Definitions of Global South 

The Global South has multiple definitions. The Global South has traditionally been used to refer to underdeveloped or economically disadvantaged nations.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (standing) with foreign minister Wang Yi (C) and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov (R) at the recent BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa


The Global South as a critical concept has three primary definitions. First, it has traditionally been used within intergovernmental development organizations –– primarily those that originated in the Movement Movement­ ­–– to refer to economically disadvantaged nation-states and as a War alternative to “Third World.” However, in recent years and within a variety of fields, the Global South has been employed in a post-national sense to address spaces and people negatively impacted by contemporary capitalist globalization. In this second definition, the Global South captures a reterritorialized geography of capitalism’s externalities and means to account for subjugated peoples within the borders of wealthier countries, such that there are economic Souths in the geographic North and Norths in the geographic South. While this usage relies on a longer tradition of analysis of the North’s Souths ­ ­–– wherein the South represents an internal periphery and subaltern relational position –– the epithet “global” is used to unhinge the South from a one-to-one relation to geography.

It is through this DE territorial conceptualization that a third meaning is attributed to the Global South in which it refers to the resistant imaginary of a transnational political subject that results from a shared experience of subjugation under contemporary global capitalism. This subject is forged when the world’s “Souths” recognize one another.   The use of the Global South to refer to political subjectivity draws from the rhetoric of the so-called Third World Project or the non-aligned and radical internationalist discourses of the Cold War.

In this sense, the Global South may productively be considered a direct response to the category of post-coloniality in that it captures both a political collectivity and ideological formulation that arises from lateral solidarities among the world’s multiple Souths and moves beyond the analysis of the operation of power through colonial difference towards networked theories of power within contemporary global capitalism. Critical scholarship that falls under the rubric of Global South Studies is invested in the analysis of the formation of a Global South subjectivity, the study of power and racialization within global capitalism in ways that transcend the nation-state as the unit of comparative analysis, and in tracing both contemporary South-South relations –– or relations among subaltern groups across national, linguistic, racial, and ethnic lines –– as well as the histories of those relations in prior forms of South-South exchange. 


The term “Global South” emerged in the 1950s but Carl Oglesby became the first person to give it a contemporary political use when he commented on the US’s dominance over the global South. The founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) also used the term politically. To better understand the term, one needs to know the social, economic, and political meaning of the north-south divide. The north-south divide does not mean a division along the equator, but the line dividing the richest and the poorest countries on this planet. Global north, therefore, are the developed countries of North America, Europe, Asia, and Oceania (The West, the First World, and parts of the Second World). The Global South, therefore, includes countries in Africa, Latin America, and developing parts of Asia and the Middle East. Alternative terms for the Global South are the Less-Developed World, Developing Countries, Majority World, Non-Western World, Poor World, the South, Third World, and the Undeveloped World. Usage Of The Term Global South The term Global South is a dynamic term that does not consider geographic locations, meaning that, members of this grouping who reach a certain development threshold may cross over to the Global North.

Even in the Global North, some regions within the developed countries live in conditions that resemble the conditions of the Global South. South-South Cooperation After the initial references for the term, it has emerged as a unifying identity that politically and economically brings together countries within the Southern Hemisphere. This unity also extends to cultural, social, technical, and environmental cooperation in the framework called South-South Cooperation (SSC).

The main goal of SSC is to pursue mutually beneficial economic changes that unify the Global South within an exploitative world system. Within the framework, SSC respects values such as non-interference in domestic matters, non-conditionality, independence, sovereignty, equality, and national ownership. In the past, SSC envisioned using cooperation in order to address challenges like poverty, cross-border issues, population growth, disease, and war through the sharing of skills, experiences, resources, and expertise.


One of the most visible products of SSC is the determination of countries like China and India to take over the economic and political dominance of the West in most Global South countries. Indeed, China’s trade and development cooperation with most African countries has surpassed the West’s cooperation with the same countries. This situation continues to give China a bigger voice and influence in the affairs of such countries. Past And Current Debate About The Term Global South Majority of actors in international relations favor the use of the term “Global South” as compared to other terms like “Least Developed” or “Developing Countries.”

Indeed, most scholars believe that the term not only resists backward tendencies of global dominance but also encourages a rethink of the relationship between the Global North and Global South from cultural and development differences to geopolitical benefits and relationships. This school of thought aims at correcting the negative impact of contemporary global capitalism as well as colonial and neo-imperial histories that, as most believe, led to some level of poverty and inequality in the Global South. On the other side, critics argue the term Global South does not benefit all countries in the defined bracket but only the rich ones within the Global South. In their critique, scholars believe that the developed countries within the Global South politically and economically exploit their underdeveloped counterparts within SSC international relations.

The third school of thought critiques the term because the majority of the Global South countries are actually located in the north of the equator, therefore, they do not feel attached to the term. Furthermore, the grouping of the Global South has no cultural, historic, or economic significance between the regions, but has developmental imbalances.


