INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

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Global South: The power against the West

The term “Global South” first appeared in 1969 in an article by political activist Carl Oglesby in the liberal Catholic journal “Commonweal”, which argued that the Vietnam War was the culmination of a history of “Northern domination of the Global South”. It was then used in a well-known 1980 report, titled “North-South: A Program for Survival” issued by an independent commission headed by former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, and in a 1990 report, titled “The Challenge to the South: The Report of the South Commission”, issued by a UN commission headed by Julius Nyerere, the then president of Tanzania. However, it was widely spread only after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which also marked the end of the so-called “Second World”.

In the second half of the twentieth century, groups such as the Non-Aligned Movement founded in 1961 as well as the G-77 founded in the United Nations in 1964 sought to promote the collective interests of the poorest and freed from the heavy shackles of colonialism in a world dominated by former imperial powers.

The term “Global South” refers to various countries around the globe that are located in the southern hemisphere and denotes a mixture of political, geopolitical and shared economic elements between these nations. These countries are also described by the terms “developing”, “less developed”, “underdeveloped”, or “Third World” terms which, however, tend to be replaced by it now, since the last three also contain a pejorative meaning.

In general, these countries are poorer, have a relatively low level of socio-economic and industrial development, have higher levels of income inequality and suffer from lower life expectancy and harsher living conditions compared to the countries of the so-called “Global North”, i.e. the richest nations located mainly in North America and Europe, with some additions from the geographical South, i.e. in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) but also elsewhere (e.g. Japan).

The countries of the “Global South”, which have mostly been the tragic victims of imperialism, colonial rule and generally extensive economic, social and political influence on the part of powerful Western countries, African countries being the most typical for example, they represent over 85% of the world’s population, i.e. the vast majority of humanity, and close to 40% of the world’s GDP.

At the same time, since the beginning of the 21st century, there has been a shift of wealth from the North Atlantic to Asia and the Pacific, as the World Bank has pointed out. By 2030, it is predicted that three of the four largest economies will be in the Global South, in that order China, India, the United States and Indonesia. Already, the GDP relative to purchasing power of nations in the BRICS group dominated by the “Global South”—Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran—exceeds the equivalent of the G7 group of the “Global North”.

The term “Global South”, then, which is not strictly geographical (e.g. China, India and Mexico are in the Northern Hemisphere), has once again been brought to the fore by the reluctance of many leading countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to stand by NATO for the war that has been going on since February 24, 2022 in Ukraine. The war therefore cast the spotlight on the ‘Global South’ as an important factor in geopolitics.

There is no doubt, after all, that the term “Global South” is an important unifying phrase and apparently embodies a strong sense of dissatisfaction with established international institutions that reflect the geopolitical and economic interests of Western countries.

Russia’s invasion sharply brought to the surface the accumulated global anger towards the West, either for years of colonialism and neo-colonial practices, either for both measures with which Western countries deal with human rights violations in various parts of the world.

The countries of the “Global South” overwhelmingly did not impose sanctions on Russia, which is a non-Western member of the “Global North”. Some countries have even increased their trade with Moscow, greatly undermining the effectiveness of Western sanctions. In 2022, for example, Russia’s trade increased by 68% with the United Arab Emirates, and by an impressive 205% with India.

Most of the countries of the “Global South”, at the same time, criticize Israel seeing the war in Gaza as an offshoot of the Israeli occupation, the oppression of the Palestinians and the selective application of the rules of international law. Because of their own history, many people in Africa and Latin America view events through a post-colonial lens.

South Africa, one of the most economically powerful and modernized states in Africa and therefore a model and spokesperson for many states on the continent, has adopted an extremely critical attitude towards Israel, blasting the killing of children and innocent civilians. Argentina, on the other side of the Atlantic, condemned the attacks by the Israeli armed forces on civilian infrastructure and called for the observance of international humanitarian law.

The “Global South”, therefore, presents itself as the only opportunity for resistance of the countries that make it up and which are inspired by an anti-colonial and anti-imperialist worldview, against the “new order of things” that the USA and the other powerful economies of the West are vigorously promoting. The “Global South” simultaneously displays a political and economic power that the “developing countries” and the “Third World” never had.

Some of these states are critical sources of mineral resources, supply chains, and sometimes innovations necessary for global development, giving them more influence than they had in the twentieth century.

So, we see leaders passionately embrace this term. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has previously said his country has become “the voice of the Global South”, while South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said his aim is to advance “the Global South agenda”.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that the anti-internationalist camp of countries, which is called the “Global South”, not yielding to the will of the rich countries of the internationalist West, is growing stronger and more and more and marks the transition from the unipolar world under the leadership of the USA and their allies in a multipolar world.

Curriculum vitae

Isidoros Karderinis was born in Athens in 1967. He is a journalist, novelist and poet. He studied economics and completed postgraduate studies in tourism economics. His articles have been published in newspapers, magazines and websites around the world. His poems have been translated into English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Romanian, Bulgarian and Albanian and published in poetic anthologies, literary magazines and literary newspaper columns. He has published eight books of poetry and three novels in Greece. His books have been translated and published in the United States, Great Britain, Italy and Spain.

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