Global South

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World map showing a traditional definition of the North-South divide
World map representing Human Development Index categories (based on 2017 data, published in 2018).
  Advanced economies
  Emerging and developing economies (not least developed)
  Emerging and developing economies (least developed)
Classifications by the IMF and the UN[1]

The Global South is an emerging term which refers to countries seen as low and middle income in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean by the World Bank. These nations are often described as newly industrialized or in the process of industrializing. Global South does not necessarily refer to geographical south (many Global South countries are in the geographical north). The term started to develop as using “Third World” to describe these countries was seen inferior compared to “First World”. “Developing countries”, “less developed countries” and “less developed regions” are also seen inappropriate to refer to Global South.[2]

Rise of the term[edit]

The first use of Global South in a contemporary political sense came about in 1969. Carl Oglesby, writing in the liberal Catholic journal Commonweal in a special issue on the Vietnam War, argued that centuries of northern “dominance over the global south… have converged… to produce an intolerable social order.”[3]

The term gained attraction and appeal throughout the second half of the 20th century. It appeared in fewer than two dozen publications in 2004, but in hundreds of publications by 2013.[4] The emergence of the new term meant looking at the troubled realities of its predecessors, i.e.: Third World or Developing World. The term is less hierarchical.[5]

Debates over the term[edit]

With its development, many scholars preferred using the Global South over its predecessors (ex: developing countries). Leigh Anne Duck, the co-editor of Global South, argued that the term is better suited at resisting "hegemonic forces that threaten the autonomy and development of these countries."[6] Other critics and scholars like Alvaro Mendez (co-founder of the London School of Economics and Political Science's Global South Unit) have applauded empowering aspects of the term. In an article, Discussion on Global South, Mendez discusses emerging economies in nations like China, India and Brazil. It is predicted that by 2030, 80% of world's middle-class population will be living in developing countries.[7] The popularity of the term "marks a shift from a central focus on development and cultural difference" and recognizes the importance of geopolitical relations.[8]

Some scholars disagree with the term. These critics argue that "huge blanket terms" should be eliminated.[9] Others argued that the term, its usage, and its subsequent consequences mainly benefit those from the upper classes of countries within the Global South;[5] who stand "to profit from the political and economic reality [of] expanding south-south relations."[5]

The geographical boundaries of the Global South remain a source of debate. Critics and scholars like Andrea Hollington, Oliver Tappe, Tijo Salverda and Tobias Schwarz agree that the term is not a "static concept."[5] Others, like Rodolfo Magallanes, have argued against "grouping together a large variety of countries and regions into one category [because it] tends to obscure specific (historical) relationships between different countries and/or regions" and the power imbalances within these relationships.[5] He argues that this "may obscure wealth differences within countries – and, therefore, similarities between the wealthy in the Global South and Global North, as well as the dire situation the poor may face all around the world."[5] This suggests that the term should not be understood geographically, "an image of the world divided by the equator, separating richer countries from their poorer counterparts."[5] Rather, geography should be more readily understood as economic and migratory, the world understood through the "wider context of globalization or global capitalism."[5] Beginning to understand the Global South in these terms shows that "most people in the so-called Global South actually live in the Northern Hemisphere."[5]

Uses of the term[edit]

Global South "emerged in part to aid countries in the southern hemisphere to work in collaboration on political, economic, social, environmental, cultural, and technical issues."[10][11] This is called South–South cooperation (SSC), a "political and economical term that refers to the long-term goal of pursuing world economic changes that mutually benefit countries in the Global South and lead to greater solidarity among the disadvantaged in the world system."[10][11] The hope is that countries within the Global South will "assist each other in social, political, and economical development, radically altering the world system to reflect their interests and not just the interests of the Global North in the process."[10] It is guided by the principles of "respect for national sovereignty, national ownership, independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in domestic affairs, and mutual benefit."[12][13] Countries using this model of South–South cooperation see it as a "mutually beneficial relationship that spreads knowledge, skills, expertise and resources to address their development challenges such as high population pressure, poverty, hunger, disease, environmental deterioration, conflict and natural disasters."[12][13] These countries also work together to deal with "cross border issues such as environmental protection, HIV/AIDS,"[12][13] and the movement of capital and labor.[12][13]

As Global South leaders have become more assertive in world politics, South-South cooperation has increased to "challenge the political and economic dominance of the North."[12][13][14] SSC has become a popular political and economic concept today because of recent "geographical shifts in manufacturing and production from the North to the Global South"[14] and the recent "key diplomatic achievements" of several states like China.[14] These contemporary economic trends have "enhanced the historical potential of economic growth and industrialization in the Global South," which has renewed targeted SSC efforts that "loosen the strictures imposed during the colonial era and transcend the boundaries of postwar political and economic geography."[10] Used in several books and American Literature special issue, the term Global South, recently became prominent for U.S. literature.[15]


The Global South only started governing themselves in the second half of the twentieth century. Most were governed by an imperial European power until decolonization occurred. Political systems in the Global South are diverse. Nonetheless, some shared characteristics involve politics. First, many states have focused on establishing democratic governments in the past few decades[16]; they used to be ruled by European powers and had no government of their own. Elites - often military - controlled power for the first few decades after decolonization. This changed in the 1990s, through citizen empowerment in states as India, Brazil and South Africa.

