Days of Future Past: Empowering the Global South to Reach an Equal Global Governance

The concept of the “Global South” is a combination that emerged from the common struggles for decolonization and the fight for a postcolonial international order.

The direction of world politics within global relations is strongly affected by international organizations. However, the disparities in representation and decision-making power that “favors” the Global North, has damaged this role. It is becoming more and more important to reform international organizations in order to enhance equitable and inclusive global governance as it struggles with evolving geopolitical dynamics. This essay aims to examine specific actions that the Global South can take to support this change. It hopes to understand the steps leading to a fairer world order by analyzing historical contexts, putting out solutions, promoting cooperative alliances, and looking at a relevant cas at the United Nations (UN). The Global South’s autonomy comes to light as an important factor in achieving an equitable and inclusive global governance framework amidst endless calls for reform.

The concept of the “Global South” is a combination that emerged from the common struggles for decolonization and the fight for a postcolonial international order (Hollington et al., p.14, 2015). It is not limited by geographic boundaries, coming from different locations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  These groups have experienced different kinds of colonialism and economic changes, which resulted in a diverse and different range of postcolonial narratives. The diversity of the Global South is also visible in how it approaches contemporary ideologies, with different forms of feminism, postmodernism, liberalism, and Marxism being embraced (Grovogu, 2011). There are different ways to approach issues of identity, culture, and power as a result of this diversity, which is, again, rooted in the political, social, and cultural traditions of the Global South. There were big events through the 20th century anticolonialism, such as the 1955 Bandung Conference[1], the 1961 Non-Aligned Movement, and Cuba’s Tricontinentalism[2], that inspired the Global South to form a coherent historical identity despite their own domestic problems and disagreement.

When these countries in the Global South started to engage with international organizations, they faced challenges with representation, decision-making process, and resource distribution. There were attempts to reform aimed to address these imbalances, but have been limited by the absence of a spokesperson, and this is leading to an extensive understanding of the multifaceted movement’s dynamics.

The historical roots of the Global South’s action in international organizations can be traced back to the first meeting of the Group 77 (G77) in the early 1960s. Countries from Africa, Asia, and South America aimed to overcome their marginalized status within the world economy. For the first time, in the first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in June 1965, these developing countries put aside their internal divisions and conflicts of interests to come together as a bloc. Their strategic move aimed to take advantage of the UN’s one-country-one-vote system (Freeman, p.73-74, 2017). They believed that by uniting, they could win over the majority of votes, and as a result, bring about revolutionary change within the framework of the global political order. But, instead of making any compromises, the out-voted developed countries firmly resisted the demands of the Global South bloc’s collective voice (Freeman, 2017) . This early setback to the UNCTAD cases emphasized the basic challenges that the Global South faced in achieving inclusive representation. In order for the Global South to effectively navigate the complexities of international organizations and assert their collective influence, deeper strategies are needed, as demonstrated by the failure to secure concessions that exposed the shortcomings of the one-country-one-vote system. One way is to increase the number of seats in decision-making bodies, this can help marginalized countries have a stronger voice. Voting mechanism reforms are also important to overcoming the opposition that developing countries encounter and guaranteeing that the decisions made by their collective are taken into account. Another one proposed solution is to elevate the voices of underrepresented countries by resembling the solidarity, complementarity, unity, and cooperation that the G77 showed in its early years, possibly through committees or designated platforms.  

With more than 70% of the world’s land area and dominate a share of global economic growth (Adams-Kane & Lim, 2011), the Global South is a dynamic force for multipolarity[3] that has a lot of potential. The Global South can unite to promote modernization and use its collective strength to ensure equitable and inclusive global governance. In order to enhance their influence internationally, developing  countries should advocate for greater representation in decision-making bodies. Developing countries are being marginalized by the traditional powers’ current hegemony in determining the global agenda (Jianchao, 2023). By opposing hegemonic actions and advocating for genuine multilateralism, the Global South can liberate itself from imperialism’s grip and promote increased democracy in international relations.

The Global South needs to cooperate with each other, in realization that modernization is a shared goal, in order to strengthen its unity. Through enhanced strategic communication and policy alignment, resource, technology, and experience sharing, the Global South can develop an advanced market that surpasses the efforts of only each individual country (Jianchao, 2023). This cooperative strategy could clarify the common misconception that modernization only corresponds to westernization in addition to bridging the gap between growing North-South.

In the present days, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has become an example of cooperation among Global South countries, which showcases how countries with different political systems and cultures can collaborate to achieve mutual goals. ASEAN members collaborate to resolve intersectional disputes by prioritizing consensus and non-interference. Through this international cooperation like ASEAN, Global South countries can use their collective strength to demand greater representation as well as acknowledgment in the international community.  This could be modeled by other regions in the Global South. In the coming years, for instance, we might see dominant countries in Asia like China outsourcing more parts of their value chain to a large number of Global South countries. This is done to reduce costs and make their products more competitive (Aynaoui et al., 2023).

According to Aynaoui et al. (2023), prior to the pandemic, China’s global value chain integration with ASEAN as well as the Indo-Pacific region had already significantly increased compared to other regions, like Latin America. ASEAN can use this opportunity to negotiate more favorable terms and assert their economic influence. This collaboration of Global South countries through ASEAN, allows them to ensure that their resources are also respected and valued in the international community. Another example is how the collective stance of ASEAN countries on the South China Sea dispute has led to fairer deals such as increased diplomatic support from international powers like the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling that rejected China’s nine-dash line claims. This shows how Global South countries can be a lot more influential as they unite through international organizations like ASEAN.

To sum up, the Global South is at a turning point in changing the structure of global governance. The Global South can make an impact internationally by pushing for greater representation, addressing historical inequalities, and implementing cooperative strategies. By adopting modern solutions like seat increases in the decision-making process, voting reforms, and by learning from the past such as the G77 unity, the Global South can lead the way in the direction of a more inclusive and equitable global governance system. The world also needs to acknowledge the Global South’s significant contributions to economic development and total land area as a dynamic force of multipolarity. Only by this then the future identified by true multilateralism can be achieved.

[1] The 1955 Bandung Conference brought together newly independent African and Asian countries to assert their independence, oppose colonialism, and demand decolonization, marking a pivotal moment in the emergence of the Global South countries on the international stage. Haddad-Fonda, K. (2017, August 8). The Asian-African (Bandung) Conference: Fact and Fiction. Black Past.

[2] Cuba’s tricontinentalism, following the post-Bandung era, involved Cuba promoting alternative global morals and politics, positioning Havana as a leader of the Third World and influencing worldwide views on post-colonial identity, inspired by the US Left’s humanistic shift challenging traditional notions of race, class, and nation. Gronbeck-Tedesco, J. A. (2008). The Left in Transition: The Cuban Revolution in US Third World Politics. Journal of Latin American Studies, 40(4), 651–673.

[3] Multipolarity: The division of power among three or more countries, coalitions, political parties, etc. Multipolarity benefits all parties involved when the global economic system is kept open and countries cooperate within the current framework of interdependence. Cooper, E., & Ashford, E. (2023, October 5). Yes, the World Is Multipolar. Foreign Policy.

Ni Made Ayu Suciati
Ni Made Ayu Suciati
I am a passionate and committed environmental activist and a current International Relations undergraduate student at Universitas Gadjah Mada. I represent the voices of the youth in my community as a changemaker. A grounding in three different cultures: Javanese, Balinese, and educated in the International Community brings both a global and local perspective to the world. This multicultural upbringing is developed through volunteering, social work projects and advocacy. A desire to make a difference in our world.