Global South shaping geopolitics & development

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Global South shaping geopolitics & development

Sunday, 17 September 2023 | Makhan Saikia

Global South shaping geopolitics & development

The intricate tapestry of the Global South comes alive, revealing its pivotal role in today’s global arena. From its rich natural resources to its diverse cultures, this dynamic region is shaping the course of international affairs. As tensions between Russia and Ukraine thrust the Global South into the spotlight, its nations boldly assert their independent stance. India, in particular, emerges as a beacon, leading the charge alongside allies like Brazil and South Africa

The Global South constitutes an integral component of the international system, emerging as a prominent meta-category in the analysis of contemporary global politics. This underscores the necessity for its active participation in the global arena. This engagement is of paramount importance to the world due to its rich natural resources, diverse cultures, and, most significantly, its vast manpower.

Recent global conferences, summits, and gatherings of world leaders have witnessed a notable surge in the presence and influence of the Global South. For instance, the BRICS Summit held in South Africa this August reaffirmed the pivotal role of this coalition. As the host nation and chair, South Africa articulated its mission as “advancing the agenda of the Global South”.

Similarly, on the eve of the G7 Summit in Hiroshima this May, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida underscored the significance of the Global South in the evolving geopolitical landscape, emphasising that the invited guest countries rightfully represented this growing importance.

The current crisis between Russia and Ukraine that started in 2022 has suddenly brought the Global South into the international debates and discussions. Interestingly, many of the leading nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America clearly stated their unwillingness to go with the US-led NATO over the war in Ukraine. This has gained momentum in fighting one of the bloodiest wars in the European continent since the end of the Second World War and the formation of the United Nations Organisation on October 24, 1945.

The latest G20 Summit in Delhi has once again strongly echoed the voice of the Global South. With the inclusion of the 55-member African Union (AU) to the G20 under India’s presidency, the latter has established the predominance of the Global South in this intergovernmental forum.

Now the question is what is Global South? Why is the Global South important? Can India lead the group?

The words “Global South” refers to those nations that are coming under the category of developing, less developed and underdeveloped.

The majority of these countries fall in the Southern Hemisphere, coming from the continents of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, but not all. The very words “Global South” has been first mentioned by a political activist named Carl Oglesby in the year 1969.

In fact, he led a movement called Student for Democratic Society (SDS) that publicly opposed the Vietnam War. While writing in the global Catholic magazine called Commonweal, he strongly advocated that the war in Vietnam was the result of the history of the northern dominance of the Global South. But with the sudden breakdown of the former USSR and other Socialist Bloc, countries in Eastern Europe helped the term Global South gaining currency in scholarly writings, reports, debates and discussions all over the world.

Till then, the popular word that was coined and used for these nations was “Third World” by Alfred Sauvy in the year 1952 while drawing an analogy with the three historical estates of France-the nobility, the clergy and the bourgeoisie.

They were referred to as those nations which were yet to be industrialised in western sense of the term. However with the disintegration of the USSR under then President Mikhail Gorbachev, the so-called Second World had disappeared and hence the relevance of the Third World had slowly went into oblivion.

But then again the words like developed, developing, and underdeveloped also encountered tonnes of criticism and finally did not get the popularity in public usage. Therefore with the emergence of the words Global South sounded more neutral and gradually received well in public to refer to these nations.

Also these nations most commonly refer to the countries belonging to the Group of 77 at the UN. The irony is that it includes China about which there is a raging debate and also some of the wealthiest nations of West Asia. Some international observers fret that China under an ambitious and aggressive leadership of Xi Jinping might use the grouping for its own ulterior motives. And it is already seen on many occasions. Thus its immediate neighbour and another global stalwart is directly countering the expansionist moves of China by partnering with the Quad Group and openly coming closer to the US in recent years. China is aware about it and quite often displays its anger and resentment over India by bringing border skirmishes with the latter.

The Global South matters because these nations directly contributed to half of the world’s growth in our time.

They all are home to more than 80 per cent of the world’s population and account for 60 per cent of the GDP of the world. Another significant fact is that the remittances coming from migrant workers to low- and middle-income nations reached $466 billion last year. This is solely responsible for lifting many million families from poverty and hunger in these countries.

The outflow of the FDI from these nations is recorded in the third position in global flow of the FDIs. Further intra-trade among them is growing faster than ever before in recent years as it represents more than a quarter of the global trade.

The chaos leading to the underdevelopment of the Global South can be attributed to the colonisation of these nations in the past by the nations of the Global North. Finally, the role and responsibilities shared by the children and youth today in arresting the climate menace is remarkable. They are altogether spreading and making people aware about their rich biodiversity and the ways and means to preserve the same in the near future. The entire Global South countries together are a rich mosaic of innovation, cultural diversity and creativity.

India’s leadership at the recent G20 Summit has undoubtedly made the country the voice of the Global South. It can certainly lead the group but only with close coordination from the other big-league nations like Brazil, South Africa, etc.

The Global South largely demands a strong South-South Cooperation (SSC) on a larger scale. The UN Population Fund defines the SSC in its Policy and Procedure Manual as “a means of development by an exchange of knowledge, experience and information and capacity development between and among developing countries through governments, civil society organisations and academic institutions, national institutions and networks to accelerate the implementation of the ICPD agenda and the achievement of the MDGs in participating countries”.

Today the UN cooperation with the SSC is instrumental in advancing the SDGs in developing countries.

Finally, the Global South forges ahead. It is a great challenge for the Global North as its dwindling influence is felt all over. Certainly, the time will come for the “Rise of the Rest” and the leaders of the global liberal order have to work in tandem with the rising and shining Global South.

(The writer is currently president of the Global Research Foundation)  

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