[News] Why Nonalignment Is an Urgent Imperative for the Global South

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Tue May 3 16:06:42 EDT 2022

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*Why Nonalignment Is an Urgent Imperative for the Global South* 

*By Nontobeko Hlela*

South Africa and other countries that have abstained 
from voting against Russia at the United Nations General Assembly in 
response to the war in Ukraine face intense international criticism. In 
South Africa, the domestic criticism has been extraordinarily shrill, 
and often clearly racialized. It is frequently assumed that abstention 
means that South Africa is in support of the Russian invasion, and this 
is either due to corrupt relations between Russian and South African 
elites, or nostalgia for support given to the anti-apartheid struggle by 
the Soviet Union, or both.

There is seldom any acknowledgment that nonalignment, in this case 
refusing to be aligned with the United States and its allies or with 
Russia, can be a principled position, as well as an astute tactical 
engagement with geopolitical realities. As two founding figures in the 
Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Yugoslavia’s then-President Josip Broz Tito 
and India’s then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, said in a joint 
signed on December 22, 1954, “the policy of non-alignment with blocs… 
does not represent ‘neutrality’ or ‘neutralism’; neither does it 
represent passivity as is sometimes alleged. It represents the positive, 
active and constructive policy that, as its goal, has collective peace 
as the foundation of collective security.”

The Global South houses more than 80 percent 
of the world’s people, yet its countries are systematically excluded 
from any decision-making in the international organizations that make 
decisions in the name of the “international community.” For decades, 
countries of the Global South have been advocating for the United 
Nations to be reformed so that it moves away from the zero-sum game of 
the cold war mentality that continues to drive it. Gabriel Valdés, 
Chile’s then-foreign minister, said that in June 1969, Henry Kissinger 
him, “Nothing important can come from the South. History has never been 
produced in the South. The axis of history starts in Moscow, goes to 
Bonn, crosses over to Washington, and then goes to Tokyo. What happens 
in the South is of no importance.”

Jaja Wachuku, then a Nigerian foreign minister, posed 
a still urgent question to the UN’s 18th Session on September 30, 1963: 
“Does this Organization want… [the] African States to be just vocal 
Members, with no right to express their views on any particular matter 
in important organs of the United Nations…[?] Are we only going to 
continue to be veranda boys?” Global South countries are still “veranda 
boys” watching the adults make the rules and decide on the path that the 
world must take. They continue to be lectured and chided when they do 
not do as expected.

It is time for a revitalized NAM. The NAM will only succeed if the 
leaders of the countries in the Global South put their egos aside, think 
strategically on the global scale and put their considerable human 
capital, natural resources and technological ingenuity to better use. 
The Global South has an ascendant China, the second-biggest economy in 
the world. 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 the mushrooming AI and 
cleaner energy industries. However, these resources are still extracted 
for profit to be accumulated in far-off capitals while Africa and much 
of the Global South remain underdeveloped, with millions still stuck in 
the desperation of impoverishment.

A renewed NAM has real potential if time is taken to build new 
institutions and to build buffers against the economic warfare that the 
United States has been waging against countries like Cuba and Venezuela 
and is now unleashing on Russia. Financial autonomy is critical.

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

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

BRICS has been disappointing in many respects, but it has opened some 
space for Global South countries—with their many differences in creed, 
culture, political and economic systems—to find a way of working 
together. The rejection of intense pressure to bend their collective 
knee at the United Nations Security Council is an encouraging example of 
the Global South 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, there is now an 
urgent imperative to reject this cold war mentality of wanting to divide 
the world along old acrimonious lines. The Global South should reject 
this view and call for the respect of international law by /all/ 
countries. It makes a mockery of the concepts of human rights and 
international law when they are only evoked when it is those countries 
whom the West dislikes or disagrees with who break them.

Only by standing together and speaking with one voice can the countries 
of the Global South hope to have any influence in international affairs 
and not continue to be just rubber-stampers of the positions of the West.

The Non-Aligned Movement needs to be confident and bold and not seek 
permission from the West. NAM leaders need to understand that they are 
there to serve their people and protect their interests and not allow 
the temptation of being included in the “big boys club” to sway their 
stance on issues. They need to constantly keep in mind that they have 
been kept as “veranda boys” for far too long, and unless they truly take 
their destiny into their hands, they will forever be at the foot of the 
table, with their people eating only the scraps from the wealth 
accumulated by the global economy, much of it from the exploitation of 
the South.

/This article was produced by the Morning Star 
and Globetrotter 

*Nontobeko Hlela* was the first secretary (political) at the High 
Commission of South Africa 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; 
São Paulo, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and New Delhi, India./
*_Please join us._ 

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