Global Trends by Martin Khor

Monday 27 June 2005

A useful South Summit, follow up needed 

Blurb:  The South Summit in Doha enabled developing countries’ leaders to voice common concerns as they prepare for a crucial meeting for United Nations reform in September.  It also produced a Declaration and an Action Plan.  Follow up action is now needed.


Once in five years the political leaders of the developing world get together in the South Summit of the Group of 77 and China.

It’s not the only gathering of the leaders, as there is also the Non Aligned Movement, to which most of the same countries belong.  The NAM meets once in three years, the last time in Kuala Lumpur in 2003.  Malaysia presently is the coordinator of NAM.

The G77 and NAM are the two umbrella bodies of the South, with the G77 mainly taking up economic and social issues, and the NAM involved in political and security issues.

On 15-16 June, the G77 and China held its second ever South Summit in Doha.  Perhaps the skeptical observer may respond to the news with the initial comment:  “Another Summit?  Another Declaration?  Will there be any action?”

Indeed, the South has to do more to get its act together.  On the other hand, it has become a more complex and dangerous world.  It is not easy to coordinate the views and interests of so many countries, and to move these into action, such as in the negotiations at the United Nations and the WTO. 

The Doha Summit went well.  It was a valuable opportunity for the South’s political leaders to share views and experiences, especially since an important UN General Assembly meeting will take place in September to decide on the reform of the UN.

The South Summit adopted two very useful documents--- the political Doha Declaration and the action-oriented Doha Plan of Action.   They contain much more than rhetoric.  Together they constitute a set of principles and a road map of action that can guide the South’s positions in negotiations and in South-South cooperation activities. 

In a closing speech, Jamaican Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson, current G77 chairman,  described the Summit as “highly successful.”   He said the government leaders had analysed the state of the South, the global environment and the South’s responses, and had determined a course of action for the South.

“We just cannot hope for cooperation among South countries, but must take appropriate action and implement programmes to make it a reality,” said Patterson.   He listed urgent priorities identified by the Summit, including:

  • Establishing a common strategy to secure national policy space for developing countries, especially in trade, investment, financial and industrial policies.
  • Enhancing developing countries’ participation in international economic decision-making and norm setting.
  • Ensure development is given the highest priority in UN reform, and increased aid to developing countries.

Patterson said the Summit identified mechanisms for action, including strengthening networks and building centres of excellence in various areas; economic and trade cooperation arrangements among South countries; and encouraging cultural exchanges.

He added the leaders had agreed to seek change in the pattern of North-South relations and strengthen dialogue with developed countries.

“We leave Doha convinced the G77 and China is now imbued with the vision and unity enabling us to overcome formidable challenges and ensure we grow more vibrant and strong in the decades ahead,” he concluded.

Earlier, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi was one of the speakers at the Opening Ceremony.  He had stressed three priorities for the South.

First, developing countries had to unite and act together, building the weight and credibility to voice common concerns and advance common goals.

Second is to ensure development is at the top of the international agenda.  In this respect, Malaysia proposed that intellectual property rights be given a stronger developmental focus, for example to ensure adequate access to medicine.

Third was to ensure restructuring of the international economic system to rectify asymmetries of power in the system, as power is now being used purely on the basis of economic and military strength bereft of humane and humanitarian concerns.

He called for NAM and the G77 to work closer than they had done in the past, to advance the South’s position and bring about greater “inclusiveness” in the global system.

The Doha Declaration, as a political document, can serve a good basis for follow-up work.  A highlight is its positions on UN reform and the UN General Assembly summit in September.

The Doha Plan of Action, on the other hand, provides a detailed listing of key issues and proposed actions in four major areas: globalisation, knowledge and technology, South-South cooperation and North-South relations.

Both documents place emphasis on the concept of “national policy space” that developing countries must have to enable development, and that the North should respect, especially in multilateral negotiations.   

This is a response by the G77 leaders to the erosion of this policy space by the rules of the World Trade Organisation and the conditions attached to loans of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, as well as bilateral trade agreements. 

“We stress the need for international rules to allow policy space and policy flexibility for developing countries, as they are directly related to the development strategies of national governments,” said the Declaration. 

The leaders called for mainstreaming the development dimension in the UN reform process, and enabling full participation of the South in international decision and rule-making economic processes.

They expressed deep concern that globalization and liberalization have produced uneven benefits, the income gap between North and South has widened, and poverty has increased in many countries.

There is a need for a global strategy to prioritize the development dimension into global processes, and greater coherence between the international trading, monetary and financial systems.

The Doha Plan of Action sets out many action points for follow up.  Many of them are similar to the Action Programme adopted at the first South Summit in 2005 in Havana. Indeed, some of the leaders at the Doha Summit lamented the fact that only a small minority of actions proposed then had been implemented.

It remains to be seen whether this time a serious implementation mechanism will be put in place by the G77 to follow up on the Doha POA.

The Plan’s section on globalization provides positions that the South should take in negotiations on WTO, trade, commodities, intellectual property, and finance.  Its section on North-South Relations called on rich countries to do more on debt relief, aid and technology transfer. 

On Knowledge and Technology, the G77 leaders pledged to strengthen South-South cooperation in science and technology, to enhance access and use of ICT, to encourage the use of e-government, and to convene the South-South Cultural Forum.

The Plan has many proposals for South-South cooperation in trade, production of medicines and to strengthen institutions that can build developing countries’ joint activities.

The results of the South Summit will be conveyed by the Jamaican Prime Minister to the summit of the Group of 8 rich countries in Gleneagles, Scotland, at the beginning of July.