Conference Summary: ‘The New South-South Dynamic in Global Affairs: A Changing World Order?’

South-South BannerOn March 18, 2010 the Center for Global Studies hosted a conference at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington D.C. to explore various dimensions of the upsurge in direct connectivity—economic, political, and cultural—between countries generally regarded as part of the Global South (or at least “non-Western”). Tracing the geopolitical legacy of such South-South interactions to the Bandung Conference of 1955, a broad range of historians, sociologists, political scientists, activists and area studies experts from the United States and abroad went on to explore various manifestations of the new South-South dynamics in contemporary global affairs. Panel themes focused on the historical and postcolonial legacies of South-South solidarity, transnational civil society activism connecting countries in the developing world, and the new political economy of labor and foreign investment that underpins the emerging architecture of a possible “post-Western” global order.

Attended by scholars, researchers, and representatives from U.S. government agencies such as USAID, multilateral organizations such as the United Nations Development Program, and NGOs such as Oxfam, the conference served to initiate a broader conversation about the need for an ongoing, full-scale research program on the new South-South dynamics in global affairs.

A rapporteur’s summary of the conference presentations follows.

 

Opening Talk

Amitav Acharya, American University
From Bandung to G-20: The South in the Global Order
Amitav Acharya opened the workshop with some thoughts on South-South cooperation as seen through the historical movement from the Bandung Conference of 1955 to today’s G-20. The Bandung Conference, a meeting of representatives of 29 African and Asian nations ostensibly to promote economic and cultural cooperation and to oppose colonialism, brought together actors from across the global South. The conference built on transnational movements such as Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism and established the Non-Alignment Movement to navigate the bipolar Cold War order.. Acharya continued his discussions by outlining key differences between the two institutions. The G-20 shows the possible polarization within the South – what he describes as the “power South” (including such states as China, Brazil, and India) and the “poor South” (Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia). In Bandung, leaders from the South had more modest global goals than the emerging southern powers that participate in the G-20.

 

Panel 1: Subaltern Solidarity, Non-Alignment & S-S Cooperation: A History of Ideas

Cemil Aydin, George Mason University
The South Identity
Cemil Aydin began by emphasizing how identities as “the South” and transnational identities in Asia, Africa, and the Islamic world are modern constructs that may be traced to the engagement with Europe. Aydin illustrated this point by examing Muslim identity. Only after the 1850s did Muslim identity begin to represent a bloc with a history and agenda which was taken up by Muslims in an attempt to respond to anti-Muslim rhetoric of the West. Aydin argued that solidarities in the South built upon a common sense of humiliation and their common marginalization by imperial powers. This early history of transnational identities in the global South was reactivated after World War I when the collapse of the Ottoman Empire again raised questions of South-South linkages.

Johanna Bockman, George Mason University
Debating Socialism: Yugoslavia, Latin America and the Non-Alignment Movement
Johanna Bockman emphasized the specific but under-recognized roles played by Yugoslavia in the evolution of non-alignment. Models and ideas developed in Yugoslavia had a major impact in many parts of the global South. In Chile, for example, Yugoslav economic models were seen as lessening the power of the state and prioritizing self-management and broad democratization. Yugoslavia led transnational socialist dialogues that in time were incorporating into and obscured by the neoliberal narratives favored by the North.

Siba Grovogui, Johns Hopkins University
What is the Global South?
Siba Grovogui discussed the Global South in relation to topics of universalism, tradition and Siba Grovogui - Waht is the Global South?community. He began by questioning the often held assumption that the Bandung Conference was simply a forum for Third World confrontationalism and described the South-South movement as resistance to the assignment of different statuses to people across the globe and seeing moral entities equally. This is the concept of universalism and universal laws demanding equal treatment. Grovogui further argued that if we want to understand the Global South, we must look at traditions because you cannot entertain moral entities without building traditions. The Global South is not just a political concept, it is a community. These solidarities help explain why India has greater credibility in Africa than the British or the French.

 

Panel 2: Transnational Civil Societies of Global South: NGO & Advocacy Networks

Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Characteristics of the South-South movement
Balakrishnan Rajagopal investigated some of the key concepts related to the study of South-South relationships. He pointed out that civil society uses the term transnational instead of global. Global transnational institutions, peace movements, and economic justice movements embrace globalism as a normative agenda while questioning global institutions. He found that there are intellectually strong similarities between Bandung in 1955 and the Cancun Summit in 2003. Instrumentally, networks and movements such as those seen in these conferences have an effect on the capacity of national states to negotiate. Transnational civil society networks connect politics of the local with politics of the global in order to advance certain forms of political change. G-20 meetings provide opportunities for civil society networks but such networks tend to be dominated by and based in the North. Rajagopal closed with the thought that we unfortunately do not have doctrinal or conceptual tools to take implications of rising civil society as we design institutions.

