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The Global South (SPECIALS)

Published: 13th Jul, 2023


The unwillingness of many leading countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to stand with NATO over the war in Ukraine has brought to the fore once again the term “Global South.”

Brief Background:

  • The term “Global South” was coined by Alfred Sauvyin 1952, in an analogy with France’s historical three estates: the nobility, the clergy and the bourgeoisie. 
  • It was first used in 1969 by political activist Carl Oglesby.


  • First world: Advanced capitalist nations
  • Second world: Socialist nations led by the Soviet Union
  • Third world: Developing nations
  • But it was only after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union– which marked the end of the so-called “Second World” – that the term gained momentum.
  • Until then, the more common term for developing nations – countries that had yet to industrialize fully – was “Third World.”

What does the term “Global South” mean?

  • The term “Global South” is not geographical. In fact, the Global South’s two largest countries – China and India – lie entirely in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Rather, its usage denotes a mix of political, geopolitical and economic commonalities between nations.

What are the major commonalities?

  • Colonisation: Major commonality between the South countries is that most have a history of colonisation, largely at the hands of European powers.
  • Exclusion from prominent organizations: The region’s historical exclusion from prominent international organisations – such as from the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council.
  • Economic issues: In general, they are poorer, have higher levels of income inequality and suffer lower life expectancy and harsher living conditions than countries in the “Global North”.
  • ‘Global North’ refers loosely to countries like the US, Canada, Europe, Russia, Australia and New Zealand
  • ‘Global South’ includes countries in Asia, Africa and South America.

What is India’s approach to Global South?

  • India’s rich history as the leader of the Non-Aligned Movement and its economic and geopolitical clout in global politics are propelling New Delhi to play a greater role in global geopolitics. Assuming the position of G-20 Presidency in 2022-23 is a testimony to this.  
  • Narrative to global geopolitics: Being the leader of the Global South, India provides a voice to the Global South Movement.
    • Whether on the question of climate change, energy transition, taking a stand on normative issues or protecting the Global South's interest, India played a proactive role in international forums over the years.
  • Forerunner in sustainable energy transitions: India is the forerunner in global and sustainable energy transitions. At various Climate Summits, India resisted the onslaught from the Global North and protected the interest of the Global South be it on the question of climate financing, limiting the emission norms.
  • Significant contributions to the arena of energy transition framework are
    • International Solar Alliance
    • push to hydrogen-based fuel
    • technical assistance to the countries of the Global South in harnessing solar energy and hydrogen-based fuel
  • Democratising international relations: Reforming the United Nations and broadening the UN Security Council’s permanent membership are some of the constant demands India has raised over the years. 

Guiding Light:

The mottos of G-20, which India is chairing, is based on “One Earth, One Family, One Future” — rooted in the Indian ethos of “vasudhaiva kutumbakam”—  and “Sustainable Peace”. Hence India’s approach provides a guiding light to the Global South movement.

Why the concept is being reiterated now?

  • Economic emergence: The concept is being reiterated now partly because of the economic emergence of some of these South countries, such as India and China, in the last few decades.
  • Political visibility: This economic shift has gone hand in hand with enhanced political visibility. Countries in the Global South are increasingly asserting themselves on the global scene.

How Global South can help to resolve the emerging issues in the global geopolitics?

  • Emerging challenges to the nature of global geopolitics:
    • Resource + Security: Supply securitisation of food and energy, technology transfer, energy transition, and climate change issues and their impact on the global community.
    • Genuine multilateralism: The other important challenge is in the form of the need for “genuine multilateralism” of the institutions of global governance to provide an equitable voice to all countries.

The above challenges are giving opportunities to the countries of the Global South, which is emerging as a cohesive bloc, thus emphasising equity in the decision-making process at the global level.

Challenges before the Global South

Required Measures

  • Lack of adequate energy supply at an affordable price. 
  • Lack of sustainable energy transition
  • Adversarial consequences of climate change (largely due to the historical polluters of the Global North)
  • Lack of equitable representation from the Global South at global forums.
  • There is the need to securitize food, fertilizers.
  • There is need to ensure a sustainable energy transition which can bring overall socio-economic development to the Global South. 
  • There is a need to look at the process of climate change repercussions on the Global South from a broader perspective. 
  • Broadening the membership of the UNSC is an important step towards democratising international relations.


Global South is currently facing a major identity crisis emanating from historical experiences, Cold War legacies, and issues relating to supply chain securitisation. The post-Covid world order and the Ukraine war further aggravated the problem for Global South.

India, led by Prime Minister Modi, aims to address energy and food crises and the impact of the recession on the global economy in the Global South. India is committed to sharing its developmental experience and calls for inclusive global governance to promote growth and prosperity. India's leadership can reshape global geopolitics and invigorate the existing global order.

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