G20 Presidency: Speaking for Global South


G20 Presidency: Speaking for Global South

If the East-West conflict has defined much of the geopolitics and the geo-economics of the past century, Sanjaya Baru (political commentator and policy analyst) writes “the gradual rise of what have been called the ‘emerging markets' has added a new dimension to the shifting global balance of power. Two decades ago, the biggest democracies of Asia, Latin America and Africa came together to former the triumvirate called IBSA -- India, Brazil, South Africa. Add Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s and the Islamic world’s largest democracy to this group and the potential ‘IBISA’ countries have the opportunity to successively lead the Group of Twenty between 2022 and 2025, offering the Global South an opportunity to voice their interests in this era of Big Power contestation.”

The question for 2023 is “whether this IBISA -- at present comprising of governments headed by Narendra Modi, Lula da Silva, Joko Widodo and Cyril Ramaphosa -- can speak with one voice to advance the interests of the Global South.

“India has already let it be known that it remains committed to its traditional role as a ‘Voice of the Global South’. The Narendra Modi government will have to spell out what it means when it makes this claim today….”


Three issues for Global South: climate change, migration and trade

Baru identifies three issues  “that should in fact offer a basis for an IBISA platform. First and foremost, climate change and the manner in which the developing economies of the Global South wish to see this challenge addressed.

“Second, international trade and the threat posed by the growing protectionism within the developed industrial economies, especially the United States. Third, international migration and the challenge posed to it both by demographic shifts and climate change. There would other issues too.”

In each of these areas more needs to be done. “Developed country funding commitment for climate finance will have to be enhanced and a more ambitious timetable drawn up. Global standards for protection of the rights of migrants -- both refugees and workers -- require much greater national commitment…..Finally, international trade remains an area of concern with the reversal of globalisation and the proliferation of regional and plurilateral trade arrangements. This is a difficult terrain for countries of the Global South given their internal differences.

“However, a coming together of IBISA demanding revival of multi-lateralism in trade would add weight to attempts to revive the World Trade Organisation.”

By forming IBISA, the four consecutive chairs of G-20, concluded Baru  “can shape global discourse both on geo-economic and geopolitical trends at a time when Big Power rivalry is creating hurdles to economic growth and development and hurting the interests of the world’s poor. If 2022 was all about Big Power conflict, 2023 should be used to turn global attention to issues that concern developing countries. India has an excellent opportunity to take the lead and define such an agenda for the year of its chairmanship of G-20.”


At the heart of the Global South is Africa

India, however, should not loose focus while  becoming the voice of the Global South.  At the heart of the Global South, writes Rajiv Bhatia (Distinguished Fellow, Foreign Studies Programme at Gateway House)  “is Africa. Most of the 54 countries of this continent are developing or least developed countries. To truly represent the South, it is essential to grasp the mood and changes in Africa, especially in its external partnerships. This will determine the contribution India can make to advance the African agenda….”

While there is in tense competition between the US and China to gain influence in Africa, “India’s equity in Africa is older and richer than that of China and the U.S., but that should not be a source of complacency. India has striven hard, in the past two decades, to strengthen its political and economic partnership with Africa at the continental, regional and bilateral levels. The Modi government created a special momentum in arranging high-level exchanges and forging cooperation initiatives during the 2015-19 period.

“Since then, COVID-19, the economic downturn, the war in Ukraine and border conflict with China may have contributed to a slowdown. This should be arrested quickly. The G20 presidency is India’s opportunity to ensure that the AU becomes a permanent member of this grouping and to reflect firmly Africa’s Agenda 2063 for development. India and the U.S. should work closer together in Africa….”

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