Lula and the protagonism claimed by the Global South

Image: Lara Jameson

No other world leader among the countries of the Global South has the political and moral authority of Lula to be heeded in the call he made on his recent trip for a new world order.

President Lula's recent trip to Egypt and Ethiopia has been marked by his strong statements in favor of ending the massacre promoted by Israel in the Gaza Strip and the recognition of a Palestinian State. However, his official pronouncements also carry an important call to re-discuss and redesign global governance.

At the end of his speech at the extraordinary session of the League of Arab States, in Cairo, Lula declared: “We need to have a very important debate so that we can rethink the United Nations, so that we can rethink the new global governance. It is not possible for the UN to be governed by the countries that emerged victorious or lost in the Second World War. It is important to remember that the world has changed; geopolitics has changed. Countries became bigger and more important. There is no explanation why the African continent does not have any [permanent] representative on the [United Nations Security Council], and it could have two, three. It makes no sense for South America and Latin America not to have any representatives. It makes no sense for a country like India to be out, or Germany to be out. In other words, we need to rethink so that we can increase the number of countries on the Security Council. We need to think and end the right of veto. (…) Because they are the members of the UN Permanent Council, the countries that produce weapons, the countries that sell weapons and the countries that have recently been waging wars”.

In a single paragraph, the President expressed two strong and essential ideas for thinking about the world in the 21st century.

First, the post-World War II governance design has failed, is bankrupt and does not correspond to contemporary geopolitical reality. Without redesigning it, the UN is harmless in the face of any global dilemma, especially current war conflicts.

Second, the new global governance cannot do without the countries of the Global South. The criteria for the reorganization of these organizations cannot be just military or economic power.

These are not President Lula's words, but we could add that the failure of the UN system is also the failure of the United States of America's insistence on standardizing – culturally – the world in its image and likeness and subordinating it economically and militarily. Nor can the world be led to a new bipolarity, a new “Cold War” in the center with “hot wars” on the periphery.

And, paraphrasing Lula, as in the case of the Security Council, it is also possible to say that the same countries that are responsible for the climate catastrophe are those responsible for preventing true solutions to global warming and environmental destruction.

These two elements – the geopolitical crisis and the environmental crisis – are enough for the Global South to demand recognition, voice and active participation in the reordering of global governance. In a study produced by the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, “Hyperimperialism: A dangerous new decadent stage”, we point out eight aspirations that unify the Global South:

Multilateralism: Engagement in in-depth multilateral dialogues and cooperation between countries in the Global South without depending on articulations offered by countries in the Global North.

New modernization: Construction of regional economic integration through economic corridors and axes within the Global South to achieve economies of scale at a continental level.

Dedollarization: Reducing dependence on the US dollar (especially for countries facing sanctions) in international trade through mechanisms such as local currency transactions, currency swaps and common regional currencies.

Innovation led by the Global South: Promoting democratic and open technological innovation among countries in the Global South. This includes reducing the economic premium provided by intellectual property monopolies in areas such as medicine, new energy and information technology.

Debt reparations and resolution: Confronting the centuries-old debt trap imposed by imperialist countries, through collective negotiations for reductions and compensations.

Food sovereignty: Guarantee of the right of people and States to define their agricultural and food policy, without any dumping in relation to other countries, transnational corporations and free trade agreements.

Digital sovereignty: Increasing the ability of countries in the Global South to control digital spaces in terms of hardware, software, data, content, standards and regulations, and building alternatives to digital platforms monopolized by the US.

Environmental justice: Formulation of fair emission rights allocation plans and demands on imperialist countries to compensate for their long-term cumulative pollution. The financialization of nature is a dead end for the Global South (TRICONTINENTAL, 2024).

In another study, published in 2022, the Tricontinental Institute systematized, together with 26 other research institutes located in the Global South, a set of measures that should be taken in a Plan to save the Planet (2022). In relation to Democracy and World Order, the propositions were: (i) affirm the importance of the United Nations Charter (1945); (ii) insist that United Nations member states comply with the Charter, including its specific requirements on the use of sanctions and force (Chapters VI and VII); (iii) Reconsider the monopoly power exercised by the UN Security Council over decisions that affect a large part of the multilateral system; engage the UN General Assembly in a serious dialogue about democracy within the global order.

(iv) Insist that multilateral bodies – such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) – formulate policies in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); prohibit any policy that increases poverty, hunger, homelessness and illiteracy; (v) affirm the centrality of the multilateral system over key areas of security, trade policy and financial regulations, recognizing that regional bodies such as NATO and limited institutions such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have supplanted the United Nations and its agencies (such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) in formulating these policies.

(vi) Formulate policies to strengthen regional mechanisms and deepen the integration of developing countries; (vii) prevent the use of the security paradigm – notably, counterterrorism and anti-narcotics – to face the world's social challenges; (viii) limit spending on weapons and militarism; ensure that space is demilitarized; (ix) convert resources spent on weapons production to finance socially beneficial productions.

(x) Ensure that all rights are available to all people, not just those who are citizens of a State; These rights must apply to all previously marginalized communities, such as women, indigenous peoples, people of color, migrants, undocumented people, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, oppressed castes and the poor.

The protagonism claimed by the Global South, however, is not possible to be achieved within the outdated and unbalanced lines of the design of current multilateral organizations. This strength must “come from outside”.

In this sense, the Global South needs a new Bandung conference, the initiative of African and Asian countries in 1955, in which Brazil participated as an observer, and which was decisive for the constitution of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, for the protagonism of the so-called Third World and for the concrete development of numerous political, cultural and economic cooperation initiatives between these countries.

No other world leader among the countries of the Global South has the political and moral authority of Lula to be heeded in a call like this. See the silence and omission of other heads of state from more powerful countries. More than that, with the worsening of the climate catastrophe, few countries have the authority of Brazil to call for an initiative of this nature.

The establishment and recognition of a multipolar – not bipolar – world with equal rights and duties between nations is not a mere diplomatic issue, it is essential to end the conflicts caused by the nations of the northern hemisphere and their satellites – in Ukraine or Gaza – and for a real and effective way out of the climate catastrophe – not rockets to Mars, not electric cars – in addition to the profound economic inequality that has become the rule in the global organization. May Lula not be a lone voice of protest.

*Miguel Enrique Stedile He has a doctorate in history from UFRGS and is a member of the coordination team at the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research. He is the author, among others, of the book “Mao Zedong and the Chinese Revolution: Methods of Management and Challenges of the Transition to Socialism”. []


TRICONTINENTAL INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL RESEARCH. Contemporary Dilemmas no. 04. Hyperimperialism: A dangerous new decadent stage. Available in: (2024)

TRICONTINENTAL INSTITUTE OF SOCIAL RESEARCH. Dossier No. 48. We will build the future: a plan to save the planet. Available in: (2022)

Full text of President Lula's speech during an extraordinary session of the League of Arab States, in Cairo (Egypt):

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