Since the end of the Second World War, under the leadership of Western countries, foreign aid has gradually changed from a single country’s motion to a global and complex issue. However, the nominal “altruism” and “bundling aid” practices of the traditional Western aid countries have made foreign aid have not been rid of the “Trojan horse” style of the recipient countries.
In the 1970s, poverty reduction became a core issue of foreign aid, driven by the World Bank and the International Labor Organization. Since then, reducing global poverty and narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor has become the ethical and moral basis for Western countries to provide foreign aid. The discourse of foreign aid has gradually changed from a charitable act to a moral responsibility of developed countries to help less developed countries. After the 1990s, development cooperation gradually replaced foreign aid and became an important part of contemporary international relations. Development assistance provided by Western traditional donor countries to the countries of the South, especially in the areas of poverty reduction and health development, is still accepted and recognized by recipient countries.
However, this long-standing dual structure of “aid countries – aided countries” has been greatly challenged in the past decade. On the one hand, it is difficult to get rid of the institutional characteristics of colonialism and Western centralism; on the other hand, the discussion of aid effectiveness by the international community since the mid-1990s has also increased doubts and reflections on traditional aid methods. More importantly, the global economic downturn in recent years has eroded the sustainability of development in various countries, leading to a sharp cut in the official development assistance budget. Both the donor country and the aided country have experienced aid fatigue.
Corresponding to this is the rise of the South in the past decade, and the importance of South-South cooperation is increasing. The amount of official development assistance provided by emerging economies has also increased significantly. More importantly, the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit advocated by South-South cooperation, and the best practices shared based on their own development experience have continually impacted the long-established international development structure and played a role in reshaping the international development pattern. The more obvious the role, the role of South-South development cooperation gradually shifts from the edge to the center.
While continuously learning the practice of South-South cooperation, Western society is also updating its development aid discourse and mechanism, trying to integrate South-South development cooperation into their leading development assistance system and consolidating their knowledge and ethical hegemony in the field of international development cooperation. But the awakening of knowledge in the South has made this effort extremely difficult. The southern countries have created favorable conditions for building a new type of South-South development cooperation and building a new international development ethic. The South has also made efforts to this end. For example, China’s idea of building a community of human destiny is a transcendence of the “North-South” dual architecture theory.
In this context, the countries of the South need to seize the historical opportunity to make a concerted voice in the development of knowledge and discourse in South-South development cooperation, and make efforts to create a new type of South-South development cooperation and build a new international development ethic:
I. Emphasize the differences and diversity between countries and highlight the comparative advantages of South-South development cooperation. It is not mandatory for developing partner countries to design their own development goals and policies according to other countries’ models. Instead, it emphasizes the advantages and characteristics of partner countries and their independent choices for development models. It is a natural equality between the South-South development partners and the recipient countries. The important manifestation of sex has a huge institutional advantage over the single model long-term dominated by Western countries. This must be adhered to in the construction of a new South-South development partnership.
Second, emphasize the similarity and relevance of development experiences between the countries of the South. Similar historical encounters and development stages have determined the development experience between the countries of the South for more reference. The countries of the South can selectively and individually share their own successful experiences in one area. For example, countries that have suffered from conflicts can share their post-conflict development experiences with countries that are still suffering from war or are facing reconstruction.
Third, unlike the moral responsibility advocated by North-South cooperation, South-South development cooperation should be based on new pragmatism. Different from the environment in which Western developed countries began to provide foreign aid, many of the partner countries that provide assistance now face domestic development challenges, and partner countries receiving assistance are increasingly demanding less dependence on aid and autonomy. Therefore, in the long run, the new South-South development cooperation must promote the mutual complementarity and common development of both sides, which is crucial to promoting the sustainability of South-South development cooperation.
Fourth, advocate the mutual learning between South-South partners, learn from policies and practical experience, and lay the foundation for the legitimacy of South-South development cooperation. Unlike the North-South cooperation, which has a series of complete institutional systems, the new South-South development cooperation started late, and there is not enough experience and institutional support for both the provider and the recipient. For a long period of time, partner countries need to learn from each other and continue to explore in order to find cooperation points that are in line with the interests of both parties and improve the effectiveness of development cooperation.
In short, tapping the endogenous dynamics of the southern countries and promoting global sustainable development and multilateralism should be an important ethical basis for South-South development cooperation. The new South-South development cooperation knowledge discourse system based on this will make a significant and meaningful contribution to the creation of a new international development framework and the promotion of regional and global development at the practical level.