In practice

Triangular co-operation in German development co-operation

Key messages

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and specifically SDG17, calls for global development partnerships. For Germany, triangular co-operation – development projects that are jointly planned, financed and implemented by three or more partners – is a key example of the new strategic partnerships needed. Dedicated financial and institutional resources have helped the country become one of the largest partners of triangular co-operation worldwide.

KeywordsPartner countries, Partnerships

Key partnerGermany

Last updated26 September 2022

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To achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Germany sees a need for the international community to work in new forms of strategic partnership. It views triangular co-operation as a key example of such partnerships, linking South-South and North-South co-operation and fostering mutual understanding and learning. As part of its ambition to step up strategic co-operation with global partners, Germany has increased the role and value of triangular co-operation in its co-operation portfolio.


For Germany, triangular co-operation means a development project that is jointly planned, financed and implemented by three (or more) partners: a beneficiary, a pivotal partner and a facilitating partner. These three roles may change over the lifetime of a project and Germany views its role as that of a learning partner, too.

Figure 1. Three roles in triangular co-operation

Source: Triangular cooperation in German development cooperation, BMZ

Building on a dedicated position paper for triangular co-operation adopted in 2013 and updated in 2022, Germany combines a broad approach with dedicated financial and institutional resources to:


Germany has become one of the largest partners of triangular co-operation worldwide and regularly captures and communicates the results of its projects, which include:

  • Increased resources for development: co-funding requirements help to achieve this, at the same time as strengthening ownership and buy-in from all partners. The fund in Latin America regularly receives more applications than it can fund; by 2022 it had agreed more than 100 projects. In 2021 Germany set up a fund for Asia and agreed to step up triangular activities in the Middle East and North Africa with the Islamic Development Bank in 2022.

  • Solutions which are adapted to different contexts and better reflect socio-cultural norms through the role of the pivotal partner. For example, in a joint project by Indonesia and Germany to strengthen women’s economic empowerment in Afghanistan, the cultural proximity between Afghan women’s group and their Indonesian peers contributed to the success of the project.

  • Strengthened development co-operation structures. Partnership with Indonesia-AID and the AMEXCID in Mexico led to the creation of the Guidelines for Multi-Stakeholder-Partnerships in Indonesia.

  • Cost savings and new business relations for the private sector. For example, triangular co-operation on energy efficiency between El Salvador, Mexico and Germany allowed enterprises in El Salvador to achieve cost savings they themselves estimated at about USD 5 million.

  • New ways to respond to crises, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Jordan, a joint triangular co-operation project with the Islamic Development Bank, supports local mask production by transferring technology from Singapore, training staff and certifying products.

  • Finding new solutions to complex problems: bringing together partners who usually don’t work with each other can be a powerful way of working that encourages innovation.

  • Mutual learning: the horizontal nature of triangular co-operation means that all partners contribute, and all partners learn.

Lessons learnt

Building on its substantial experience and the findings from the portfolio evaluation, Germany issued a position paper on triangular co-operation in 2022. Key lessons and ideas for the way forward include:

  • Link triangular co-operation more closely to the bilateral portfolio: Bringing in different partner perspectives, triangular co-operation can play a catalytic or complementary role. Ideally, triangular partnerships should be considered as an option in all development co-operation endeavours.

  • Plan and monitor for all objectives of triangular co-operation: Indicators need to also track the mutual learning and partnership effects, as distinctive features of triangular co-operation.

  • Communicate benefits: The approach needs to become better known among practitioners and policy makers. Germany intends to raise awareness of the political-strategic opportunities and to demonstrate how perceived transaction costs at the beginning are in fact a necessary investment in partnerships which can last beyond single projects, and which harmonise development partner practices.

  • Create incentives for triangular co-operation: Germany aims to increase the volume of interventions, without giving up the principle that all partners must make significant contributions.

  • Use triangular co-operation for Germany's financial co-operation: The participation of regional development banks offers opportunities in this regard.

  • Strengthen the potential for mutual learning: Insights from triangular co-operation can feed into wider networks and exchanges on global challenges such as climate change or disease control.

  • Enabling medium- and long-term effects remains a challenge. Most triangular co-operation projects are stand-alone, shorter-term and small-scale, making it more challenging for them to contribute to change beyond the end of the project.

Further information

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (2022), Triangular cooperation in German development cooperation, Position paper, BMZ Strategy Paper 1,

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (2021), Shaping the future together – strategic cooperation with global partners, BMZ Positions: BMZ Paper 3,

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (2020), Comments from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development on the DEval Evaluation Report „Trilateral cooperation in German development cooperation“, Dreickskooperation englisch (neu).pdf.

German Institute for Development Evaluation (2020), Trilateral Cooperation in German Development Co-operation,

Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) (2022), Regional Fund for Triangular Cooperation with Partners in Latin America and the Caribbean,

Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) (2022), Fund for Triangular Cooperation with Asia,

Gestion para el Desarrollo Humano (2018), Regional Fund for Triangular Cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean: External evaluation of seven projects supported by the Regional Fund (in Portuguese),

Global Partnership Initiative on Effective Triangular Co-operation (2019), Triangular Co-operation in the Era of the 2030 Agenda: Sharing Evidence and Stories from the Field,

OECD resources

OECD (2021), OECD Development Co-operation Peer Reviews: Germany 2021,

OECD (2019), "Enabling effective triangular co-operation", OECD Development Policy Papers, No. 23,

OECD, Triangular co-operation,

OECD, Triangular co-operation repository of projects (database),

To learn more about Germany’s development co-operation see:

OECD, "Germany", in Development Co-operation Profiles,