A meeting of the Group of 77 and China took place on September 15-16 in the Republic of Cuba where frustrations with the existing world system were articulated by the participants. A declaration issued at the conclusion of the summit demanded the restructuring of the existing economic order which continues to be dominated by the capitalist mode of production, exchange and social relations. Founded in 1964, today the organization has 130 member-states from Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean and Latin America. The summit has a rotating chairpersonship shared by all of the geopolitical regional affiliates. The summit occurred during a period of intense hostilities from the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) towards the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.
On the first day of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, September 19, countries from the Global South raised the demand for urgent reforms in multilateral institutions, both political and economic, for a just and democratic world order. The session was addressed by UN General Assembly chair Dennis Francis, UN Secretary General António Guterres, and leaders of various countries including Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, among others. Each of these leaders highlighted the growing geopolitical tensions in the world and the failure of multilateral institutions to resolve them.
The 18th G20 summit is set to open in the Indian capital New Delhi on Saturday, September 9. The two-day summit of the grouping would be the first to be held in India and is being keenly watched due to disagreements among member states on several economic and geopolitical issues. The G20 consists of some of the world’s 20 largest economies, including 19 countries and the European Union (EU). Apart from the members, 11 more countries have been invited as guests, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, and the UAE. The meeting will also be attended by representatives of different international organizations — from the UN to ASEAN.
In August this year, a coalition of civil society organizations in South Africa, which includes the Health Justice Initiative (HJI) and the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM), achieved a remarkable breakthrough in the discussion surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. This milestone was reached after the Pretoria High Court issued an order instructing the Department of Health to disclose the contracts and proceedings of meetings pertaining to the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer, Janssen, the Serum Institute of India, and the public-private global health partnership Gavi.
Under the cover of Internet invisibility, companies around the globe are using online gig platforms to break labor laws and violate human rights. The so-called gig economy (more akin to digital piecework) is exacerbating poverty and inequality, particularly in the Global South, by circumventing existing labor standards and imposing harsh working conditions and low wages on millions of workers. I was one of those workers, and I was recently fired, after seven years, for speaking up. I had been working as a researcher at the New York-based company Ask Wonder in order to supplement my income as a freelance journalist in Mexico.
The first day of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg saw calls for a more democratic global economic order with greater participation of countries from the Global South. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa set the tone by underlining that BRICS stands for inclusiveness and transparency in its development agenda and must continue to do so. Speaking on the second day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also said that India fully supports the expansion of the bloc, adding that it welcomed “moving forward with consensus on this.” India also reiterated its proposal for the African Union’s membership in the G20.
In recent days, a series of articles in the mainstream Western media have clearly demonstrated the concern of Western powers about the possible growth of the BRICS bloc, which over 20 more countries are interested in joining. Reuters, citing anonymous sources in the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, said that Brasilia would oppose the expansion and that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not attend the summit. A couple of days after the Reuters article, Brazilian President Lula da Silva was emphatic in reaffirming his position in favor of expansion, and sources denied rumors that Modi would skip the meeting.
In 2003, high officials from Brazil, India, and South Africa met in Mexico to discuss their mutual interests in the trade of pharmaceutical drugs. India was and is one of the world’s largest producers of various drugs, including those used to treat HIV-AIDS; Brazil and South Africa were both in need of affordable drugs for patients infected with HIV as well as a host of other treatable ailments. But these three countries were barred from easily trading with each other because of strict intellectual property laws established by the World Trade Organisation. Just a few months prior to their meeting, the three countries formed a grouping, known as IBSA.
In late July, I visited two settlements of the Landless Rural Workers (MST) on the outskirts of São Paulo (Brazil). Both settlements are named for brave women, the Brazilian lawmaker Marielle Franco – who was assassinated in 2018 – and Irmã Alberta – an Italian Catholic nun who died in 2018. The lands where the MST has built the Marielle Vive camp and the Irmã Alberta Land Commune were slated for a gated community with a golf course, and a garbage dump, respectively. Based on the social obligations for land use in the Brazilian Constitution of 1988, the MST mobilised landless workers to occupy these areas, build their own homes, schoolhouses and community kitchens, and grow organic food.
The prevailing globalised agrifood model is built on unjust trade policies, the leveraging of sovereign debt, population displacement and land dispossession. It fuels commodity monocropping and food insecurity as well as soil and environmental degradation. It is responsible for increasing rates of illness, nutrient-deficient diets, a narrowing of the range of food crops, water shortages, chemical runoffs, increasing levels of farmer indebtedness, the undermining and destruction of local communities and the eradication of biodiversity. The model relies on a policy paradigm that privileges urbanisation, global markets, long supply chains, external proprietary inputs, highly processed food and market (corporate) dependency.
As heat waves and wildfires cause chaos in North Africa, Europe and North America, climate scientists from the United Nations (UN) have announced that it is almost certain this July will be the warmest month ever recorded. At a press conference on climate Thursday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned, “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived,” a UN press release said. “Today, the World Meteorological Organization and the European Commission’s Copernicus Climate Change Service are releasing official data that confirms that July 2023 is set to be the hottest month ever recorded in human history,” Guterres said.
So what we were going to talk about is really the Third World debt crisis, the new Third World debt crisis. How similar and how different is it from the one that hit the Third World back in the 1980s? What has been the specific contribution, if any, of the pandemic and the war? And what is the future of the Third World, given that in addition to all the other calamities, it is now hit with this debt crisis? Now, last time we started with a list of seven questions and we only got through the first two. So let me just go through the seven questions and then we will begin with the third question. So the first question was, what was the genesis of the 1980s debt crisis?
When the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was first proposed 10 years ago, along with much anticipation, there was considerable puzzlement. “What is it?” was a widely asked question. And quite reasonably so, because it was like nothing we had seen before. This was no plan with fixed dates. There was nothing concrete. There were no boundaries. There was no end date. In every sense it was open-ended. It was an idea, a concept. It was a totally new and original way of thinking about a project. Furthermore, it was on the hugest of scales, encompassing the great majority of the world’s population.
Today we are joined by Anne Pettifor to discuss an urgent issue of our time, that of the third world debt crisis. As we record this, this is the topic of the Summit on New Global Financing Pact called by Emmanuel Macron in Paris. And we couldn’t find a more authoritative guest for this show. Anne Pettifor does not really need any introduction, and I’m only going to give one to remind ourselves of the range of her contributions. She’s a prolific writer on issues relating to debt, finance and development, and is also an activist and has intervened in politics to great effect.