First coined by progressive social activist Carl Oglesby in 1969, the Global South is a synonym for terms such as developing countries, least developed countries, , underdeveloped countries, ,low-income countries, or out-of-favor third world countries. Like these related terms, Global South is used to describe countries whose economies are not yet fully developed and which face challenges such as low per capita income, excessive unemployment, and a lack of valuable capital. However, few socioeconomic terms are as widely debated, as potentially divisive, or as frequently misinterpreted. The challenge of defining the “Global South” The term “Global South” is often misused and misunderstood.

The inclusion of “South” causes many users to mistakenly assume the term is meant to be geographical. It is not. Although the majority of Global South countries are indeed located in the tropics or the Southern Hemisphere, the term itself is strictly economic (hence the fact that Australia is “down under” but not part of the Global South). What’s more, there are no clear guidelines for what constitutes the Global South (as compared to the World Bank’s very clear guidelines for what is or is not a low-income economy. there exist many different theories on which countries qualify as part of the Global South—or its wealthier counterpart, the Global North. Finally, because the term identifies countries that are less well-off financially, it could be interpreted as implying that “South” is synonymous with “poor”—a connection that many people regard as both insensitive and inaccurate.


What is the Global South? The Global South has multiple definitions. The Global South has traditionally been used to refer to underdeveloped or economically disadvantaged nations. These countries are those who tend to have unstable democracies, are in the process of industrializing, and have historically frequently faced colonization by Global North countries (especially by European countries). The second definition uses the Global South to address populations that are negatively affected by capitalist globalization. Based on either of these definitions, the Global South is not the same as the geographical South. Still, to avoid confusion, inaccuracy, and possible offense, many scholars prefer to use the terms “developing countries   ” or low-income countries. Benefits of the use of the term Global South One positive development stemming from the use of the term Global South is that it has emerged as a unifying identity for many of the countries it encompasses.

This unification has led to the UN South-South Cooperation, a coalition of Global South countries whose main goal is to help solve mutual challenges such as poverty, population growth, war, disease, and border issues. Countries involved in the SSC become more self-reliant, strengthen their technological capabilities, and become better able to participate in the global economic marketplace. China is among the best examples of how the SSC has worked. Often touted by the U.N. as a model of developing countries, China has lifted 700 million people out of poverty, gained a bigger influence than most countries in the West, and become one of the largest economic powers in the world. List of Global South Countries (United Nations) The United Nations Finance Center for South-South Cooperation maintains arguably the world’s most reputable and reliable list of Global South countries. As of early 2022, the list includes 78 countries in all, which are referred to as the “Group of 77 and China.” Which countries are in the Global South? There is a total of 78 countries in the Global South, including China, Colombia, and Cuba.


What is the response of China to the Western bloc’s “attraction” to democracy to the needy countries of the South? These countries need infrastructural development but they do not have the money. China has come forward to meet this need through its Belt and Road Initiative. It is recognized that China as an aspiring superpower would like a place in the table that frames the rules governing the world. China, however, has made it clear that it has no intention to interfere in the internal affairs of the beneficiary countries. But there is a caveat.

Critics have accused China rarely forgives debt and is secretive about how much money it has loaned and on what terms. Experts say that makes it difficult to restructure debt when more than one international lender is involved. What can happen in cases like Sri Lanka, which saw massive social unrest and political upheaval after it ran out of foreign reserves, is that countries get into a cycle of trying to pay back interest, which restricts the economic growth that would aid them with paying off the debt in the first place. When the money stops flowing in, people start losing their jobs, inflation spirals, and crucial imports like food and fuel become unaffordable.

China has provided emergency loans and pushed back payment deadlines. But despite criticism, it is engaging in “debt trap diplomacy”, an idea popularized by the Trump administration, where indebted governments offer creditor countries major assets as collateral, experts say this is not the case. Sri Lanka signs a port deal with China They add that there is no advantage for China of these foreign loans, because its banks are dangerously exposed to indebted real estate companies domestically. China often plays a role in the economic woes of these countries but its loans are certainly not the only issue, says Ana Hirogashi, an analyst at research lab Aid Data.

Transparency around the loans is a problem she adds, but as in Sri Lanka, Beijing eventually comes to the table. Sri Lanka has struck deals with creditors China and India, as part of an effort to restructure its debt and pave the way for the approval of the IMF’s $2.9bn bailout package. Sri Lanka thanks China after reaching a debt deal Sri Lanka secures bailout for struggling economy The question then presents itself: Why has China tied itself to countries with such poor economic fundamentals? Analysts point out for example, that if China truly wanted to develop Pakistan, it could have helped expand Karachi port, rather than invest in Gwadar. “There’s an element of opportunism and politics in Chinese investments. Bilateral political ties could be improved with recipient country governments,” says Meia Nouwens, head of the China Programme at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). “China uses this as an example to support its own narrative of being a leader of the Global South – a country that is supportive of developing countries and one that understands and responds to their needs.” China’s deals are known for having fewer conditions and for completing in less time compared to commercial lenders.

Kazi Anwarul Masud

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a retired Bangladeshi diplomat. During his tenure, he worked in several countries as the ambassador of Bangladesh including Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Germany

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