PALOP-TL: A long history of cooperation

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What do Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe and Timor-Leste have in common?

All of them were former colonies of Portugal that today have Portuguese as one of their official languages.

Five of them, with the exception of Timor-Leste, are African countries that correspond to lusophone Africa and that are referred to as PALOP: “African Countries of Portuguese Official Language” or in Portuguese “Países Africanos de Língua Oficial Portuguesa”. 

In 1961, while they were still under Portuguese rule, the national liberation movements of these five African countries organized the Conference of Nationalist Organizations of the Portuguese Colonies (Conferencia das Organizações Nacionalistas das Colónias Portuguesas) in Casablanca and founded the first multinational organization of Portuguese Language: CONCP.

After the Portuguese revolution in 1974, all of them finally became independent (Guinea-Bissau already had declared independence in 1973).

To give continuity to their cooperation that had started during the period of colonialism, they founded the first intergovernmental organization of Portuguese Language, in 1979: PALOP.

Two other events served to reinforce their collaboration. First, the EU started collaborating with PALOP in 1992, based on the Cotonou Agreement and financed through the European Development Fund (EDF).

Second, in 1996 the Community of Portuguese Language Speaking Countries (CPLP) was founded. All PALOP countries, Brazil, Portugal, Equatorial Guinea and Timor-Leste are represented in the CPLP.

“CPLP is a multilateral forum privileged to deepen the mutual friendship and cooperation among its members. It was created in July 17, 1996. CPLP has the following general objectives: the conservation of political diplomacy among its Member-States, reinforcing its presence in the international scenario; the cooperation in all matters, including education, health, science and technology, defense, agriculture, public administration, communication, justice, public security, culture, sports, and social communication; the implementation of projects that promote and disseminate the Portuguese language.”

Timor-Leste joined PALOP in 2007 so that the acronym of the whole group finally became PALOP-TL.  


PALOP-TL today

Besides their common language and cultural similarities, the PALOP and Timor-Leste differ in a lot of aspects as for example in numbers of their population - with the smallest being São Tomé and Príncipe (197.900) and the biggest being Mozambique (26.4 million) (World Bank 2014). Three of them (Cabo Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe and Timor-Leste) are island states, one (Timor-Leste) is to be found in Southeast Asia, the others on the African continent.

If we look at UNDP’s Human Development Index (2014) we see that Cabo Verde ranks best (123), followed by Timor-Leste (128), São Tomé and Principe  (142), Angola (149), Guinea-Bissau (177) and Mozambique (178).

It is the similarities on the one side and the differences on the other side that make it so interesting to look at how PALOP-TL found a way of cooperating and of sharing knowledge. Today they work together in different areas such as culture, education, transports, economy and politics.



In 2013 the PALOP-TL group signed the Project for Strengthening technical and functional skills of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs), National Parliaments and Civil Society for the control of public finances with the European Union Delegation and the United Nations Development Programme Country Office in Cabo Verde.

“The project uses training actions as a tool to enhance skills and credentials of stakeholders for controlling public finances while establishing eLearning platforms in Portuguese ensuring means of durable access to existing database and information in Portuguese. The project also contributes to establishing a first time multi-country CSO PALOP-TL platform showcasing lessons and progress made by civil society organisations’ within the PALOP/CPLP Open Budget Initiative.”

To find out more about the project, please click here.


AGORAS Portuguese Corner

AGORA now also contributes to this long story of cooperation between the PALOP and Timor-Leste through its Portuguese Corner providing daily updated news, videos, a virtual library and a blog on parliamentary development in Portuguese. 


LINKS related to PALOP-TL and CPLP:


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This is a blog post by Katharina Schuller, Intern at the United Nations Development Programme.