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A meeting of ‘Sherpas’ (representatives) of IBSA countries, a group comprising of India, Brazil, and South Africa, took place in Kochi, Kerala. This was a follow-up to the 9th IBSA Trilateral Ministerial Commission Meeting that took place in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Session in September, 2018. IBSA is a unique Forum which brings together India, Brazil and South Africa which are large democracies and major economies from three different continents. These countries face similar challenges. They are developing, pluralistic, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious nations. IBSA which was launched at their Foreign Ministers meeting in Brasilia in June 2003 celebrated its 15th Anniversary last year.
IBSA is a South-South grouping of like-minded countries, committed to inclusive sustainable development, in pursuit of well-being of their peoples and of the developing world. The principles, norms and values underpinning the IBSA Dialogue Forum are participatory democracy, respect for human rights, the Rule of Law and strengthening of multilateralism. IBSA Cooperation involves Government-to-Government (G2G) consultation and coordination on global issues of common concern; trilateral collaboration on concrete areas/projects for the common benefit of three countries; and assisting other developing countries by taking up projects in the latter through IBSA Fund. IBSA’s success clearly demonstrates the desirability and feasibility of South-South cooperation beyond the conventional areas of exchange of experts and training.
So far five IBSA Leadership Summits have been held. The 5th IBSA Summit was held in Pretoria in October 2011. The 6th IBSA Summit is to be hosted by India. The 6th Summit has been delayed because of non-availability of mutually convenient dates of leaders of the three countries. Importance of organizing the sixth Summit in the very near future has been recognized and accepted by all the leaders and moves are afoot to convene the next Summit soon after the end of the election cycle in the 3 countries. It should be noted that meetings at Ministerial and operational level have been taking place regularly to promote cooperation between the three countries and expand their outreach through joint programmes and activities.One of the flagship projects launched by the three countries in 2004 is the IBSA Fund for Alleviation of Poverty and Hunger. This is a unique initiative through which development projects are executed in developing countries. Till date, IBSA has supported 31 projects in 20 partner developing countries in areas of safe drinking water, agriculture and livestock, solar energy, waste management, health etc., with the aim of contributing to achievement of the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs).
The IBSA Fund has been the recipient of several key recognitions including the UN South-South Partnership Award in 2006 (for projects in Haiti and Guinea-Bissau), an MDG Award for South-South Cooperation in 2010 and the South-South Champions Award in 2012 recognizing the work of the three countries in using innovative approaches to share development experiences in other parts of the world. Another significant element of IBSA trilateral cooperation is the joint naval exercise IBSAMAR (IBSA Maritime Exercise) in the area of defence. Six editions of IBSAMAR have been held so far, the latest one being off the coast of South Africa in October, 2018.
The Sherpas meeting in Kochi took stock of recent activities and discussed ways to strengthen cooperation, particularly in areas of tourism and South-South partnership. The Sherpas also reviewed the functioning of the Joint Working Groups. They appreciated the various events organized during last one year to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of IBSA and expressed happiness that the first Gandhi-Mandela Memorial Freedom Lecture was delivered by President of South Africa in January, 2019 in New Delhi. The meeting between Sherpas of the three countries provided a further impetus to the growing collaboration between the IBSA member states.
Script: Amb. Ashok Sajjanhar, Former Indian Diplomat & President, Institute of Global Studies