Equitable Partnerships through Triangular Cooperation

International development cooperation modalities and dynamic forces are evolving. New partners and partnership are emerging, and the shared challenge of realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is causing stakeholders to re-envision how they work together.  

In this context, the Global Partnership Initiative (GPI) on Effective Triangular Cooperation has developed a contemporary and more inclusive definition of Triangular Cooperationmoving from a focus on state actors to a contemporary understanding that includes new development actors and changing working methods. Triangular cooperation consists of three roles:  

a) A beneficiary partner:

the target of the development results to be achieved through the triangular cooperation project



 b) A pivotal partner:

has proven experience and shares its resources, knowledge and expertise, and


 c) A facilitating partner:  

helps connect beneficiary and pivotal partners to form a partnership and provides financial and/or technical support

Partners may include governments as well as international and multilateral organizations, civil society, the private sector, academia and others. Depending on the type of project, there may be more than one actor for each of the three partner roles and partners may change roles over the life cycle of a project. Inclusive partnerships, including those that support the lives of the poorest, most vulnerable and those living in fragile states, constitute the basis of triangular cooperation and are essential to leaving no one behind.    

Triangular cooperation arises from the combination of South-South and North-South cooperation, which creates partnerships for common development goals. As a result, triangular cooperation implies a multi-stakeholder approach and provides comparative advantages, as all partners involved bring forward their knowledge and expertise and trigger innovation, which in turn leads to mutual benefits.

In many cases, support in tackling a development challenge is solicited by either of the three partners. The facilitator helps connect the pivotal partner to the beneficiary partner, while supporting the collaboration financially and technically, and the pivotal partner provides expertise and other resources required.


Visit Global Partnership Initiative (GPI)’s video for a brief overview of triangular cooperation!


In order to visualize triangular cooperation, one can think of the process as:

“A high-income country or Northern partner (facilitator), partnering with an emerging or middle-income country or Southern partner (pivotal) to assist a low-income or developing country (beneficiary) in tackling a specific development challenge.”
 What is the Global Partnership Initiative on Triangular Co-operation? Effective Development Co-operation 

Canada and triangular cooperation  

Cooperation Canada partnered with Global Affairs Canada to understand how Canadian civil society organizations are engaging in triangular cooperation. Over late 2019 and early 2020, Cooperation Canada worked to raise awareness among Canadian CSOs about the new definition of triangular cooperation, identified and documented related civil society experiences and consulted Canadian CSOs on key enabling factors for engaging in effective triangular cooperation. The initiative culminated in a synthesis report of key findings and a set of 16 short, 2-3 page profiles for each project examined under the initiative.