Briefing on the Global South and South-South Cooperation

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Which countries comprise the so-called Global South?

The Global South is a term used to refer to a group of countries that are generally considered to be less developed and economically disadvantaged compared to the countries of the Global North. The boundaries and composition of the Global South are not fixed and can vary depending on the context, but some common criteria used to define it include:

  1. Geography: The Global South generally includes countries located in the continents of Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
  2. Economic indicators: The Global South includes countries with low or middle-income economies, as defined by the World Bank.
  3. Historical and political context: The Global South includes countries that have a history of colonialism or have been marginalized in the global economy.

Some examples of countries that are commonly considered to be part of the Global South include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, and Vietnam, among others. However, it is important to note that the composition of the Global South is not fixed, and different organizations or individuals may include different countries based on their own criteria and perspectives.

What is South-South Cooperation?

This cooperation is based on the principle of solidarity and the idea that developing countries have unique experiences and solutions to common development challenges that they can share with each other. It refers to the collaboration and exchange of resources, knowledge, and technologies between countries in the Global South (countries that are not part of the OECD).

South-South Cooperation can take many forms, including technical assistance, capacity building, joint ventures, trade, and investment. It can involve cooperation between governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and individuals. The areas of cooperation can range from agriculture and health to education and infrastructure development.

Why are we increasingly hearing about it? 

South-South Cooperation has become increasingly important in recent years as developing countries have become more interconnected thanks to globalisation and digitalisation, and as the global balance of economic and political power has shifted. It offers a way for countries in the Global South to leverage their collective strengths and to work together to achieve common goals.

Amidst recent reports of trade deals between Global South countries bypassing the US dollar, the currency typically used in intergovernmental trade relations, enhanced South-South Cooperation has been at the forefront of recent news cycles.

What implications does this have for North-South Cooperation?

South-South Cooperation does not exclude cooperation between the Global South and the Global North. Instead, it recognizes that the countries of the Global South face similar development challenges and have a unique perspective and experience that they can share with each other.

South-South Cooperation has the potential to complement and strengthen North-South cooperation by promoting more equal partnerships and by sharing knowledge and resources between countries facing similar challenges.

Examples of South-South Cooperation include:

– Brazil’s cooperation with African countries in the areas of agriculture, health, and energy. This month, the Brazilian government signed a trade deal with the Chinese government bypassing the US dollar.

– India’s cooperation with other developing countries in the areas of technology transfer, capacity building, and infrastructure development. Recently India inked a deal with Tanzania, also bypassing the traditional trade currency of the US dollar.

– China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to build infrastructure and improve connectivity across Asia, Africa, and Europe.

– The establishment of the South-South Cooperation Trust Fund by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which supports projects and initiatives that promote South-South Cooperation.

South-South Cooperation has been intensifying in recent months with new alliances being formed, and peace deals being brokered, bypassing the usual suspects. With it comes the hope of new and improved forms of cooperation, not only between countries of the Global South but also North-South or South-North as the new world order would imply. What developing nations want is increased trade over and above aid, on a more equal footing, a more equitable and inclusive treatment across the board (e.g., rating agencies outside of US dominance, trade deals outside of the US dollar), or even more simply, a seat at the table, be it at the United Nations Security Council or as observers of the G20 meetings.

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