The process towards a democratic state has often been challenging. One of the barriers was corruption and nepotism embedded throughout these political systems. Another challenge to democratization included low confidence and participation in democracy. The inhabitants of the Global South were relatively new to the democratic system and had to be enticed to participate. This is referred to as ‘effective citizenship’. Sociologist Patrick Heller defines it as: ‘closing [the] gap between formal legal rights in the civil and political arena, and the actual capability to meaningfully practice those rights is what I mean by effective citizenship.’[17]


Developing countries’ loosely refers to the Global South. Although antiquated, it is economically accurate. Following independence and decolonization, these states had dire need of new infrastructure and economic stimulation. Many relied on investment from foreign countries. This funding focused on improving infrastructure and industry, but led to a system of systemic exploitation. They sold raw materials, like as rubber, for a bargain. In return, Western countries used cheap labor in the Global South for production.[18] The West benefited significantly from this system, but left the Global South undeveloped.

This system of exploitation is called Neocolonialism. Neocolonialism is a system in which less-developed countries are taken advantage of by developed countries. It does not necessarily mean that former colonies are still controlled by their former colonizer; it refers to colonial-like exploitation. Several institutions have been established to put an end to this system of exploitation.[19] One of these institutions is the New International Economic Order. They have a ‘no-strings-attached’ policy that promotes developing countries remaining or becoming self-sufficient. More specifically, they advocate sovereignty over natural resources and industrialization.

The global issues most often discussed by nations from the Global South include: globalisation, global health governance, health, and prevention needs. This is contrasted by issues North American-based nations tend to address like innovations in science and technology.[20] Subsequently, coalitions of developing nations like the NIEO lobby for parity. These demands were rejected by developed countries. This rejection led to a prolonging of the neocolonialist system. The rise of China might imply the rise of the BRIC countries. There is an increasing cooperation between these four (sometimes five when South-Africa is included) and they are rapidly growing.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Mitlin, Diana; Satterthwaite, David (2013). Urban Poverty in the Global South: Scale and Nature. Routledge. ISBN 9780415624664.
  3. ^ Oglesby, Carl (1969). "Vietnamism has failed . . . The revolution can only be mauled, not defeated,". Commonweal. 90.
  4. ^ Pagel, Heikie; Ranke, Karen; Hempel, Fabian; Köhler, Jonas (11 July 2014). "The Use of the Concept 'Global South' in Social Science & Humanities". Humboldt University of Berlin. Retrieved 2016-10-06.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Introduction: Concepts of the Global South | GSSC". Archived from the original on 2016-09-04. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  6. ^ "Introduction: Concepts of the Global South | GSSC". 2016-09-04. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  7. ^ "Discussion on the Global South | GSSC". 2016-10-26. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  8. ^ dados, nour; connell, raewyn (2012-01-01). "the global south". Contexts. 11 (1): 12–13. JSTOR 41960738.
  9. ^ Eriksen, Thomas Hylland (January 2015). "What´s wrong with the Global North and the Global South?". Global South Studies Center. Archived from the original on 2016-10-09. Retrieved 2016-10-06.
  10. ^ a b c d Gray, Kevin; Gills, Barry K. (2016-04-02). "South–South cooperation and the rise of the Global South". Third World Quarterly. 37 (4): 557–574. doi:10.1080/01436597.2015.1128817. ISSN 0143-6597.
  11. ^ a b South-south cooperation. (2013). Appropriate Technology, 40(1), 45-48. Retrieved from
  12. ^ a b c d e United Nations. "United Nations: Special Unit for South-South Cooperation" (PDF). United Nations Development Programme. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-19.
  13. ^ a b c d e United Nations. "United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation". United Nations Development Programme. Archived from the original on 2012-12-03.
  14. ^ a b c Acharya, Amitav (2016-07-03). "Studying the Bandung conference from a Global IR perspective". Australian Journal of International Affairs. 70 (4): 342–357. doi:10.1080/10357718.2016.1168359. ISSN 1035-7718.
  15. ^ Kim, Heidi Kathleen (Spring 2011). "The Foreigner in Yoknapatawpha: Rethinking Race in Faulkner's "Global South"". Philological Quarterly. 90: 199–228.
  16. ^ Palat, Ravi Arvind (2010). "World Turned Upside Down? Rise of the global South and the contemporary global financial turbulence". Third World Quarterly. 31: 365–366 – via JSTOR.
  17. ^ Heller, Patrick (2012). "Democracy, Participatory Politics and Development: Some Comparative Lessons from Brazil, India and South Africa". Polity. 44: 644–646 – via JSTOR.
  18. ^ a b Roy, Pallavi (2016). "Economic growth, the UN and the Global South: an unfulfilled promise". Third World Quarterly. 37: 1291–1293 – via JSTOR.
  19. ^ "Neocolonialism". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-04-01.
  20. ^ Ager, Alastair; Yu, Gary; Hermosilla, Sabrina (2012). "Mapping the key issues shaping the landscape of global public health". Global Public Health. 7 (1): 16–28.

Further reading[edit]

  • Coexisting Contemporary Civilizations. Arabo-Muslim, Bharati Chinese, and Western by Guy Ankerl. INUPress, Geneva, 2000.