Global South Forging a New Foreign Policy: Navigating Geopolitical Tensions with Active Non-Alignment


In a world grappling with escalating conflicts, geopolitical tensions, and a resurfacing Cold War, the Global South has emerged as a key player in shaping international relations through its adoption of “active non-alignment.” Led by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, nations from Africa, Asia, and Latin America are refusing to take sides in conflicts between superpowers and are prioritizing their own interests. This approach, characterized by delicate diplomacy and strategic decision-making, is gaining momentum as developing nations wield increasing economic power on the global stage.

President Lula’s efforts to bring peace to the war in Ukraine have attracted attention worldwide. In his pursuit of mediation, he engaged in conversations with US President Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Lula’s chief foreign policy adviser, Celso Amorim, conducted shuttle diplomacy between Moscow and Brasília, meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Brazil’s commitment to not taking sides in the conflict exemplifies the principles of active non-alignment.

Active non-alignment distinguishes itself from previous iterations of non-alignment by harnessing the newfound strength of developing nations. The combined gross domestic product of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) now surpasses that of the Group of Seven advanced economies. This economic power empowers active non-aligned nations to initiate new diplomatic coalitions and pursue initiatives previously unimaginable. It is a stark departure from the era of João Goulart, Brazil’s president from 1961 to 1964, who would not have ventured to mediate in conflicts like Lula is doing today.

The rise of active non-alignment can be attributed to the intensifying competition between the United States and China, which has fueled a budding second Cold War. Developing nations in the Global South recognize the significance of maintaining favorable relations with both superpowers for economic development, trade, and investment. While active non-alignment should not be confused with neutrality, as it involves actively weighing each issue on its merits, it allows nations to strike a balance between the United States and China depending on the specific issue at hand. This nuanced approach requires meticulous diplomacy and informed decision-making.

The war in Ukraine has been a litmus test for active non-alignment, as it necessitates refraining from supporting either Russia or NATO. Brazil is not alone in taking this stance. Across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, several key countries have refused to align with NATO. Notably, India, despite its growing ties with the United States and participation in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the “Quad”) with the US, Japan, and Australia, chose not to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and increased its imports of Russian oil. India’s position on non-alignment will likely be a focal point during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Washington.

The significance of India’s stance highlights a fundamental divide in the world today. Contrary to the belief that the main geopolitical cleavage revolves around democracy versus autocracy, the war in Ukraine reveals a schism between the Global North and the Global South. Major democratic nations, including Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, have opted to refrain from siding with NATO. Support for diplomatic and economic sanctions against Russia is nearly nonexistent in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These nations are determined not to let what they perceive as a European conflict spiral into a global one.

The reactions of the “great powers” to the rise of active non-alignment vary. Washington, caught off guard by this response, has framed the war in Ukraine as a choice between good and evil, asserting that the “rules-based international order” is at stake. Russia, on the other hand, sees this new non-aligned movement as an opportunity to bolster its own position. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has extensively visited Africa, Asia, and Latin America, reinforcing Moscow’s opposition to sanctions. China has taken advantage of the situation to advocate for the international role of the yuan, highlighting the risks of overreliance on the US dollar as a weapon in geopolitical conflicts.

However, the success of active non-alignment depends not only on high-profile meetings but also on regional multilateralism and cooperation. A recent diplomatic summit in Brasília convened by President Lula, the first of its kind in a decade, underscores Brazil’s commitment to working collaboratively with neighboring nations to pursue its international initiatives. This collective approach is motivated by the economic crisis that has plagued Latin America, with the region experiencing its most severe downturn in 120 years. The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with economic challenges, has further propelled the appeal of active non-alignment in the region.

Beyond the current US-China Cold War and the conflict in Ukraine, the revival of non-alignment in its active form signifies a broader disillusionment among Global South nations with the prevailing “liberal international order” established after World War II. This order is increasingly perceived as inadequate and unresponsive to the needs of developing countries on critical issues such as international indebtedness, food security, migration, and climate change. Calls to uphold the “rules-based order” are viewed by many nations in the Global South as serving the interests of great powers rather than the global public good. In response, an increasing number of nations are actively refusing to be drawn into an “us versus them” dynamic.

As the Global South forges a new foreign policy through active non-alignment, the world order is undergoing a significant transformation. Developing nations are asserting their independence and prioritizing their interests, challenging traditional power dynamics. The success of this approach depends on delicate diplomacy, strategic decision-making, and collaborative efforts among nations in the Global South. By navigating the geopolitical landscape with finesse, these nations are shaping a new era of international relations that transcends the divisions between superpowers and prioritizes the welfare of their own citizens and the global community as a whole.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here