Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | 13:46 WIB

The Global South and the South Globe’s Potential

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Developing countries are consolidating their leadership of G20 and G134 plus China.

Jakarta, IO – Recently we have seen two important activities of the Global South, notably stronger engagement at the G20 Summit and bigger influence at the G77 Summit, which after the gradual expansion of this coalition actually means the format of “G134 plus China”. It is important to ask in what sense these activities are indicative of the growing significance of the Global South. Therefore, it is relevant to place these two Summits in the broader framework of global interactions, in the framework of other Global South summits and initiatives that have expanded and strengthened in recent times. 

The Global South is emancipating itself, and its efforts towards multilateralism, poverty eradication and resistance to marginalisation of peoples and developing countries represent the interests of the majority of the world. In this emancipatory way, it is possible to say in a figurative sense that the world is becoming increasingly Southern: South Globe. 

G20 Summits 

Since the G20 does not have a fixed secretariat and is always led by three countries that take the rotating annual presidency (previous, current, and future presiding countries), the current G20 leadership is a distinct representation of the Global South. Although Global South countries make up half of the G20 membership, Western countries understandably have more influence and seek to win the deliberations and outcomes of G20 summits to their side. However, this is more difficult in a situation where Global South countries are leading the organisation. This is not to say that all countries in the Global South are the same; they have a plurality of interests, of course, which must be respected. However, their shared interest in addressing pressing social problems and eliminating the economic and political marginalization of the Global South unites them. 

The just concluded G20 foreign ministers’ meeting was held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil (February 21- 22, 2024). Brazil has been pushing the agenda as the largest economy in Latin America and a member of the newly expanded BRICS+ grouping, and as a result, one of the leaders of the Global South. Moreover, the foreign ministers’ meeting took place against the backdrop of a country once again led by the charismatic President Lula. After his two successful presidential terms and subsequent imprisonment under authoritarian presidents Temer and Bolsonaro, he was re-elected for a third time in the autumn of 2022. 

The imprisonment has made him an even more respected figure than before and the undisputed leader of the second pink tide in Latin America. His support for large-scale social programs to address poverty and raise the standard of living of citizens and his support for the World Social Forums, for example, are well known. The regular big G20 Summit will be held in Rio de Janeiro in October 2024. It will be the first G20 Summit in Brazil, and we may expect that Brazil will take it seriously in favor of Global South. 

The previous G20 presidency was also extraordinary, as it was led by a very active India, another BRICS+ member and another of the leaders of the Global South. In addition to holding the main G20 Summit in September 2023, it held a second summit, particularly the G20 Leaders’ Summit in November 2023. This is unusual and shows India’s effort to play a more important role in global relations. 

The next G20 presidency will be held by South Africa in 2025, another of the BRICS+ countries. Currently, South Africa also has a very active national leadership. Most recently, for example, it drew attention to itself by initiating the indictment of Israel for committing genocide in Palestine before the International Criminal Court. 

The Group of G77, or G134 plus China 

The recent Summit in Kampala, Uganda (January 21 – 23, 2024), highlighted the growing importance and influence of the “G77 and China” format. The Group of 77 was established originally as a coalition of 77 founding countries at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1964, and since then it has expanded step by step to 134 member countries. Since 1994 China contributes to the Group which acts in a format “G77 plus China”. 

The Group approved its Declarations and Plans of Action in the First South Summit in Cuba in 2000 and in the second one in Doha in 2005. This year’s Summit in Uganda was only the third summit of the Group and, therefore, an extraordinary event. This year it is also a commemoration of the historic 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Group of G77. The implementation of the Summit required prior negotiations and preparation by previous and current organizing countries. Last year the Group was led by Latin America and the Caribbean, this year it is Africa, particularly Uganda. Last year there was strong leadership from Cuba because it is not just one of the developing countries; it was one of leaders of the third world from the 1960s to the 1980s. And although it now has economic problems caused by the effects of the pandemic and the US embargo, Cuba has, after extensive consultations with its citizens, established its new promising mixed economic model codified in the 2019 constitution and is beginning to implement it in practice. 

During Cuba’s presidency of the G77 and China in 2023, a Declaration on “Current Development Challenges: the Role of Science, Technology and Innovation” was adopted. Technology transfer is one of priorities of the Group which means a realization of international science in a way which transforms the global innovation system from the perspective of developing countries. This development is not neutral, it aims to promote peace, empowerment of the poor, eradication of hunger, people’s sustainable development, and the promotion of solidarity. It is supported by China’s Global Development Initiative which initiates international cooperation in order to achieve development related to goals of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs). 

The Third South Summit issued an outcome document which stressed the contemporary multidimensional crisis and new challenges in an international context. The Group pursues a “vision of fair, just and equitable multilateral relations, the commitment of its member States to the well-being and prosperity of the people of the South”, and seeks to “utilize the growing potential of South-South Cooperation, putting development at front and centre of our Group”. It includes work in the UN development system with its update, narrowing SDGs financial gap, a support of the 2030 agenda, and poverty eradication. The Group also reflected that it needs material sources, and stated that “Developed countries should bear the primary responsibility in financing for development”. After centuries of colonialism and exploitation, they have the biggest resources.

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The G77 and China also calls for a necessary reform of the WTO in order to be able to act against unilateral measures. The Group welcomes the UN General Assembly resolution on „Unilateral Economic Measures as a Means of Political and Economic Coercion against Developing Countries“, and expresses rejection of the unilateral US measures and the blockade against Cuba. It declared also its principled support of the Palestinian people for the long time. 

In agreement with the Group, the UN Secretary General António Guterres stated that peace and justice “require strong, effective multilateral institutions. But many of today’s institutions – particularly the United Nations Security Council and the Bretton Wood institutions – reflect bygone era.” He stressed a significance of the preparation of the Summit of the Future in 2024 which is announced as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to find a new international consensus following the UN Charta, the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the Paris Agreement. Looking at the future, the next, Fourth South Summit will be convened in Latin America and the Caribbean in five years, in 2029. We may expect that the Global South will progress and shape the global agenda even more strongly in five years.


Martin Lampter is a political economist who has worked at universities mainly in Southern and Central European countries and in South America.

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