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.
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 is 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 to use the cooperation in order to address challenges like poverty, cross-border issues, population growth, disease, and war through 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 difference 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.
About the Author
Mark is a student at Maseno University and community commentator in Kenya. Mark also has interests in geography, African history, and international development.
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