On 17 July 2023, over 30 delegates from the Global South and North convened in Brussels on the fringes of the thrid EU-CELAC Summit to launch the first South-North Dialogue, a new joint initiative of Progressive International and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation seeking to chart a path towards a New International Economic Order fit for the needs of working peoples on both sides of the deepening geopolitical divide. The joint statement emerging from that meeting is documented below.
South-North Dialogue Does Not Exist
Global governance in the twenty-first century is defined by two conflicting trends. The number of international summits, forums, conventions and conferences has multiplied. But their meaning has declined in equal measure. At best, they serve as pageantry for the North’s tepid promises. At worst, they provide a pulpit from which to dictate rules to their South neighbours. Serious debate among sovereign powers about the terms and conditions of South-North cooperation has gone missing.
The Brandt Line Remains Intact
Forty years ago, the Brandt Commission mapped the socio-economic dividing line that separated the nations of the developing South from the former empires of the North. In the decades that followed, managers of the multilateral system hailed a ‘miracle’ of development, promising to move from billions to trillions in unlocked finance. But while this dream of global development has dimmed, the Brandt Line endures to this day: a hierarchy of nations written into the international economic order.
Old Dependencies Endure, New Ones Emerge
The South-North divide is by design. Investment treaties defend Northern claims to profit over Southern paths to sustainable development. Trade agreements protect Northern intellectual property over Southern health and habitat. Bailout packages pay out to Northern creditors while keeping Southern economies trapped in debt. The Brandt Line was written with intention, and has been cultivated with care ever since.
Sanctions for the South, Exemptions for the North
The rules that define this international order are not evenly applied. Southern contravention leads to swift sanction — in the darkness of arbitration courts or in the blinding light of unilateral coercive measures. Meanwhile, the North simply cites ‘national security’ to free itself from the very rules that it has written. Neoliberalism may be ‘dead’ to the North of the Brandt Line, but its zombie still haunts the South.
The Stakes Are Survival
Dialogue across the South-North divide is not only necessary to redress these enduring inequalities. On a rapidly heating planet, it is indispensable for human survival. The climate catastrophe has already reached many corners of the South. But these places merely provide an image of the future to the Northern countries that downplay the crisis in order to deny their responsibility for it. Eternal dominance is a delusion. Cooperation is the only exit from extinction.
Concessions Are Not Enough
Confronted with a crisis of existential proportions, Northern powers sink deeper into their cynicism. They offer ‘concessional’ financing and ‘solidarity’ programs that barely inch toward an adjusted settlement with their Southern neighbours. A true dialogue between South and North must invert the terms from a half-century ago: led from the South, dictating terms of cooperation to their Northern neighbours.
Without Unity, There’s No Future
Southern power is a prerequisite for such an inversion of terms. The old organs of Southern unity have atrophied. They serve today more as mechanisms for diplomatic consensus than engines of collective action. But the formula for Southern power remains at hand: the convergence of interest in the unfinished project of economic decolonisation, the combination of resource power that the South commands.
A New International Economic Order Approaches
↘We have been here before. Fifty years ago, the South enshrined a vision of a New International Economic Order, and asserted Southern power to bring Northern partners to negotiate it. The lessons of this recent history have yet to be applied. But they promise to help the inheritors of the NIEO legacy to secure sovereign development for the century ahead.
The South-North Dialogue Is Born
We convene the dialogue in that spirit — of serious deliberation, without fake smiles; of committed negotiation, without empty promises; of programmatic imagination, without false solutions — calling on allies both South and North to help chart a course toward a New International Economic Order fit for the 21st century.