Global South treads own path to weather transforming global order

The Global South is building an alternative path forward for South-South cooperation.

4 mins read
This photo taken on Sept. 25, 2023 shows display boards of the eighth annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. (Xinhua/Sui Xiankai)

The BRICS doubled its size after more than 40 countries showed interest or formally applied to join the young international organization, signaling an evolution toward a more multipolar world.

The Global South, designated as the word of the year 2023 by the Financial Times, is clearly treading its own path to weather a transforming global order.

GLOBAL SOUTH IN ASCENT

A new pole of the global economy is forming. Before expansion, BRICS states accounted for 32 percent of global GDP, more than 15 percent of global trade, and more than 40 percent of the world’s population.

According to statistics from the Britain-based Acorn Macro Consulting, based on purchasing power parity, the gross domestic product of the BRICS countries before expansion exceeded that of the G7.

The latest ranking by the International Monetary Fund shows that Brazil has surpassed Canada to become the world’s ninth-largest economy. After expansion, the BRICS nations will further consolidate Global South strength, demonstrating more robust economic prowess.

The IMF estimates also showed that based on purchasing power parity, the world’s top five economies in 2030 will, in sequence, be China, the United States, India, Japan and Indonesia.

Global South leaders are pushing against foreign interventions in geopolitical affairs. The readmission of Syria into the Arab League in May after 11 years of suspension signals a new consensus among Arab countries — only a regional solution can end the protracted crisis.

In June, Latin America and Caribbean leaders jointly urged Washington to end its illegal political, commercial and financial blockade on Cuba.

A report from the World Trade Organization also suggested that developed economies are still major participants in world trade but no longer dominate.

“I think this is a historic moment for humanity — in which, for the first time, countries from the South may use their strength,” said Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva before BRICS’ Johannesburg summit in August 2023.

FALTERING STEPS OF WEST

Along the wax comes the wane. Over the years, with Brexit, divisions in the United States, the spread of Western populism, the surge of right-wing extremism, and escalating racial conflicts and hate crimes, social turmoil and disorder have proven to be common in Western countries.

The Ukraine crisis and the most serious Israel-Palestine conflict in decades have also left the West struggling.

“The internal stress” in the West-dominated world order is leading to “more doubts around the world about its effectiveness and legitimacy,” said Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz Global Advisers.

At the 2023 Munich Security Conference, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed “shock” at how much credibility the West was losing from the Global South before the French ambassador was expelled from Niger, French troops pulled out from Mali and the coup epidemic spread to a few more francophone West African countries later in the year.

Former colonies now harbor a collective sense of disillusionment, if not anger and resentment, toward the Euro-Atlantic hegemony. This sentiment is rooted in the solutions it provided, or the lack of which, to the global challenges that unfairly burden people at the bottom of the global wealth pyramid.

Along the Black Sea, U.S.-dominated NATO is seeking unilateral security at the cost of having more kids going to bed on an empty stomach in Africa and the Middle East.

Along the Red Sea, Washington watches the humanitarian crisis explode and spill over while continuously curbing international efforts at the UN to protect civilians and restore peace.

“They lost credibility with the veto. What is good enough for Ukraine is not good enough for Palestine. The veto told us that Ukrainian lives are more valuable than Palestinian ones,” an African diplomat was quoted by Reuters after the United States vetoed the “humanitarian pause” at the Security Council on Oct. 18, 2023.

The old order led by the West can no longer keep pace with the times, and developing countries are increasingly aware of the reality.

Western research institutions and media outlets wonder if this is the beginning of a new world order.

VOICES LOUDER, GETTING HEARD

Last August, media outlets worldwide were preoccupied with the wildfires that ravished the historical town of Lahaina, Hawaii.

Only a few weeks later, the flooding that hit Eastern Libya, killing more than 4,300 people, received disproportionately small attention in the West.

Global South countries have endured such injustices for far too long and are speaking up on the global stage.

“The days when a few nations set the agenda and expected others to fall in line are over.” Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister, said at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly.

And the voice is catching the attention of Global North leaders, observed Anjali Dayal, an associate professor of international politics at the New York-based Fordham University.

“We saw that more leaders were paying attention to the biggest constituency of UN countries — countries that are not big powers but that suffer the biggest consequences and very seldom get to cast the decisive vote,” she said.

“Increasingly, the poor are saying to the rich that your priorities won’t mean more to us until ours mean much more to you,” said Howard W. French, a columnist at Foreign Policy and a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

COOPERATION FOR BETTER

While calling out the West for its broken promises, including an annual 100 billion U.S. dollars in climate funding, the Global South is building an alternative path forward for South-South cooperation.

In 2023, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a leading international infrastructure investor, priced its first five-year Climate Adaptation Bond and raised 335 million dollars. Platforms such as the Belt and Road Initiative International Green Development Coalition and the South-South Cooperation Center for Technology Transfer also assist developing countries with clean energy governance, planning and capacity building.

Green cooperation is only part of the closer South-South partnership. With a total value of 4 billion dollars, China has set up a Global Development and South-South Cooperation Fund and has implemented more than 130 projects in nearly 60 countries, including Ethiopia and Pakistan, covering poverty reduction, food security and epidemic prevention.

Three decades ago, the pioneer in decolonial theory, Argentine-Mexican philosopher and historian Enrique Dussel, elaborated on the Eurocentrism in the concept of modernity: “Modernity as such was ‘born’ when Europe was in a position to pose itself against an Other … Europe could constitute itself as a unified ego exploring, conquering, colonizing an alterity that gave back its image of self.”

Three decades later, in a confident and united voice, the Global South is resisting universal modernity or the West’s roadmap for modernization.

As the Gulf News put it, there is “a sense of urgency by countries to … strengthen partnerships away from Western influence.”

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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