The ‘Third World’ refers to that expansive and usually subordinated socio-political geography that, during the mid-twentieth century, came to be seen as ‘non-aligned’ – belonging neither to the ‘free’ nor to the ‘communist’ world. Today the Third World is more often referred to, however, as the ‘developing world’, the ‘post-colonial world’, or the (Global) South. In our intensely unequal, racialised, gendered, environmentally precarious global order, confronting a proliferation of Souths in the North and Norths in the South, this socio-political geography can perhaps be better characterised as ‘most of the world’. (Eslava, TWAIL Coordinates (Critical Legal Thinking, 2019)
Climate, international negotiations, value chains for renewable energies – these are just some examples of global topics that transdisciplinary sustainability studies deal with. But how do we approach global matters in a world marked by profound differences rooted in a history of domination? How do we address these differences and why do those words matter?
The term Global South refers to different parts of the world from an apparently cartesian perspective and is being used at an accelerated pace. This raises questions not only regarding its appliance but also related to its proper definition and what it implies. On the one hand, which metrics could be used for its definition, and on the other, which subjective features does it carry? These questions could be raised from a social, political and economical perspective.
It is also possible to ask how the term Global South itself developed and how it is different from other historically used terms such as third world, developing countries or low/middle/high-income countries. Apart from their possible meanings and pre-concepts an important part of the discussion can be related to the usage of it under a post-colonial argument. How does the so-called ‘North’ relate to the ‘South’, how is South-South cooperation going on and what do thinkers from this undefined South have to say about it? Or does it only address spaces and people negatively impacted by contemporary globalization? And why do we need to name it at all?
Since this definition does not apply to geographical patterns, two simple questions can be raised: Not only what is the Global South, but also where is it. Bearing this in mind, the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) decided to promote a discussion with specialists from different countries and disciplines and would welcome your participation.
Dr. Flávio Lira
Professor of International Relations at the Federal University of the Pampas, Brazil
Post-doc Research Fellow at the IASS
Dr. Luciana Ballestrin
Associate Professor of Political Science in Federal University of Pelotas (Brazil)
Dr. Luis Eslava
Reader in International Law & Co-Director, Centre for Critical International Law (CeCIL). Kent Law School, University of Kent
Holder of the International Climate Protection Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin