Global North and Global South

Global North and Global South are terms that denote a method of grouping countries based on their defining characteristics with regard to socioeconomics and politics. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Global South broadly comprises Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia (excluding Israel, Japan, and South Korea), and Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand).[1][2][a] Most of the Global South's countries are commonly identified as lacking in their standard of living, which includes having lower incomes, high levels of poverty, high population growth rates, inadequate housing, limited educational opportunities, and deficient health systems, among other issues.[b] Additionally, these countries' cities are characterized by their poor infrastructure.[c] Opposite to the Global South is the Global North, which the UNCTAD describes as broadly comprising Northern America and Europe, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.[1][2][a] As such, the two terms do not refer to the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere, as many of the Global South's countries are geographically located in the former and, similarly, a number of the Global North's countries are geographically located in the latter.[3]

Economic classification of the world's countries by the UNCTAD: the Global North (i.e., developed countries) is highlighted in blue and the Global South (i.e., developing countries and least developed countries) is highlighted in red.[1][2]

More specifically, the Global North consists of the world's developed countries, whereas the Global South consists of the world's developing countries and least developed countries.[2][4] The Global South classification, as used by governmental and developmental organizations, was first introduced as a more open and value-free alternative to "Third World"[5] and, likewise, potentially "valuing" terms, such as developed and developing. Countries of the Global South have also been described as being newly industrialized or in the process of industrializing; many of them are current or former subjects of colonialism.[6]

Generally, the Global North and the Global South correlate with the Western world and the Eastern world, respectively.[7] The two groups are often defined in terms of their differing levels of wealth, economic development, income inequality, and strength of democracy, as well as by their political freedom and economic freedom, as defined by a variety of freedom indices. Countries of the Global North tend to be wealthier, less unequal, more democratic, and capable of exporting technologically advanced manufactured products, among other characteristics. In contrast, countries of the Global South tend to be poorer, more unequal, less democratic, and heavily dependent on their largely agrarian-based economic primary sectors.[d] Some scholars have suggested that the gap of inequality between the Global North and the Global South has been narrowing due to the effects of globalization.[8] Other scholars have disputed this position, suggesting that the Global South has instead become poorer vis-à-vis the Global North in this same timeframe.[9][10][11][12]

Since World War II, the phenomenon of "South–South cooperation" (SSC) to "challenge the political and economic dominance of the North" has become more prominent among the Global South's countries.[13][14][15] It has become a popular political and economic concept in light of the geographical migration of manufacturing and production activity from the Global North to the Global South,[15] and is therefore also a theme that has influenced the diplomatic policies of the Global South's more powerful countries, such as China.[15] Thus, these contemporary economic trends have "enhanced the historical potential of economic growth and industrialization in the Global South" amidst renewed targeted efforts by the SSC to "loosen the strictures imposed during the colonial era and transcend the boundaries of postwar political and economic geography" as a desirable aspect of decolonization.[16]

Definition edit

 
World map representing Human Development Index categories (based on 2019 data, published in 2020)
  0.800–1.000 (very high)
  0.700–0.799 (high)
  0.550–0.699 (medium)
  0.350–0.549 (low)
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The terms are not strictly geographical, and are not "an image of the world divided by the equator, separating richer countries from their poorer counterparts."[3] Rather, geography should be more readily understood as economic and migratory, the world understood through the "wider context of globalization or global capitalism."[3]

Generally, definitions of the Global North is not exclusively a geographical term, and it broadly comprises Northern America and Europe, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand, according to the UNCTAD.[1][2][a] The Global South broadly comprises Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia without Israel, Japan, and South Korea, and Oceania without Australia and New Zealand, also according to the UNCTAD.[1][2][a] Some, such as Australian sociologists Fran Collyer and Raewyn Connell, have argued that Australia and New Zealand are marginalized in similar ways to other Global South countries, due to their geographical isolation and location in the Southern Hemisphere.[17][18]

The Global South is generally seen as home to China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan, which, along with Nigeria and Mexico, are the largest Southern states in terms of land area and population.[19] The overwhelming majority of the Global South countries are located in or near the tropics.

The term Global North is often used interchangeably with developed countries. Likewise, the term Global South is often used interchangeably with developing countries.

Most of the countries in the Global South are commonly characterized as lacking in standard of living, these include having: lower incomes, high poverty, dense population, limited educational opportunities, deficient health care system among others.[b] Cities in the global South are identified by their poor infrastructure. [c] Agriculture sector happens to be the major contributor of economy in the countries of global South.[d]

Development of the terms edit

 
  Countries described as high-income by the World Bank in 2019
 
Heads of state and heads of government at the 1981 North–South Summit in Mexico

Carl Oglesby used the term "global south" in 1969, writing in Catholic journal Commonweal in a special issue on the Vietnam War. Oglesby argued that centuries of northern "dominance over the global south […] [has] converged […] to produce an intolerable social order."[21]

The term gained appeal throughout the second half of the 20th century, which rapidly accelerated in the early 21st century. It appeared in fewer than two dozen publications in 2004, but in hundreds of publications by 2013.[22] The emergence of the new term meant looking at the troubled realities of its predecessors, i.e.: Third World or Developing World. The term "Global South", in contrast, was intended to be less hierarchical.[3]

The idea of categorizing countries by their economic and developmental status began during the Cold War with the classifications of East and West. The Soviet Union and China represented the East, and the United States and their allies represented the West. The term Third World came into parlance in the second half of the twentieth century. It originated in a 1952 article by Alfred Sauvy entitled "Trois Mondes, Une Planète".[23] Early definitions of the Third World emphasized its exclusion from the east–west conflict of the Cold War as well as the ex-colonial status and poverty of the peoples it comprised.[23]

Efforts to mobilize the Third World as an autonomous political entity were undertaken. The 1955 Bandung Conference was an early meeting of Third World states in which an alternative to alignment with either the Eastern or Western Blocs was promoted.[23] Following this, the first Non-Aligned Summit was organized in 1961. Contemporaneously, a mode of economic criticism which separated the world economy into "core" and "periphery" was developed and given expression in a project for political reform which "moved the terms 'North' and 'South' into the international political lexicon."[24]

In 1973, the pursuit of a New International Economic Order which was to be negotiated between the North and South was initiated at the Non-Aligned Summit held in Algiers.[25] Also in 1973, the oil embargo initiated by Arab OPEC countries as a result of the Yom Kippur War caused an increase in world oil prices, with prices continuing to rise throughout the decade.[26] This contributed to a worldwide recession which resulted in industrialized nations increasing economically protectionist policies and contributing less aid to the less developed countries of the South.[26] The slack was taken up by Western banks, which provided substantial loans to Third World countries.[27] However, many of these countries were not able to pay back their debt, which led the IMF to extend further loans to them on the condition that they undertake certain liberalizing reforms.[27] This policy, which came to be known as structural adjustment, and was institutionalized by International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and Western governments, represented a break from the Keynesian approach to foreign aid which had been the norm from the end of the Second World War.[27]

After 1987, reports on the negative social impacts that structural adjustment policies had had on affected developing nations led IFIs to supplement structural adjustment policies with targeted anti-poverty projects.[8] Following the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union, some Second World countries joined the First World, and others joined the Third World. A new and simpler classification was needed. Use of the terms "North" and "South" became more widespread.[28]

Brandt Line edit

 
The Brandt line, an artifact from the 1980s dividing the world into the wealthy north and the poor south
 
Countries' average latitude and GDP per capita according to The World Factbook (2013). The Brandt Line is shown in bold.

The Brandt Line is a visual depiction of the north–south divide, proposed by West German former Chancellor Willy Brandt in the 1980s in the report titled North-South: A Programme for Survival which was later known as the Brandt Report.[29] This line divides the world at a latitude of approximately 30° North, passing between the United States and Mexico, north of Africa and the Middle East, climbing north over China and Mongolia, then dipping south to include Japan, Australia, and New Zealand in the "Rich North". As of 2023 the Brandt line has been criticised for being outdated, yet is still regarded as a helpful way to visulise global inequalities.[30]

Uses of the term Global South edit

Global South "emerged in part to aid countries in the southern hemisphere to work in collaboration on political, economic, social, environmental, cultural, and technical issues."[16][31] This is called South–South cooperation (SSC), a "political and economical term that refers to the long-term goal of pursuing world economic changes that mutually benefit countries in the Global South and lead to greater solidarity among the disadvantaged in the world system."[16][31] The hope is that countries within the Global South will "assist each other in social, political, and economical development, radically altering the world system to reflect their interests and not just the interests of the Global North in the process."[16] It is guided by the principles of "respect for national sovereignty, national ownership, independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in domestic affairs, and mutual benefit."[13][14] Countries using this model of South–South cooperation see it as a "mutually beneficial relationship that spreads knowledge, skills, expertise and resources to address their development challenges such as high population pressure, poverty, hunger, disease, environmental deterioration, conflict and natural disasters."[13][14] These countries also work together to deal with "cross border issues such as environmental protection, HIV/AIDS",[13][14] and the movement of capital and labor.[13][14]

Social psychiatrist Vincenzo Di Nicola has applied the Global South as a bridge between the critiques globalization and the gaps and limitations of the Global Mental Health Movement invoking Boaventura de Sousa Santos' notion of "epistemologies of the South" to create a new epistemology for social psychiatry.[32]

Defining development edit

Being categorized as part of the "North" implies development as opposed to belonging to the "South", which implies a lack thereof. According to N. Oluwafemi Mimiko, the South lacks the right technology, it is politically unstable, its economies are divided, and its foreign exchange earnings depend on primary product exports to the North, along with the fluctuation of prices. The low level of control it exercises over imports and exports condemns the South to conform to the 'imperialist' system. The South's lack of development and the high level of development of the North deepen the inequality between them and leave the South a source of raw material for the developed countries.[33][6] The North becomes synonymous with economic development and industrialization while the South represents the previously colonized countries which are in need of help in the form of international aid agendas.[34] In order to understand how this divide occurs, a definition of "development" itself is needed. Northern countries are using most of the earth resources and most of them are high entropic fossil fuels. Reducing emission rates of toxic substances is central to debate on sustainable development but this can negatively affect economic growth.

The Dictionary of Human Geography defines development as "processes of social change or [a change] to class and state projects to transform national economies".[35] This definition entails an understanding of economic development which is imperative when trying to understand the North–South divide.

Economic development is a measure of progress in a specific economy. It refers to advancements in technology, a transition from an economy based largely on agriculture to one based on industry and an improvement in living standards.[36]

Other factors that are included in the conceptualization of what a developed country is include life expectancy and the levels of education, poverty and employment in that country.

Furthermore, in Regionalism Across the North-South Divide: State Strategies and Globalization, Jean Grugel states that the three factors that direct the economic development of states within the Global south is "élite behaviour within and between nation states, integration and cooperation within 'geographic' areas, and the resulting position of states and regions within the global world market and related political economic hierarchy."[37]

Theories explaining the divide edit

The development disparity between the North and the South has sometimes been explained in historical terms. Dependency theory looks back on the patterns of colonial relations which persisted between the North and South and emphasizes how colonized territories tended to be impoverished by those relations.[27] Theorists of this school maintain that the economies of ex-colonial states remain oriented towards serving external rather than internal demand, and that development regimes undertaken in this context have tended to reproduce in underdeveloped countries the pronounced class hierarchies found in industrialized countries while maintaining higher levels of poverty.[27] Dependency theory is closely intertwined with Latin American Structuralism, the only school of development economics emerging from the Global South to be affiliated with a national research institute and to receive support from national banks and finance ministries.[38] The Structuralists defined dependency as the inability of a nation's economy to complete the cycle of capital accumulation without reliance on an outside economy.[39] More specifically, peripheral nations were perceived as primary resource exporters reliant on core economies for manufactured goods.[40] This led structuralists to advocate for import-substitution industrialization policies which aimed to replace manufactured imports with domestically made products.[38]

New Economic Geography explains development disparities in terms of the physical organization of industry, arguing that firms tend to cluster in order to benefit from economies of scale and increase productivity which leads ultimately to an increase in wages.[41] The North has more firm clustering than the South, making its industries more competitive. It is argued that only when wages in the North reach a certain height, will it become more profitable for firms to operate in the South, allowing clustering to begin.

Associated theories edit

The term of the Global South has many researched theories associated with it. Since many of the countries that are considered to be a part of the Global South were once colonized by Global North countries, they are at a disadvantage to become as quickly developed. Dependency theorists suggest that information has a top-down approach and first goes to the Global North before countries in the Global South receive it. Although many of these countries rely on political or economic help, this also opens up opportunity for information to develop Western bias and create an academic dependency.[42] Meneleo Litonjua describes the reasoning behind distinctive problems of dependency theory as "the basic context of poverty and underdevelopment of Third World/Global South countries was not their traditionalism, but the dominance-dependence relationship between rich and poor, powerful and weak counties."[27]

What brought about much of the dependency, was the push to become modernized. After World War II, the U.S. made effort to assist developing countries financially in attempt to pull them out of poverty.[43] Modernization theory "sought to remake the Global South in the image and likeliness of the First World/Global North."[27] In other terms, "societies can be fast-tracked to modernization by 'importing' Western technical capital, forms of organization, and science and technology to developing countries." With this ideology, as long as countries follow in Western ways, they can develop quicker.[44]

After modernization attempts took place, theorists started to question the effects through post-development perspectives. Postdevelopment theorists try to explain that not all developing countries need to be following Western ways but instead should create their own development plans. This means that "societies at the local level should be allowed to pursue their own development path as they perceive it without the influences of global capital and other modern choices, and thus a rejection of the entire paradigm from Eurocentric model and the advocation of new ways of thinking about the non-Western societies."[45] The goals of postdevelopment was to reject development rather than reform by choosing to embrace non-Western ways.[46]

Challenges edit

 
  Data unavailable

World map showing country classifications per the IMF[47] and the UN[48] (last updated April 2023).

The accuracy of the North–South divide has been challenged on a number of grounds. Firstly, differences in the political, economic and demographic make-up of countries tend to complicate the idea of a monolithic South.[23] Globalization has also challenged the notion of two distinct economic spheres. Following the liberalization of post-Mao China initiated in 1978, growing regional cooperation between the national economies of Asia has led to the growing decentralization of the North as the main economic power.[49] The economic status of the South has also been fractured. As of 2015, all but roughly the bottom 60 nations of the Global South were thought to be gaining on the North in terms of income, diversification, and participation in the world market.[41]

However, other scholars, notably Jason Hickel and Robert Wade have suggested that the Global South is not rising economically, and that global inequality between the North and South has risen since globalization.[9][10] Hickel has suggested that the exchange of resources between the South and the North is substantially unbalanced in favor of the North, with Global North countries extracting a windfall of over 240 trillion dollars from the Global South in 2015. This figure outstrips the amount of financial aid given to Global South by a factor of 30.[12][11]

Globalization has largely displaced the North–South divide as the theoretical underpinning of the development efforts of international institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, WTO, and various United Nations affiliated agencies, though these groups differ in their perceptions of the relationship between globalization and inequality.[8] Yet some remain critical of the accuracy of globalization as a model of the world economy, emphasizing the enduring centrality of nation-states in world politics and the prominence of regional trade relations.[40] Lately, there have been efforts to integrate the Global South more meaningfully into the world economic order. [50]

The divide between the North and South challenges international environmental cooperation. The economic differences between North and South have created dispute over the scientific evidence and data regarding global warming and what needs to be done about it, as the South do not trust Northern data and cannot afford the technology to be able to produce their own. In addition to these disputes, there are serious divisions over responsibility, who pays, and the possibility for the South to catch up. This is becoming an ever-growing issue with the emergence of rising powers, imploding these three divisions just listed and making them progressively blurry. Multiplicity of actors, such as governments, businesses, and NGO's all influence any positive activity that can be taken into preventing further global warming problems with the Global North and Global South divide, contributing to the severity of said actors. Disputes between Northern countries governments and Southern countries governments has led to a break down in international discussions with governments from either side disagreeing with each other. Addressing most environmental problems requires international cooperation, and the North and South contribute to the stagnation concerning any form of implementation and enforcement, which remains a key issue.

Debates over the term edit

With its development, many scholars preferred using the Global South over its predecessors, such as "developing countries" and "Third World". Leigh Anne Duck, co-editor of Global South, argued that the term is better suited at resisting "hegemonic forces that threaten the autonomy and development of these countries."[51] The Global South / Global North distinction has been preferred to the older developed / developing dichotomy as it does not imply a hierarchy.[30] Alvaro Mendez, co-founder of the London School of Economics and Political Science's Global South Unit, have applauded the empowering aspects of the term. In an article, Discussion on Global South, Mendez discusses emerging economies in nations like China, India and Brazil. It is predicted that by 2030, 80% of the world's middle-class population will be living in developing countries.[52] The popularity of the term "marks a shift from a central focus on development and cultural difference" and recognizes the importance of geopolitical relations.[53]

Critics of this usage often argue that it is a vague blanket term.[54] Others have argued that the term, its usage, and its subsequent consequences mainly benefit those from the upper classes of countries within the Global South;[3] who stand "to profit from the political and economic reality [of] expanding south-south relations."[3]

According to scholar Anne Garland Mahler, this nation-based understanding of the Global South is regarded as an appropriation of a concept that has deeper roots in Cold War radical political thought.[55] In this political usage, the Global South is employed in a more geographically fluid way, referring to "spaces and peoples negatively impacted by contemporary capitalist globalization."[56] In other words, "there are economic Souths in the geographic North and Norths in the geographic South."[56] Through this geographically fluid definition, another meaning is attributed to the Global South where it refers to a global political community that is formed when the world's "Souths" recognize one another and view their conditions as shared.[57]

The geographical boundaries of the Global South remain a source of debate. Some scholars agree that the term is not a "static concept".[3] Others have argued against "grouping together a large variety of countries and regions into one category [because it] tends to obscure specific (historical) relationships between different countries and/or regions", and the power imbalances within these relationships.[3] This "may obscure wealth differences within countries – and, therefore, similarities between the wealthy in the Global South and Global North, as well as the dire situation the poor may face all around the world."[3]

Future development edit

Some economists have argued that international free trade and unhindered capital flows across countries could lead to a contraction in the North–South divide. In this case more equal trade and flow of capital would allow the possibility for developing countries to further develop economically.[58]

As some countries in the South experience rapid development, there is evidence that those states are developing high levels of South–South aid.[59] Brazil, in particular, has been noted for its high levels of aid ($1 billion annually—ahead of many traditional donors) and the ability to use its own experiences to provide high levels of expertise and knowledge transfer.[59] This has been described as a "global model in waiting".[60]

The United Nations has also established its role in diminishing the divide between North and South through the Millennium Development Goals, all of which were to be achieved by 2015. These goals seek to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve global universal education and healthcare, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability, and develop a global partnership for development.[61] These were replaced in 2015 by 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs, set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and intended to be achieved by 2030, are part of a UN Resolution called "The 2030 Agenda".[62]

Society and culture edit

Digital and technological divide edit

The global digital divide is often characterized as corresponding to the north–south divide;[63] however, Internet use, and especially broadband access, is now soaring in Asia compared with other continents. This phenomenon is partially explained by the ability of many countries in Asia to leapfrog older Internet technology and infrastructure, coupled with booming economies which allow vastly more people to get online.[64]

Media representation edit

Western media tends to present a generalized view of developing countries through biased media coverage; mass media outlets tend to focus disproportionately on poverty and other negative imagery. This common coverage has created a dominant stereotype of developing countries: "the 'South' is characterized by socioeconomic and political backwardness, measured against Western values and standards."[65] Mass media's role often compares the Global South to the North and is thought to be an aid in the divide.

Mass media has also played a role in what information the people in developing countries receive. The news often covers developed countries and creates an imbalance of information flow.[66] The people in developing countries do not often receive coverage of the other developing countries but instead gets generous amounts of coverage about developed countries.

See also edit

Subregions of Global North edit

Subregions of Global South edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ a b c d Although Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Taiwan have very-high Human Development Indices and are classified as advanced economies by the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development classifies them as the Global South. Also, Singapore is the one of Small Island Developing States.
  2. ^ a b
    • Thomas-Slayter, Barbara P. (2003). Southern Exposure: International Development and the Global South in the Twenty-First Century. United States: Kumarian Press. p. 9-10. ISBN 978-1-56549-174-8. among the countries of the Global South, there are also some common characteristics. First and foremost is a continuing struggle for secure livelihoods amidst conditions of serious poverty for a large number of people in these nations. For many, incomes are low, access to resources is limited, housing is inadequate, health is poor, educational opportunities are insufficient, and there are high infant mortality rates along with low life expectancy. ... In addition to the attributes associated with a low standard of living, several other characteristics are common to the Global South. One is the high rate of population growth and a consequent high dependency burden — that is, the responsibility for dependents, largely young children. In many countries almost half the population is under fifteen years old. This population composition represents not only a significant responsibility, but in the immediate future, it creates demands on services for schools, transport, new jobs, and related infrastructure. If a nation's gross national income (GNI) is growing at 2 percent a year and its population is growing at that rate too, then any gains are wiped out.
    • Speth, James Gustave; Haas, Peter (2013). Global Environmental Governance: Foundations of Contemporary Environmental Studies. Island Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-59726-605-5. Poverty, lower life expectancies, illiteracy, lack of basic health amenities, and high population growth rates meant that national priorities in these countries were firmly oriented toward economic and social objectives.The global "South," as these nations came to be known, considered their development priorities to be imperative; they wanted to "catch up" with the richer nations.They also asserted that the responsibility of protecting the environment was primarily on the shoulders of the richer "Northern" nations
  3. ^ a b
    • Graham, Stephen (2010). Disrupted Cities: When Infrastructure Fails. Routledge. p. 131. ISBN 978-1-135-85199-6. In much debate on cities in the Global South, infrastructure is synonymous with breakdown, failure, interruption, and improvisation. The categorization of poorer cities through a lens of developmentalism has often meant that they are constructed as "problem." These are cities, as Anjaria has argued, discursively exemplified by their crowds, their dilapidated buildings, and their "slums."
    • Adey, Peter; Bissell, David; Hannam, Kevin; Merriman, Peter; Sheller, Mimi, eds. (2014). The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities. Routledge. p. 470. ISBN 978-1-317-93413-4. In many global south cities, for example, access to networked infrastructures has always been highly fragmented, highly unreliable and problematic, even for relatively wealthy or powerful groups and neighbourhoods. In contemporary Mumbai, for example, many upper-middle-class residents have to deal with water or power supplies which operate for only a few hours per day. Their efforts to move into gated communities are often motivated as much by their desires for continuous power and water supplies as by hopes for better security.
    • Lynch, Andrew P. (2018). Global Catholicism in the Twenty-first Century. Springer Singapore. p. 9. ISBN 978-981-10-7802-6. The global south remains very poor relative to the north, and many countries continue to lack critical infrastructure and social services in health and education. Also, a great deal of political instability and violence inhibits many nations in the global south.
  4. ^ a b In most countries of the Global South, agriculture continues to dominate industry, manufacturing, and services in the formation of the structures of production. For many African countries agriculture constitutes more than 50 percent of the gross domestic product; for Bangladesh (at 30 percent) or Nepal (43 percent) or India (27 percent) it is high, unlike the 2 or 3 percent for the Netherlands, Japan, or Italy, which although possessing strong agricultural production, have diversified economies. Moreover, many developing economies are still highly dependent on the export of primary commodities — food, raw materials, fuels, and base metals — patterns established during the colonial era.[20]

References edit

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