A Paradigm Shift for a More Inclusive World

In today’s global landscape, we face complex challenges, from enduring conflicts and environmental crises to the pressing issue of climate change. Traditional approaches, particularly those led by international organizations like the United Nations (UN), have sometimes fallen short in effectively addressing these multifaceted issues. There is a growing call to shift the focus towards empowering the Global South, allowing regional actors to play a more influential role in shaping global diplomacy.

The UN, initially established to preserve international peace and security, has encountered notable challenges in fulfilling its core mission of safeguarding civilians and preventing military interventions. These limitations are evident in instances such as the failure to prevent genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans, as well as interventions that have, at times, exacerbated conflicts, as seen in Libya. These shortcomings underscore the need for a more effective and inclusive approach. The UN’s struggles in preventing atrocities and military interventions in regions such as the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa have resulted in significant humanitarian crises. The international community, often guided by the interests of the global North, has faced difficulties in safeguarding civilians and has sometimes unintentionally contributed to the escalation of conflicts.

The Israel-Palestine conflict endures, with numerous UN resolutions advocating a peaceful two-state solution. This deep-seated conflict, steeped in historical and territorial disputes, has resulted in suffering for both sides. Ongoing hostilities between Israel and Gaza have caused substantial harm to Palestinian civilians. Particularly distressing is the situation in Gaza City, where reports of airstrikes on schools, shelters, and hospitals have raised concerns about the well-being of Palestinians in the area. The failure of the Cairo summit, held while Israel is preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza with the aim of eradicating the militant Palestinian group Hamas, is deeply concerning for humanity. This underscores the pressing need for a more equitable and inclusive mediation approach. Certain segments of the global media characterize these events as Israel’s actions bordering on genocide against the Palestinian population. The perceived bias from the global North has obstructed the UN’s role as an impartial mediator, perpetuating the cycle of violence and instability. Similarly, the India-Pakistan conflict in the Kashmir region continues to be a persistent issue, despite multiple UN resolutions calling for a resolution.

The crisis in Ukraine, including Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine, highlights the limitations of global diplomacy. While sanctions have been imposed, a lasting solution remains elusive, leaving regional players to grapple with the consequences of unresolved tensions. Afghanistan presents a significant and ongoing challenge, particularly concerning the protection of civilians, especially women and girls. The rollback of women’s rights and restrictions on their participation in public life are deeply concerning.

The Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar, along with ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, and the Tigray region of Ethiopia, represent enduring and complex humanitarian crises. These situations underscore the challenges the international community faces in safeguarding the well-being of civilians.

These conflicts persist, compounding tensions and contributing to environmental challenges. Regional actors often bear the brunt of instability, while international efforts have not led to enduring peace.

Asia, known for its rich environmental diversity, is now grappling with the pressing issue of climate change, marked by rising temperatures, ecological fragility, and agricultural droughts. Although the global North acknowledges this challenge, its response often falls short, with insufficient funding and support for mitigation and adaptation measures. Several Asian cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Lahore, Karachi, Dhaka, Hanoi, Beijing, and Jakarta, contend with severe urban air pollution, affecting the lives of millions. Additionally, extreme weather events, such as floods and heatwaves, are becoming more frequent. Coastal areas face the imminent threat of sea-level rise, impacting livelihoods, food security, and exports.

Asia’s rapid economic growth demands substantial financial resources, but existing financial structures often fall short of meeting these demands. International flows of finance for climate adaptation, for instance, remain inadequate, leaving Global South countries struggling to address these challenges. A critical climate meeting on “loss and damages” before COP28 ended without an agreement, underscoring the stark division between wealthy and developing nations on the fund’s structure and contributors, with disputes over whether it should be managed by the World Bank or through a new independent structure.

To tackle these multifaceted challenges, empowering the Global South and promoting South-South cooperation is crucial. A reevaluation of the UN’s structures is essential to ensure equitable representation and the capacity to address global challenges. Greater influence should be accorded to the Global South, where most of these challenges are concentrated. Meanwhile, organizations like the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) face their own challenges in effectively resolving conflicts within Muslim countries, occasionally clashing with regional cooperation and local dynamics, leading to skepticism about their future efficacy.

Diplomacy among prominent regional players in the Global South, including China, India, Saudi Arabia, Japan, the GCC, SAARC, and ASEAN, shows great potential in addressing critical challenges. These influential actors can leverage their resources and expertise to promote cooperation among Global South nations.

However, before such development is acceptable globally, these countries should raise their domestic human rights standards while simultaneously bolstering their relationships with neighboring nations to establish a sense of security. The overarching aim of these initiatives is to create an environment in which these nations and their neighboring counterparts experience increased security and well-being, resulting in reduced tensions and enhanced regional collaboration, all of which are imperative before assuming leadership roles on the global stage.

The failures of global diplomacy, particularly in safeguarding civilians, preventing military interventions, and addressing conflicts, environmental crises, and financial disparities, underscore the urgent need to empower the Global South. Shifting the focus toward regional players in the Global South, while holding them accountable for human rights and humanitarian responsibilities, provides a more balanced and inclusive approach to tackling the world’s most pressing issues. It is high time to rebalance the global stage, ensuring that the voices of those most affected by these challenges are not only heard but also acted upon.

The South-South approach offers a promising solution to address conflicts and environmental challenges. Initiatives like China’s Belt and Road Initiative and regional organizations in Asia can foster regional cooperation, knowledge sharing, and joint efforts to combat climate change.

A promising launching point for collaborative efforts within the vast and diverse Asian and Middle Eastern region is the assembly of Asian-10, comprising ASEAN, GCC, SAARC, OIC, Arab League, African Union, China, Russia, Japan, Iran, and South Korea. These encompass a wide geographical area, showcasing a rich tapestry of political, economic, and cultural contexts within the region. South-South cooperation has the potential to bring Asia closer, although meeting these expectations can pose a significant challenge for the Global South, potentially leading to a shift in the dynamics that the global North may not favor.

In conclusion, our world is fraught with complex challenges, and the traditional approaches to addressing them have often fallen short. The recent events, such as the Israeli bombing of a hospital in Gaza City, the disappointment resulting from the breakdown of the climate meeting on “loss and damages” underscores the pressing need to refocus on empowering the Global South. This shift in perspective is crucial for addressing conflicts, environmental crises, and financial disparities with greater effectiveness and fairness. By encouraging cooperation among Southern nations, we can nurture regional collaboration and jointly address the most critical global challenges. This approach ultimately contributes to the creation of a more equitable and inclusive global community.

Abdul Waheed Bhutto
Abdul Waheed Bhutto
Prof Abdul Waheed Bhutto is a distinguished academic, accomplished researcher, and visionary administrator with over two decades of experience. He serves as a Professor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Dawood University of Engineering and Technology (DUET), Karachi. His work focuses on climate change, renewable energy, and sustainable development, with numerous high-impact publications. He is widely recognized for his expertise and commitment to education and sustainability. His insights on these topics are frequently featured in international current affairs forums.