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The Global South, having gained its voice, advocates an effective rules-based order

By MARCOS CORDEIRO PIRES | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-02-20 07:54
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The Global South, having gained its voice, advocates an effective rules-based order


Among the issues currently polarizing the attention of the international community are the conflicts in Ukraine and Palestine. The first will turn two years old at the end of this month. The invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israel Defense Forces, in response to the Hamas-led attacks that resulted in the death of 1,200 Israelis and the seizing of over 200 hostages, is now in its fifth month. The human and material costs of both conflicts are incalculable.

Both conflicts are matters of concern for many governments and they have been debated in the Security Council and the United Nations General Assembly. A well-defined pattern was established in successive votes for resolutions dealing with these crises. The G7 countries and their allies are on one side; the countries of the Global South are on the other. In March 2022, for example, although many of these countries denounced Russia for the Ukraine crisis, few adhered to the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and the European Union.

The most recent discussion concerns the filing by the government of the South African Republic to the International Court of Justice, denouncing the Israeli government for committing genocide against the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip. This action had broad support from countries in the Global South, including several Latin American countries.

It is important to note that in both events the positioning of developing countries was not marked by ideological or cultural preferences but by dissatisfaction with the current configuration of the international order in which these nations find themselves excluded from the most critical decisions. Additionally, the resentment toward colonialism is worth mentioning, as it persists to this day. Despite being formally independent, the populations of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, for example, still resist France's current political, economic and military influence in their nations. This resentment occurs in most countries in the Global South that have been victims of imperialism and colonialism.

Like the Non-Aligned Movement before, the Global South movement questions the so-called rules-based international order led by the US because it is pretty selective in its application. Since the end of World War II, Western countries have always chosen the rules that benefit themselves and simultaneously imposed rules on third parties that they did not follow. Free trade is one of them, as well as respect for the principles of integrity and sovereignty of nations, which are essential aspects of international relations. Theoretically, this should apply to Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen or Sudan. However, the same powers that question the independence of the Donbas region, or even the creation of a national state for the Kurds or the independence of Scotland, work together to break up other countries.

Another selectivity concerns the defense of "human rights".This theme embarrasses countries that do not submit to the hegemonic powers. Many wars, hybrid or hot, were started under this pretext. Venezuela still faces the harsh impacts of sanctions imposed by the US and its allies, as well as the Cuban government, which has faced an economic blockade for 61 years.

Still, the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is real, with the destruction of infrastructure and the emigration of hundreds of thousands of families who have fled the conflict, as are the humanitarian problems that involve Haitians, Burmese and others. However, despite the similarity of human tragedies, the way each crisis is addressed differs substantively. "People of color" from the Global South are treated as second-class people and subjected to various types of humiliation by Western governments. The invisibility of the plight of immigrants on the northern border of Mexico or of people trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea toward Europe is an example of this.

In this aspect, it is important to return to the topic of the action taken by the Pretoria government against the atrocities committed in the Gaza Strip. As of writing, the deaths in Gaza have reached more than 27,000 people, including civilians and combatants. For comparison purposes, between Feb 24, 2022, which marked the beginning of the conflict, and Sep 24, 2023, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 9,701 deaths in Ukraine. It is worth remembering that the population of Gaza is almost 20 times smaller than that of Ukraine, which reveals the scale of the tragedy.

In conclusion, when analyzing the recent positioning of countries from the Global South in international forums regarding the conflicts in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, in contrast to the G7, we must consider two aspects. First, the historical wounds of colonialism have not yet healed, as the harmful effects of domination, exploitation and racism still affect subjugated nations. Second, it reflects the greater protagonism of developing nations, since being freed from the colonial yoke they have managed to regain control of their destinies and accumulated economic and political strength to guarantee their rights. This new protagonism of the Global South must be reflected in global governance to build a new international order that is effectively based on rules that respect democracy among nations and that are applied without the current selectivity. In this aspect, the recent expansion of the BRICS group is encouraging.

The author is a professor of international political economy at the Sao Paulo State University. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

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