For several weeks now, an extraordinary diplomatic ballet has been taking place in the countries of the South, about which little is heard in the West: the Chinese Foreign Minister is travelling throughout Africa and the ASEAN countries, while his Indian counterpart has just returned from Mozambique, Egypt, Kenya and Ghana. And this is going to accelerate.
All these movements revolve around the control of what is now increasingly called the “Global South”, i.e. all the emerging countries, i.e. about 140 countries. This is not a recent idea; it dates back at least to the creation in 1964 of the Non-Aligned Movement, the so-called Group of 77. These countries, most of them former colonies of the North, have obviously always had, and still have, many problems in common: poverty, inflation, food security, health, education, unemployment, energy, debt. And it is understandable that they fear that these subjects will be left out of the debates of the major international meetings to come (in particular the next G7 in May in Japan and the next G20 in September in India), which could focus only on the issues that preoccupy the countries of the North (such as the war in Ukraine); and that the North will want to make the South pay the consequences of its own turpitude, by denying it access to the fossil fuels that the North has made its fortune from, while at the same time destroying the common future.
It won’t be that simple: the countries of the South increasingly have the means to control the agenda of international meetings. The G20 will be chaired this year by India, after Indonesia, and before that by Brazil and then South Africa. And India has even begun its year by convening a summit of 125 countries from the South, hoping to pave the way for a September agreement on massive debt cancellation for the South. While China, which no longer considers itself to be a country of the South, dreams of taking over the leadership of this group, with the ambition of overthrowing the domination of democracies over international institutions and the global financial system. It has the financial means to do so.
The consequences of this confrontation were not long in coming: the recent G20 meetings of finance and foreign ministers were unable to reach a joint communiqué, in particular because of the lack of agreement on the war in Ukraine.
That there are communities of interest between countries of the South is obvious. That these countries should be given a much greater say in the UN Security Council and the IMF is obvious. But nothing would be more dangerous than to allow the old bloc to reconstitute itself.
To avoid this, the G7 countries have just invented a bizarre categorisation, distinguishing between “regional partners”, “friendly partners” and “willing partners”. The first would essentially be India and ASEAN; the second would be Africa and the Middle East; the third would be Latin America.
Such categorisations are not just word games for diplomats from outside the region; they reveal very dangerous conceptions for all those who are attached to human rights and democracy, because they say that the interests of countries are independent of their political regime, which is only a second-order variable, and that only objective economic, military and demographic data count.
Many diplomats from the North, cynical followers of a misunderstood realpolitik, are ready to admit such a vision of the world. To speak of a “Global South” is to play into the hands of all dictators.
To stop attaching importance to human rights in other countries is to prepare ourselves to do the same in our own country. It also means failing to see that dictatorships are not only the worst political regimes for their citizens, but also the least economically efficient, the most corrupt, and the most warlike. None of the world’s problems, not even climate change, will be solved by dictatorships.
Even if the Indian or Brazilian democracies leave something to be desired, like so many others (including in the United States and Europe), the real dividing line in the world is between those who value human rights and those who do not. Nothing should preoccupy us more than to fight against any decline in democracy in the countries where it is supposed to exist. And to help those who are struggling to bring it about at home.
Photo : United Nations Security Council on the United Nations Headquarters in New York City