In mid-September, Cuba hosted the latest meeting of the Group of 77, which was created in 1964 to promote collective economic interests. Today, the Group has 134 States, representing 80% of the world’s population.
This meeting set out to “change the rules of the game” after centuries of domination by wealthy Western powers putting their own interests first. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said developing countries have been the main victims of the multi-dimensional crisis in the world today, “from abusive unequal trade to devastating climate change.” According to the Cuban leader, the North has organized the world according to its aspirations, and now it is up to the South to change the rules of the game.
Argentine President Fernandez emphasized that the coronavirus pandemic marked an epochal change by “exposing the inequality” in states’ access to vaccines, with 90% of vaccines staying in the hands of a few powers.
The meeting strongly demanded a change in the “unjust and plundering international order.”
A few days ago, the UN General Assembly held a summit to take stock of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This summit noted that about 15% of the 140 goals to be achieved by 2030 have now been implemented. Although hunger was supposed to be eliminated by that date, the number of hungry people on Earth has nevertheless increased and now stands at 735 million (the number of extremely poor people is projected to reach 575 million by 2030 based on the current situation). In addition, 29.6% of the world’s population or 2.4 billion people do not have access to adequate food, an increase of 391 million since 2019.
This means that the UN Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 will not be achieved by 2030.
In 2021, Strive Masiyiwa, a Zimbabwean businessman and philanthropist and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that the behavior of rich countries during the pandemic perpetuated a “deliberate global architecture of unfairness.” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa made the same point even more clearly at the Paris climate conference in June 2023: “The northern hemisphere countries had bought all the vaccines in the world and they were hogging them and they didn’t want to release them at the time when we needed them most… That too… generated and deepened the disappointment and resentment on our part, because we felt like life in the northern hemisphere is much more important than life in the Global South.”
Gender equality-focused goals have also not been met: eliminating discrimination and violence against women by 2030 will not be achieved: halfway to 2030, the UN report says, the world will be losing women and girls, nearly 250 million women are victims of physical violence every year, women spend 2.8 hours a day more on unpaid domestic work than their male counterparts, and they suffer the most from poverty.
Women make up only 26% of the total number of legislators worldwide.
In 2009, Western powers promised to channel $100 billion to less developed countries by 2020. This promise has been broken: the Global North’s unwillingness to honor its commitments has undermined developing states’ trust in the West.
This gap has deepened as a result of the North’s response to global warming. In 2015, at the Paris climate summit, developed states pledged to spend $100 billion a year on climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. However, donor states are not fulfilling their promises: the so-called “loss and damage” fund intended to provide financial assistance to countries most vulnerable and affected by the effects of climate change has not yet started working. In addition, it is constantly confronted with disparaging comments from rich countries about the benefits. The United States, in particular, remains opposed to the idea of holding major sources of carbon dioxide emissions responsible for the current climate landscape or compensating countries affected by natural disasters. All this is taking place against the backdrop of a worsening debt crisis in developing states, some of which are forced to pay a quarter of their income to repay previous loans.
Pakistan is a prime example: last year’s floods plunged the country into crisis, bringing it dangerously close to defaulting on its sovereign debt. Eventually, economic collapse was averted thanks to a $3 billion IMF loan program. However, the reforms associated with this financial assistance package led to a sharp rise in Pakistan’s annual inflation rate, which reached an all-time high of 38% in the middle of the year. Interest rates also rose and the Pakistani rupee fell to an all-time low, down 6.2% against the US dollar in August this year.
According to the IMF’s own assessment, 13 African countries are currently teetering on the brink of climate and debt problems. Drought-stricken Zambia, and more recently flood-prone Ghana, have already defaulted on their debt repayments. However, Western creditors seek to avoid forgiveness or cancellation of debts in every possible way. Low-income countries are actually borrowing money at interest to pay for the damage caused by Western powers.
Meanwhile, the developed states themselves live in debt, as according to the Institute of International Finance, at the end of the first half of 2023, the total world debt increased by $10 trillion and reached $307 trillion, which is 336% of the world GDP. More than 80% of this growth falls on the US, Japan, United Kingdom and France; it turns out that these states ensure their development at the expense of the developing world.
In this regard, the Al Jazeera website concluded on September 20 this year that a new financial system “founded not on the principle of survival of the fittest, but rather on equitable opportunities for all” is urgently needed.
Increasingly, developing states are giving a dignified response to the arrogant actions of Western powers. Recently, the Canadian authorities accused the Indian government of involvement in an act of violence in Canada (a Sikh separatist was killed there: there are 30 million Sikhs in total in India and about 800,000 in Canada). India’s Ministry of External Affairs rejected Canadian allegations of New Delhi’s involvement in the killing, calling them absurd and seeing them as an attempt to “divert attention from Khalistan terrorists and extremists, who have been given asylum.” At the same time, India declared a senior Canadian embassy official persona non grata, emphasizing that the decision reflected “the Government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities.” New Delhi also suspended trade talks with Canada.
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo demanded that the US and Western European countries pay reparations for the slave trade. He did so during a general political debate at the 78th session of the UN General Assembly. He said it is time for the US and Europe to recognize that the vast wealth they enjoy was derived from the sweat, tears, blood and horrors of the transatlantic slave trade and centuries of colonial exploitation. Akufo-Addo also noted that reparations should restore historical justice as money can never compensate for the horrors, but will prove that evil was perpetrated, namely that millions of Africans “were snatched from the embrace of our continent, and put to work in the Americas and the Caribbean without compensation for their labor.”
Veniamin Popov, Director of the “Center for Partnership of Civilizations” in MGIMO (U) MFA of Russia, Candidate of Historical Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.