledge sharing, García-López said.

He recently sat down with Devex, at OAS headquarters during the high-level dialogue, to discuss the body’s efforts to better coordinate development activity in the region and how the Mexican agency brings its particular expertise to south-south cooperation.

The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Why is OAS a useful forum for development?

What the director-general for OAS wanted, is to have a forum where we are aware of what OAS does on cooperation, and that OAS is aware of what we do so that we don’t have duplications — OAS has a fund that deals with cooperation projects.

Up to now, you would have all these cooperation projects decided within the institution and with the missions. So, us, the cooperation agency, were not involved. There’s no real link with what’s going on at the national level at our agencies.

What do you hope comes from this dialogue?

We can have more of a hemispheric vision of what we’ll do; of course, it’s very ambitious to think that we can create that. We are aligning all processes of cooperation to be more effective on the money that we’re spending. We are a region that doesn’t have a lot of money, so that is why it is very important that you see the benefits of the meeting.

It would be great to have more substance in terms of what we do in the hemisphere. In this continent we have both, we have north-south and south-south cooperation, which you don’t have in Africa — that’s why it’s so rich.

What expertise does AMEXCID bring to that south-south cooperation?

We have dual capacity, meaning that we still receive cooperation in addition to giving it. In particular in Latin America, it’s a very interesting continent because you have the very traditional north-south cooperation, which is what we have with the U.S. and Canada, and we have a very, very developed network of south-south cooperation. I like to call it more horizontal cooperation. It teaches us that cooperation is a solidarity chain. It’s quite useful to the other countries to know all the experiences that Mexico has, and how we have been dealing with how we prioritize.

Greater Latin American development cooperation comes as the world looks toward 2030. How is AMEXCID looking at the challenge of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals in the region?

With the Millennium Development Goals, you put the developing countries in one basket and the developed in another basket and you created a murky middle-income basket. But it just didn’t work to categorize countries like that.

Many of the developed countries suddenly had problems that used to be developing countries — such as pockets of poverty in very rich countries. So what happens with 2030, is that it is conceptually and practically a great way of looking at these issues because it puts all these development issues as issues for the whole of humanity, for every single country.

For the 2030 goals and parameters, the countries themselves chose how to deal with these. Where are the ones where you are lagging behind? Where are the ones that you can use to help other countries because you have the best practices? That gives you a framework that changes the way that we think about development and the way we think about cooperation.

About the author

  • Teresa Welsh

    Teresa Welsh has reported from more than 10 countries and is currently based in Washington, D.C. Her coverage focuses on Latin America; U.S. foreign assistance policy; fragile states; food systems and nutrition; and refugees and migration. Prior to joining Devex, Teresa worked at McClatchy's Washington Bureau and covered foreign affairs for U.S. News and World Report. She was a reporter in Colombia, where she previously lived teaching English. Teresa earned bachelor of arts degrees in journalism and Latin American studies from the University of Wisconsin.