North-South divide, and G20 as a forum which gave voice to the Global South

North-South divide, and G20 as a forum which gave voice to the Global South

Context- The G20 leaders’ summit will be held in New Delhi on September 9-10. The 18th iteration of the summit cap India’s year-long presidency of the G20, at the end of which a G20 Leaders’ Declaration will be adopted.

In the lead-up to the summit, the Indian government, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, have repeatedly invoked the term ‘Global South’. Earlier this year, at the G20 Development Ministers’ meeting in Varanasi, the Prime Minister said that “development is a core issue for the Global South”.

(Credits- blog.sag

The North-South divide

  • The term ‘Global South’, in conjunction with ‘Global North’, was first used in 1967 by the American academic Carl Oglesby to refer to the “centuries of dominance” that some countries (the North) have exercised over others (the South). It became much more popular by the turn of the century.
  • Today, this categorisation is ubiquitous in international development and political discourse. While traditionally powerful, industrialised nations are seen as the ‘Global North’, the ‘Global South’ refers to nations further behind in their development journeys.
  • The South — which is not the same as the geographical south, or the southern hemisphere — includes countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Oceania (sans Australia and New Zealand) whereas the North includes countries of Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia-New Zealand.
  • Notably, the North still shares hierarchical relations with the South in the international order, which is perhaps the best reflected in the make-up and workings of international forums and institutions like UNSC.

Genesis of the divide

  • Simply put, the North-South divide is a product of colonialism and the hierarchical relations between colonial empires and the colonised.
  • As the colonial powers industrialised and developed first, exploiting labour and resources from their colonies, an ever-growing imbalance of power emerged. This imbalance of power continues to dictate relations between modern nation states, largely mirroring the North-South divide.
  • Even after the emergence of the post-World War II international order, with its promise of decolonisation and democracy, these hierarchies in the international sphere did not disappear.

Gs of North, Gs of South

  • Nearly all the international institutions and fora that emerged post-1945 reflect the North-South divide — from the United Nations and its offshoots to financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF to the various “Gs”, or constellations of nations with shared interests.
  • Much before the G20 came into being, the G7 came up, during the economic crises of the 1970s. It comprised France, Canada, Italy, West Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan — the strongest economic powers of the time.
  • There were other ‘Gs’ too, notably among nations from the South, such as the G77 (1964) and the G24 (1971). These largely unsuccessful groupings were born out of a desire to counterbalance the dominance of the North in global governance. But by doing so, they too affirmed rather than challenged the North-South dichotomy.

The rise of China, India, Brazil

  • However, entering into the last decade of the 20th century, the North-South divide, while still very much in existence, was no longer as clear cut as earlier. Emerging economic powers such as China, India, and Brazil exhibited characteristics of both the North and the South.
  • On one hand, their gross national income could rival that of richer Global North nations. On the other hand, socially and politically, they were grappling with challenges that are typical to the Global South.
  • Despite the breadth and depth of their socio-economic challenges, the sheer weight of their populations and the growing size of their economies underlined the significance of these countries to the rest of the world.
  • This is why the G20 – where nations from both the Global North and South are equal members – is important.
  • The G20 was founded in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis, but it became truly important in global geopolitics post the 2008 global economic crisis.

Conclusion- As much of the world reeled from the effects of the recession, it was obvious that only North countries could not provide all solutions, and that the Global South needed to have a greater say in the way global challenges were addressed.

Syllabus- GS-2; International Relations

Source- Indian Express