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The Global South: a unifying slogan or a new force?

At the recent BRICS summit, it was stated that the purpose of the association is to "advance the agenda of the Global South"
At the recent BRICS summit, it was stated that the purpose of the association is to "advance the agenda of the Global South" Copyright Alet Pretorius
Copyright Alet Pretorius
By Mihhail Salenkov
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This article was originally published in Russian

The war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change. When it comes to major international events we often hear about the problems and challenges facing the Global South.

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The term 'Global South' emerged more than half a century ago but only became widespread after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

Some researchers believe that the term has replaced the term 'Third World countries', not least for reasons of political correctness.

Geographically, the Global South is a relative concept, as many of the states that are referred to include those in the northern hemisphere, such as India and Mexico. When people talk about the Global South, they are primarily referring to emerging economies.

"We are actually hearing more and more about the Global South, including in the debate about whether the term has a right to exist. It seems to me that it does. The fact is that it is used very often in the Global South countries themselves. It has the greatest popularity there," says Jan Lesser, Vice President of the German Marshall Fund.

According to Lesser, Global South is "a code for very different countries, developing countries that are trying to express their own understanding of international relations and strategies that don't always have to be developed only in the North."

The debate in academia about the use of this term has been going on for a long time. Some experts believe that unwarranted generalisations should be avoided in its use.

"It should be used with a certain degree of caution. There is no doubt that the term 'Global South' is an important unifying slogan and embodies a sense of dissatisfaction with the established international institutions that reflect the geopolitical and economic interests of Western countries. 

"It is important, this unifying slogan, but the problem is that it is a very general phrase covering over 130 different countries around the world, which does not accurately reflect the heterogeneity and diversity of countries that this definition includes," Patrick Stewart, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment, told Euronews.

With the conventional division of the world's countries into a global North and South, it is safe to say that the North has its own informal international club - the G7. At the annual summits of the G7, common approaches to current international problems are agreed upon. Does the Global South have its own club?

BRICS broadly represents the Global South
Jan Lesser
Vice-President of the German Marshall Fund

"They have the so-called BRICS, an alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. But it cannot be said that this is some kind of benchmark combination of countries. For various reasons, it was not like that even in less tense times. However, this group has maintained its momentum, having just been enriched with six more members. It has now become much more diverse, not only geographically, but also politically, in many other ways. It really, in a broad sense, represents the Global South," says Jan Lesser.

Another of these "clubs" is the Group of 77 (G77). This is the largest inter-state organisation of developing countries, acting within the United Nations framework and defending the interests of the Global South.

At the same time, experts note that there is often no consensus in the south on the most important global issues. In particular, this concerns the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"Part of the countries belonging to the Global South condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine. But there are a number of states that have taken a neutral position. We can say that big countries like Indonesia, India or Brazil would prefer not to take sides. The countries of the Global South are very diverse. They include states such as Uruguay, which has an almost perfect record of democracy, Syria and South Sudan, where the numbers are absolutely appalling in this respect," Stewart said.

Seth Wenig/AP
Screens display the results of a vote on a resolution regarding the war in Ukraine at United Nations headquarters.Seth Wenig/AP

Experts note that some countries are trying to use the Global South for their own interests, to increase their influence in the international arena. 

In early 2023, India held a virtual summit called 'Voice of the Global South' with the participation of representatives of more than 120 states. 

China, meanwhile, has long been investing in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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