The debate on global policy, including such critical issues as climate change and globalization, is still dominated by the North. Northern universities and media are well resourced. But the majority of humanity lives in the South. Recent years have seen some exciting ideas emerging from southern scholars, research institutes, and think tanks. The media in the South is exceptionally vigorous – I was impressed by the quality of debate in Uganda’s newspapers during a visit to Kampala last month.
The South Centre has played a major role in expanding the debate – especially South-to-South – and has now initiated INSouth.org. INSouth (the Intellectual Network for the South) was launched by Benjamin Mkapa, President of Tanzania (1995-2005) recently. Tanzania under the late Julius Nyerere was a hotbed of ideas about development. Walter Rodney wrote his influential How Europe Underdeveloped Africa in Dar. Not all of the ideas worked out – for Tanzania was a young country and it was very much learning by doing – but there was a time in the 1970s when Dar es Salaam was the place to be.
We are now at a defining moment in the global economy. Many of the seemingly well-established principles of how to run the global economy lie in tatters. The international financial crisis is a shock that emanates from the North with a profound impact on the South – the collapse back in global commodity prices from their highs earlier in the year is leading many governments to revisit their assumptions about economic growth for 2008-2009. The IMF is warning of a synchronised global slowdown, with potentially deep recession in the economies most severely hit by the financial meltdown. Iceland not to mention Eastern Europe look badly exposed. China has initiated an expansionary programme to offset the impact of its rapidly slowing export growth.
Appropriately INSouth has initiated a debate on revamping the global financial architecture. Will we see a new system for regulating global capital markets to ensure that future blowups don’t hit world economic prosperity? Or will it just be another patch-up that ignores the interests of the poorer and weaker economies?