Every September, world leaders come to New York for the regular session of the United Nations General Assembly. The fact that for the first time the leaders of four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, as well as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — did not come to New York for the 78th session was seen by political analysts as «a growing sense that the UN is no longer fit for purpose and lacks the ability to prevent conflict».
U.S. President Biden took advantage of this to gain the leaders’ favor and win them over to his colonial-imperial side. However, it did not happen.
According to the established tradition, after the speeches of the UN Secretary General and the Chairman of the ongoing session, the floor was given to the presidents of Brazil and the United States. And again, for the first time, something that was least expected happened: the Global South, represented by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, faced the Global North in the person of Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.
They launched a debate on the priorities of the global community in the context of the Ukrainian conflict, which clearly did not favor the collective West.
The tone of the general debate was set by the first world leader to speak, Brazilian President Lula da Silva, who sharply criticized global governance institutions for their lack of attention to developing countries and warned against attempts to divide the world into zones of influence and reignite the Cold War. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva recalled that millions of people are still condemned to hunger and suffering, and injustice has become commonplace. He sharply criticized the IMF, which last year allocated 60 billion dollars to European countries, while African states received only 34 billion. The World Trade Organization was also criticized for failing to prevent the rise of protectionism in the world.
Lula pointed out that the policies of the IMF and the World Bank do not stand up to any criticism, while BRICS has created a new mechanism of interaction between developing countries based on fair trade and multilateral diplomacy.
His speech focused on the conflicts and ongoing wars that threaten global stability, but he avoided the direct condemnation of Russia’s war in Ukraine so expected by the «powers that be» and recalled the successive crises in the Sahel, the war in Yemen, and the uncontrolled regime changes on the African continent. And, without pointing to America as the initiator of many world conflicts «dividing the world into blocs», Lula condemned the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
Apparently, the next speaker, the US President, was not ready for such a turn of events. Biden’s speech was permeated with a demonstration of American exceptionalism, conscious of its «mission to lead [the world] at this important moment». He acknowledged that the U.S. is «mobilizing alliances and partnerships around the world for common goals» to live «by rules that everyone, big and small, must respect».
Biden mentioned Ukraine to once again try to unburden himself of the multi-billion dollar aid to the Kiev regime and to call on the world community that has shied away from the «honor» of condemning Russia’s «blatant aggression».
«If Russia manages to get away with its aggression in Ukraine and if world leaders take their eyes off what is happening and let the rules-based order collapse, we will not be able to make progress on climate change, poverty reduction or anything else», Biden said, omitting the fact that it is the aggressive policy of the United States that has provoked all the world’s problems.
It is clear that, unlike the Brazilian president’s speech, which was accompanied by applause, only Zelensky and his wife and members of their delegation clapped for the American president.
«Our country has returned to contribute to solving the world’s great problems», Lula da Silva declared from the UN podium, designating Brazil — and, of course, himself — as the leader of the Global South — the developing or Third World countries orphaned after Fidel Castro.
Since taking office in January of this year, Lula has sought to present Brazil as a major player on the world stage. Part of that strategy has included numerous international trips and participation in major international summits and events. Lula has traveled the globe and visited 21 countries in recent months, from the United States to China, from Italy to Saudi Arabia, from Argentina to South Africa.
During his travels, Lula has pushed for a revision of the unipolar world order in favor of greater influence from the Global South, for greater weight to be given to developing countries, and has advocated a weakening of the dollar’s dominance in trade.
And here it is time to clarify what is part of Luiz Lula’s «legacy».
Political scientists define the boundary of the Global South by the so-called Brandt Line, proposed in the 1980s by former German Chancellor Willy Brandt as a visual representation of the North-South divide based on GDP per capita. It is a curving line across the globe, running from northern Mexico, through upper Africa and the Middle East, skirting India and China before dropping down to encompass most of East Asia, passing Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
The term most often refers to countries in the UN’s Group of 77, which today actually comprises 134 countries, including China and several wealthy Gulf states.
In turn, the UN uses the term Global South to refer to the 181 developing and 67 developed countries.
The return to office of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva heralds a new «pink tide» not only in Latin America but, political analysts predict, elsewhere in the world as well, citing recent developments in Africa and Asia.
When Lula was sworn in this January, the Biden administration and many politicians in the West breathed a sigh of relief, expecting him to be a staunch ally, at worst a partner.
But when the United States and its European allies pressed the Brazilian president to take a stand on the war in Ukraine, the response they received was not what they had hoped for.
Lula made it clear that Brazil had no intention of siding with the United States or China, the world’s two largest economies and Brazil’s two largest trading partners.
He refused to join Washington and Western Europe in «supporting Ukraine’s fight against Russia», instead calling on the club of nations to mediate peace talks.
After the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lula said he would reconsider Brazil’s membership of the ICC.
Lula’s differences with the White House became acutely apparent in May when he visited Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. In Caracas, the Brazilian said that accusations of authoritarianism in Venezuela stemmed from a desire to make the West’s control of the country’s natural resources seem like a genuine Venezuelan desire for independence. And it escalated already in mid-September, when he resumed relations with Cuba at the G77 summit in Havana and condemned Washington’s policy toward the Caribbean island.
It should be said that Lula is not alone in his desire to change the poles in North-South relations. Indian Prime Minister Modi attempted to do the same, declaring last month in an Independence Day speech that «India is becoming the mouthpiece of the Global South». Political analysts say: this complicates Lula’s aspirations because India has «greater economic and strategic importance» than Brazil.
Recently, Kishore Mahbubani, Singapore’s permanent representative to the United Nations from 1984–1989 and 1998–2004, asked, «Why haven’t 85 percent of the world’s countries imposed sanctions on Russia after its illegal invasion of Ukraine?»
“The honest answer is», Mahbubani replied, «that deep down, many leaders of these countries do not believe in the ‘black-and-white’ story of the conflict that the West is imposing: Ukraine and the West are absolutely virtuous; Russia is absolutely evil».
In the context of growing tensions between the collective West, China and Russia, Lula is attempting to create a geopolitical framework similar to the Cold War Non-Aligned Movement.
But events in recent years, including the pandemic of Covid-19 and the new strain of Pyrola that has emerged to reduce the world’s population, especially in developing countries, show that the real division in the international system, manifested among other things by the war in Ukraine and NATO’s colonial ambitions in Africa, is not between democracies and autocracies, but rather between the Global North and the Global South.