IT’S a term that’s used ever more readily, even if some of us remain unsure as to its real meaning. I’m talking about the Global South.

For those unfamiliar with its usage, it refers to those various countries around the world that have in the past sometimes been pejoratively referred to as the “Third World, “Developing World,” or “Underdeveloped World”.

The use of the word “South” signifies that most – though certainly not all – are in the Southern Hemisphere, mainly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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China and India, two of the largest countries that fall under the designation for example, lie entirely in the Northern Hemisphere, meaning that the term is more about a mix of certain common geopolitical and economic similarities between the nations that make up the Global South.

Perhaps a better way of understanding the past identity of some of these countries is to say that for centuries during the days of imperial, colonial and post-colonial rule, many were the kinds of places that we here in the West had no compunction in ripping off or milking dry for all they were worth.

It didn’t matter whether it was vast lucrative swathes of natural resources, cheap or slave labour, such countries in the eyes of the world’s superpowers during those times, were viewed as easily pliable cash cows.

In other words, they were the kinds of countries whose status was almost entirely disregarded by an international order that was then shaped and led by the West.

Those days have changed – albeit far from entirely – and today the Global South is making its presence felt like never before, even if much of the West still seemingly does its damnedest to ignore it at its increasing peril.

Let me explain what I mean by this. Perhaps the best example is to take the Global South’s reaction to the current crises in both Gaza and Ukraine. To put it quite bluntly, they are doing a grand job in calling out the West right now for what they correctly see as the blatant hypocrisy in its response to both these conflicts and their consequences.

Time and again leaders of many Global South nations have made the point – as some have in the West – that in terms of international law, there’s no ambiguity in that Russia’s occupation of its Ukrainian neighbour is illegal, just as Israel’s occupation of its Palestinian neighbour is illegal.

But why is it they ask, that though the UN has repeatedly condemned both and therefore they should draw out equal censure from the West, this doesn’t happen?

In fact, as is stands the US and EU sides with Ukraine, the country under attack, and in the other instance supports the attacker, Israel. Though Israelis certainly would argue that it was Hamas with whom responsibility lies after its October 7 assault on Israel.

To many in the Global South such double standards are not only baffling, but worthy of condemnation. Here after all they argue, we have unwavering US and European weapons support for Israel that is committing what many regard as war crimes in Gaza and which in January the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled could amount to genocide.

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That action at the ICJ it’s worth remembering too, was brought against Israel by South Africa, a country that has been an increasingly vocal presence among Global South nations.

As these nations see it too, the “rules-based order”, that the West so ardently defends seem only to apply one way and the tally of disparities is significant indeed.

We have sanctions and boycotts on Russia over its war in Ukraine, but none on Israel is but one example.

The West provides military support to Ukraine to fight the Russian occupation but threatens those countries who would do the same in supporting the Palestinians’ armed resistance goes another of the criticisms.

Seen from a Western perspective, there are other dangers too in this disparity in the US and EU response that is already becoming obvious.

The first is that it plays into the hands of those despots around the world who will seek to step into the breach and extend their influence in those Global South countries disillusioned with such Western hypocrisy, a point recently made by Middle East analyst, Amro Ali.

“The Western reaction to the Israeli war in Gaza is an undeserved gift for [Vladimir] Putin, and rarely will anyone soon in the Global South listen when Western politicians insist on international law,” Ali noted in an article on his website.

His point is well made, given that for years the West has talked up the need to build “equal partnerships” with the Global South nations, but who will take them at their word now in light of recent eyewatering contradictions in Western positioning?

As Catherine Ashton, former High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and former Vice President of the European Commission, recently pointed out in a Chatham House assessment, the problem is that for too long now the West including the EU has been taking the Global South for granted.

To illustrate that very point Ashton told of how shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, she received a message from an African leader. “There you go again – another conflict. You will expect us to support you regardless of the costs.

“But when is the West going to pay attention to what is happening on my continent?” the African leader asked.

As Ashton went on to say, his point is a telling one given that the “17 coups in Africa during the past six years and the armed conflicts in 18 countries in 2021 alone have been largely ignored”.

In other words, there was an arrogance at work here, one whereby the West automatically assumed that Global South nations would simply give Russia’s invasion of Ukraine top billing on their geopolitical agenda.

At the Munich Security Conference in February, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, referring to the war in Gaza, noted that “Russia is taking good advantage of our mistakes.

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“The blame about double standards is something that we need to address and not only with nice words. It is clear that the wind is blowing against the West,” Borrell warned.

Just like the Global South’s calling out of western hypocrisy, Borrell’s words should be a wakeup call. They tell us that the US and EU remain trapped in a Western-centric view and are sleeping at the wheel in terms of attitudes and relations with the Global South that need to change.

Old habits might die hard, but if they don’t change quickly you can bet that other much more nefarious forces are already poised to take advantage of any Western failure to do so.