The South Summit organised by the Group of 77 was held recently in Havana. It brought together 134 developing countries, 42 of which were represented by heads of state or government. In a closed-door session, the political leaders decided to tell the developed countries that the South must be allowed to take part in global decisions affecting them, otherwise they will not agree to accept these decisions.

By Martin Khor

April 2000

The first-ever ‘South Summit’, bringing together political leaders and officials from 134 developing countries belonging to the Group of 77 and China, was held on 10-14 April in Havana.

It was an interesting gathering of the developing world’s leaders. Among the well-known figures present were Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Cuban President Fidel Castro, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid and South African President Thabo Mbeki as well as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. There were 42 heads of state or government and 67 foreign ministers present.

A gathering of the South’s leaders can be expected to be abundant in rousing speeches asking for the weak of the world to unite and make demands of the rich North.

And there were some, notably a sharp review by Castro of how the South is being exploited  by  the  international  economic  system  and   an  attack  on  the  inequities  of globalisation by Dr Mahathir. Theirs were the most anticipated speeches and they did not let the participants down.

But by and large and presentations by many other leaders did not bring up much that was new or striking.

Perhaps more important than the open plenary speeches was a five-hour closed-door meeting among the heads of government or state that was held half-way through the meeting. Only one other official was allowed to accompany the leader of each country in this ‘interactive debate’ among the leaders.

At this meeting on 13 April, some important ideas emerged and some decisions were taken.

Most significant was a decision of the leaders to convey to the G-8 Summit and other groupings of the North that the South must be represented in any forum deliberating on global matters that can adversely affect the developing countries. Further, the Group of 77 will not consider any social, economic or political architecture decided without their representation.

These decisions were part of the conclusions presented by the Chairman of the G77, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, at the end of the ‘interactive debate’.

According to diplomats present, the Chairman’s summary included a reaffirmation by the leaders of their collective commitment to live up to their responsibility, and called on their partners in the North to join in promoting a new partnership for development.

The leaders mandated the President of the Summit and the President of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to transmit to the next G-8 Summit and other appropriate international fora, including the international financial and trade institutions, the results of this interactive debate, along with the Declaration and Programme of Action to be adopted by the South Summit.

President Obasanjo said that in so doing, they should convey the firm conviction that the countries of the South must be represented in any forum deliberating and deciding on social, economic or political matters which can adversely or otherwise affect our countries, whether individually, severally, or as a whole group.

The Group of 77 will not consider any social, economic or political architecture decided without their representation, according to the Chairman’s conclusions. Similarly, any  representations  that  the G77  may make before such  forums  notwithstanding,  they have no authority under international law to make binding decisions that affect the South.

According to officials present, this proposal of ‘no representation by the South, no agreement’ had been put forward by Dr Mahathir during the debate, and accepted by the other leaders.

The interactive debate also decided on some measures for South-South cooperation.

To strengthen their collective negotiating capacity, the leaders decided to establish a coordinating commission in the office of the Chairman of the Group of 77 with a coordinating council made up of the Chairmen of ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market), OAU (Organisation of African Unity), NAM and similar regional organisations. The Commission will also coordinate the implementation of the Summit’s Programme of Action as well as South-South cooperation.

The leaders also agreed to establish a South-South health delivery programme, and welcomed the offer of Cuba to train 3,000 doctors.

President Obasanjo said that the interactive debate had been a historic occasion, as it was the first time that so many heads of state or government from the South have engaged in an exchange of views of this nature.

This may be the beginning of a tradition of concertation, coordination and consultation at the highest level of the leaders of the South on major international economic issues. Accordingly, the leaders had also agreed that a high-level forum be convened on a regular basis.

The leaders recognised that globalisation is an irreversible process and that there is a need for measures to avoid the marginalisation and exclusion of the developing countries and their impact on the cultural diversity of our peoples and their civilisations.

To this end it was urgent to tap the potential of globalisation so that it can be transformed from a vehicle of marginalisation and exclusion to a force for positive change and an agent of sustained growth and shared prosperity.

The Chairman’s summary also said that the positive impact of globalisation cannot be confined to the few and powerful of this world. It can and should be a powerful agent for sustainable development that benefits every person on this planet.

To   this  end   the  leaders   insist   on   the  promotion  of   effective  South-South cooperation, and of renewed North-South cooperation, which includes the shared management of the globalisation process, democratic and transparent governance of the international financial architecture and international trade institutions, and full respect for the principles of sovereignty, cultural diversity, mutual respect, justice and equity, regardless of the size and shape of a country.

However, President Olusegun noted, none of this can be achieved without international peace and security, political will of all and an adequate institutional framework. In that context the leaders reaffirmed the primacy of international law, the validity of the UN Charter and the culture of peace.

They therefore called on the North to join a new partnership for development, and decided to mandate the Summit’s President and the NAM President to convey the results of the South Summit to the G-8 Summit and other forums, and to convey that the South must be represented in any forum deciding on matters that affect the South.

Any ‘architecture’ decided without representation from the South will not be considered by the Group of 77.

The Summit ended with the adoption of a Programme of Action and a Havana Declaration. - Third World Network Features


About the writer: Martin Khor is Director of the Third World Network.