South-South Champions: Ángela Ospina de Nicholls, Director General, Colombian Presidential Agency for International Cooperation (APC-Colombia)
“South-South cooperation (SSC) is fundamental to the work of APC-Colombia. Institutionally, over two-thirds of our agenda is concentrated on SSC activities with dozens of countries around the world, and it is the raison d’etre of our Cooperation and International Assistance Fund.” (Angela Ospina, 2021)
How is South-South cooperation important to your work? Are there South-South cooperation projects that you are particularly proud of?
South-South cooperation (SSC) is fundamental to the work of APC-Colombia. Institutionally, over two-thirds of our agenda is concentrated on SSC activities with dozens of countries around the world, and it is the raison d’etre of our Cooperation and International Assistance Fund. At a human level, it fosters networks of professionals who work and grow together, and it is very satisfying to witness the long term impacts of this work. Perhaps a project that embodies this is an exchange between forensic genetics laboratories, where Colombia learned from Argentina over three bilateral projects in 6 years, and currently both countries are receiving training on equal footing from European partners in a triangular project with support from the European Union.
What do you believe is its value in achieving Agenda 2030?
A defining characteristic of the 2030 Agenda is its focus on partnerships, which says a lot about the importance of pooling resources. Many people in the Global South face problems accessing goods and services at a national scale, and this is due to a myriad of causes – infrastructual, political and economic. Yet these problems are often the local manifestations of global phenomena, which means that other countries have developed home-grown solutions that can be adapted and replicated. Sharing knowledge is shortening the learning curve to achieve the SDGs.
Can you share your perspectives on how we can better facilitate this (SSC) modality? How can UNOSSC facilitate your Office’s work to help scale up South-South cooperation?
SSC requires continuous improvement in methodologies for managing knowledge. This poses tasks that can be contradictory: we need to be detailed in our documentation, yet engaging in our communication; we need to keep track of many parties in each project yet have insight into how outside factors can help or hinder progress.
We need to keep projects going amid staff and government turnovers, and amid unforeseen circumstances such as COVID-19.
This all requires documentation, training and monitoring. What’s the value of a good idea that’s not recorded and replicated? Or if it’s recorded but sits on a shelf in an office, forgotten?
The relative stability of the UN system (when compared to electoral cycles everywhere) makes it a good partner for strengthening capacities for cohorts of people, yet allowing for context-specific decision-making that can only come from accountable officials.
Any future plans you would like to share?
We are excited to be working with the UNOSSC to put these ideas to the test with our knowledge hub of South-South cooperation. We hope to provide a living resource of applied knowledge promoting online courses, collaborative tools and communities of practice.
Mrs. Ospina has a degree in Philosophy from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, with a graduate degree in Pedagogy of Values and Ethics from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and in Resource Management and International Cooperation at the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University.
She has extensive experience in the public sector, with a strong performance as Presidential Advisor of Special Programs, she has served as Advisor to the Ministry of Interior and Justice, of the Colombian Rural Development Institute INCODER and chaired the Inter-Agency Committee to combat human trafficking for three years.
As co-Founder and Director of the Thinking Center for Human Trafficking, she ensured the creation of violence prevention strategies and restitution of rights of vulnerable groups, highlighting the need to strengthen civil society organizations and positioning the matter on the public agenda of the Country.
Before taking office at APC-Colombia, Mrs. Ospina served as Director of the foundation Mariano Ospina Perez. In this role, she was recognized for promoting analysis on national issues, to identify solutions through initiatives and projects in various fields of special interest for national development.