African Reserves

Why non-alignment is an urgent imperative for the Global South

South Africa and other countries that abstained from voting against Russia at the United Nations General Assembly in response to the war in Ukraine are facing intense international criticism. In South Africa, domestic criticism has been extraordinarily acute and often clearly racialised. Abstention is often assumed to mean that South Africa supports the Russian invasion, and this is due either to corrupt relations between the Russian and South African elites or to nostalgia for support for the fight against apartheid by the Soviet Union, or both.

By Nontobeko Hlela

It is rarely recognized that non-alignment, in this case the refusal to align with the United States and its allies or with Russia, can be a position of principle, as well as a shrewd tactical engagement with geopolitical realities. . As two founding figures of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), then Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito and then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru stated in a joint statement signed on 22 December 1954, “the policy of non-alignment with the blocs … does not represent ‘neutrality’ or ‘neutrality’; nor does it represent passivity as is sometimes claimed. It represents the positive, active and constructive policy which, as its objective, has collective peace as the foundation of collective security.

The Global South is home to more than 80% of the world’s population, yet its countries are systematically excluded from any decision-making within international organizations that make decisions on behalf of the “international community”. For decades, countries of the South have been advocating for the United Nations to be reformed so that it moves away from the zero-sum game of Cold War mentality that continues to drive them. Gabriel Valdés, then Chile’s foreign minister, said that in June 1969, Henry Kissinger told him, “Nothing of importance can come from the South. The story was never produced in the South. The axis of the story starts in Moscow, goes to Bonn, goes to Washington, then goes to Tokyo. It doesn’t matter what happens in the South.

Jaja Wachuku, then Nigerian Foreign Minister, posed an ever-urgent question at the 18th Session of the United Nations on September 30, 1963: “Does this Organization want… [the] African states should be merely vocal members, without the right to voice their opinions on any particular issue in important organs of the United Nations…[?] Will we continue to be porch boys? The countries of the Global South are still “porch boys” watching the adults make the rules and decide which way the world should go. They continue to be lectured and reprimanded when they don’t do as expected.

It’s time for a revitalized MNA. NAM will only succeed if leaders in the Global South put their egos aside, think strategically globally, and harness their considerable human capital, natural resources, and technological ingenuity. The Global South has a rising China, the world’s second largest economy. It has India, one of the leading countries in medical care and technological innovation. Africa is rich with a growing population and the natural resources that are needed for thriving AI and cleaner energy industries. However, these resources are still being extracted for profit to be accumulated in distant capitals while Africa and much of the Global South remains underdeveloped, with millions of people still stuck in the despair of impoverishment.

A renewed NAM has real potential if the time is taken to build new institutions and create buffers against the economic war that the United States has waged against countries like Cuba and Venezuela and is now unleashing against Russia. Financial autonomy is essential.

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have a bank, and for the 16 nations of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) there is the Development Bank of Southern Africa ; however, the reserves of the countries adhering to these projects are still kept in the United States or in European capitals. This is a time for the leaders of the Global South to wake up and realize that given the type of economic warfare that is currently unleashed on a country like Russia, the weaker countries of the Global South have no autonomy. significant.

Now is the time to rethink the way we conduct politics, economics and foreign policy when it is clear that the West can decide to decimate entire countries. The economic weapons built against Russia will be available for use against other countries that have the temerity not to toe Washington’s line.

The BRICS have been disappointing in many ways, but they have opened up space for the countries of the South – with their many differences in belief, culture, political and economic systems – to find a way to work together. The rejection of intense pressure to bend the collective knee at the United Nations Security Council is an encouraging example of Southern countries rejecting the assumption that they should remain permanent “veranda boys” (and girls).

As the United States rapidly escalates its New Cold War against Russia and China and expects other countries to fall in line, it is now imperative to reject this Cold War mentality of wanting to divide the world along old acrimonious lines. Southern countries should reject this view and call for respect for international law in everything countries. It mocks the concepts of human rights and international law when they are only brought up when it is the countries the West dislikes or disagrees with that are breaking them.

It is only by standing together and speaking with one voice that the countries of the South can hope to have any influence in international affairs and not continue to be mere endorsers of Western positions.

The Non-Aligned Movement must be confident and bold and not seek permission from the West. NAM leaders must understand that they are there to serve their people and protect their interests and not allow the temptation to be included in the “big boy club” to influence their stance on issues. They must constantly keep in mind that they have been kept as “porch boys” for too long, and unless they really take their destiny into their own hands, they will forever be at the foot of the table, their people eating only the remnants of the wealth accumulated by the global economy, much of which comes from the exploitation of the South.

This article was produced by the Morning Star and Globetrotter.


Nontobeko Hlela served as the First Secretary (Political) of the South African High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya. She currently works as a researcher for the South African office of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, a Global South think tank with offices in Johannesburg, South Africa; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and New Delhi, India.