Inspiring Sustainable Development with Bamboo – INBAR (2017)




The International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) is a unique multilateral international organization. It is the only intergovernmental organization that focuses on bamboo and rattan – two groups of plants that grow naturally in the tropical belt, though bamboo grows in some sub-tropical areas too. It is also a network because it represents 43 countries of which 42 are from the global South. INBAR has evolved from the International Development Research Centre’s (IDRC) Bamboo and Rattan Research Network in Asia that dates back to 1984. Thus, INBAR always was, and still remains, a network for South-South cooperation.

The knowledge about bamboo, its propagation, its management, its products and applications, are with one or another INBAR member State. The role of the Secretariat is to help facilitate exchange of this knowledge. In most projects, whether national, bilateral or multilateral, which are in one or more countries in the South, experts may come from another INBAR member State. This is true for INBAR staff as well, most of whom are from the South.

This is the raison d’étre of INBAR; the network was set up at a time when individual countries of the South were not able to deliver change based on the promise of bamboo for development. Moreover, the knowledge in a particular country often remained confined to the experts in that country, as there was no established means of sharing this information, and there was initially no expressed need to learn from each other.

China, the global powerhouse of bamboo and a developing country of the South, started growing economically in the 1980s, when the IDRC Bamboo and Rattan Research Network began growing as well. Now China is the major supporter to INBAR in economic, administrative and political terms, besides dominating global trade on bamboo products.

At that time, many countries did not know where to look for bamboo expertise; as a result several countries founded INBAR. INBAR is the institution that helps them connect the dots and assists in building strategic South-South cooperation partnerships. INBAR knows who knows what, and where the experts are based; it is a knowledge repository which its members can access; it provides training and facilitates field trips to bamboo development areas; it produces value-added policy briefs, working papers and other publications. INBAR is the honest broker of bamboo in the South, for the benefit of the South.

INBAR also helps to source funding where this is a constraint, and has carried out strategic and adaptive research in one or more member States to solve specific problems that have been flagged.

And because the global South founded INBAR, it was possible for them to realize the benefits from the Common Fund for Commodities by virtue of INBAR becoming the International Commodity Body on bamboo. INBAR’s Council of member States and the Board of Trustees also spearheaded the development of relevant International Organization for Standardization standards and Harmonized System of custom codes for bamboo products which benefit its member States.

INBAR embodies South-South cooperation. Country-tocountry bilateral cooperation is valuable for very many reasons, but a multilateral framework for facilitating South-South cooperation, like INBAR, can produce so much more added value. Has it worked? Twenty years is a relatively long time, and the following chapters provide a reflection on the many achievements and success stories that can be attributed to INBAR member States and the Secretariat.

During this period, considerable capacity has been built up in many of the INBAR member States; many countries now know which other country knows and does what, and so INBAR does not need to carry on with some of the functions that were important when it was established 20 years ago. Although it has not really dropped anything, INBAR has refocused to position bamboo on the regional and global policy agenda as an important tool for addressing some of the most pressing problems the world is facing. Bamboo can help countries to reach their sustainable development goals, their Aichi Targets and their nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The INBAR Secretariat will continue to help its member States in this quest, and to position INBAR as an international development organization that plays an important role in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as detailed in this publication through South-South cooperation in the bamboo sector.


Hans Friederich
Director General, INBAR



Launched in 2016, South-South in Action (SSiA) is one of UNOSSC’s flagship reports. It is a space for our partners, including United Nations Member States, fellow United Nations entities, intergovernmental organizations, and civil society, to share their successful South-South and triangular cooperation activities. Through this series, we are creating a repository of best practices, case studies, and lessons learned that can be shared across the South, and from the South to the North.

I am pleased to present this latest edition developed in partnership with the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR). INBAR is an intergovernmental organization established by, and primarily comprised of, member States from the global South. It is, therefore, a perfect vehicle for promoting and supporting South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation because it was designed from the start as a platform for mutual demand-driven South-South learning and exchange. I extend my thanks to the staff of INBAR for their hard work preparing this publication.

At its heart, South-South cooperation is an acknowledgement that no one country, region or group of people hold a monopoly over knowledge and experience. Rather, it is only through acknowledging and celebrating our diverse and unique advantages that we will be able to meet the ambitious development goals that the international community has committed to achieving.

South-South cooperation celebrates the important contributions that have emerged from the developing world. These contributions – be they programmes, policies, technologies, or solutions – have grown from local knowledge, making use of local and contextually appropriate products. One such product – indigenous to many countries of the South – is bamboo.

I must admit that until our organizations began collaborating, I had no idea of the multitude of ways in which bamboo and rattan contribute to sustainable development efforts.

As the cases elaborated in this edition of SSiA make clear, bamboo has an important role to play in inspiring action and enabling development. Amongst many other benefits, through bamboo we can provide local employment opportunities, empower women, and contribute to adapting to and mitigating the impacts of a changing climate. I congratulate INBAR on their twodecade long contribution to South-South cooperation.

The cases presented in this publication represent an astonishingly diverse selection of ways in which one product – grown cheaply and abundantly in the South – can contribute to a better and more inclusive future. It is a reminder that often everyday products can inspire amazing actions.


Jorge Chediek
Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation and Director, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation