The ‘Global South’ Is Real. Deal With It

The ‘Global South’ Is Real. Deal With It
Delegates attending a meeting during the 2023 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, Aug. 24, 2023 (pool photo by Marco Longari via AP Images).

Last month’s BRICS Summit generated a wide range of reactions, ranging from those praising the group as a necessary vehicle for change in the global order to those warning against a potential new anti-Western platform for U.S. adversaries. There has also been a significant amount of dismissiveness directed toward the group by observers from both the U.S. and the Global South. Amid the criticisms most frequently leveled are the economic and political heterogeneity of its members and their diverging interests, which combined with BRICS’ decision to expand its membership, they argue, will purportedly undermine its cohesiveness and weaken its potential influence.

If these criticisms sound familiar, it’s because they are regularly recycled by detractors of non-Western-centered initiatives aiming to question and alter the global governance status quo. They also feature in several recent articles that question the validity of the concept of the “Global South” and even call for the retirement of the term altogether, which perhaps not coincidently were published in the weeks surrounding the BRICS Summit.

To be sure, there have also been articles offering thoughtful analysis of BRICS’ opportunities and challenges and the need for the group to clarify its objectives and strategy. These help explain why, despite the current members’ competing visions and existing tensions, nine countries accepted invitations to join BRICS and 40 others expressed their interest in doing so. The new and prospective BRICS members see the group as an opportunity to come together to focus on shared interests, and it would be a mistake for critics to overlook the momentum this creates.

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