John Dale, George Mason University
The Free Burma Movement and the Global South
John Dale discussed the Free Burma Movement as a case to explore the tensions between civil society movements based in the north and those from the region in question. The Free Burma movement is composed of organizations and grass-roots efforts in US, UK, Canada and Southeast Asia which support the democracy movement in Burma.. John Dale pointed out that the movement, despite the transnational solidarity that is being built, has also realized the asymmetries among the constituent organizations threaten the movement and require explicit initiatives to democratize these relationships. The tensions between pro-democracy groups and ethnic movements in Burma illustrate the varied concepts of human rights. Dale presented the example of the Alien Tort Claims Act 1789 which grants jurisdiction to US Federal Courts for violations that need not take place in the United States. The use of this Act against corporations involved in Burma required the re-imagining relationships between companies and transnational civil societies.

Carlos Aguilar, Brazilian Institute of Social and Economic Analyses (IBASE)Carlos Aguilar - The People's Dialogue
The People’s Dialogue/Diálogo Entre los Pueblos: Transnational Civil Society Between Latin America & Africa
Carlos Aguilar began his presentation with the idea that there is a “North in the South” and a “South in the North.” Power exists in pockets of the South while disempowerment characterizes locations in the North. He emphasized that South-South relations related not only to the movement of capitalism and finances but also brought attention to environmental concerns, the global food crisis, and other global issues. Aguilar presented some of the work being done to develop “active citizenship” through organizations such as the World Social Forum as well as collaboration among civil society organizations in Brazil, India, South Africa, and Russia. According to him, the dominant international institutions that have transformed the post-colonial world are suffering a crisis of legitimacy. At the same time it is the emerging economies themselves that also responsible for current environmental and food crises because they have pursued economic growth based on concentration of wealth and have systematically violated human rights. Aguilar presented the challenges of building South-South alliances and generating a common South-South agenda.

 

Panel 3: Debating South-South: Security, Development & Human Mobility

Mary Breeding, Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University
South Asian Labor Migrants in the UAE & Qatar
Mary Breeding shared research and findings from the Migrant Labor Project which looks at migration and job recruitment processes between India and the Gulf. The project documents recruitment patterns and contract brokering among recruitment agencies, job candidates and Gulf-based employers. Her research has revealed that recruitment agencies more often engage in abusive practices when contracts are private, corporate, and politically connected. The contracts also require excessive fees from laborers through process that are not legal or regulated. Recruitment agents have incentives to work in smaller villages and recruit rural labor due to improving economic conditions in the cities. Employers in the Gulf have preferences for workers from particular regions with skill-based specializations resulting in asymmetric recruitment linked to traditional forms of caste-based employment.

Jaime Daremblum, Hudson Institute
Non-Aligned Movement History
Jaime Daremblum’s discussion centered upon the ideological shifts in the South since the Bandung Conference of 1955. He argued that since the inception of the movement many Latin American nations have used the rhetoric of non-alignment to obscure undemocratic processes. Daremblum illustrated this point by examing Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. These states have strengthened relations with Iran and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez has used economic assistance to build regional support for his ideological goals. Daremblum stated that there is an inter-American democratic challenge to counter these non-democratic movements. A stronger and accountable Organization of American States must be part of this democratic renewal.

Ramkishen Rajan, George Mason University
South-South Foreign Direct Investment & Development
Ramkishen Rajan described the nature and characteristics of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of the Global South. He explained that there is a global race in FDI which is seen as an opportunity by developing nations. Overseas FDI from developing countries is not a new phenomenon but the difference is that China is now playing a significant role. The Chinese have a clear policy of building global multi-nationals. India has been following the same dynamic as China, although India’s FDI is more directed towards the developing world. South-South FDI is greater than what the numbers actually show, but the bulk of the investments are intra-Asian. Southern FDI is organized through companies that are as strong as those in the North but there are uncertainties about the benefits for the local economies receiving the investments. Most of Southern FDI is in capital intensive infrastructure.

David Shinn, George Washington UniversityDavid Shinn - Africa's New Partners
Africa’s New Partners: The Rising Influence of China, India, Russia, Brazil & Iran
David Shinn’s presentation focused on the emerging powers of China, India, Brazil, Russia and Iran in Africa. He described four reasons for why China is inherent in Africa: for resources, for political and economic support, to increase Chinese exports and finally to end Taiwan’s presence in China. China is the number two trading partner of Africa and has growing assistance programs and security relationships. India competes with China for markets and has made loans and engaged extensively in peacekeeping operations on the continent. Russia, after being less engaged for a period of time, is re-emerging as a rising power on the continent. Assistance programs and military sales in particular are growing.

 

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This Annual Conference 2010 is part of the Center’s project on the Global South “Pivotal Powers and the New South-South Relations: Security, Development, and the New Global Order.” Click here for more details.