Norway midwifing the new world order in the West

Norwegian Foreign Minister  Espen Barth Eide was in Nairobi, Kenya for an official visit that can best be described as game changing. He delivered a public lecture at the University of Nairobi and was a guest at the situation room, a radio station dedicated to political and policy analysis. The outstanding theme of his visit was Norway’s departure from Western post-cold war exceptionalism and hypocrisy to an embrace of a new reformed global order that the Global South want to see.

By  Dr. Cliff Mboya.
Mboya is an Africa-China analyst and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg.

His visit came weeks after Norway alongside Ireland and Spain formally recognized a Palestinian state and argued that there is no credible alternative to a two state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  His urgings and ideas resonated with key concerns from the Global South. He acknowledged western hypocrisy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in contrast to the Russia-Ukraine war. “If it is wrong in Ukraine, it is wrong in Gaza, he said. He approved the need to reform the international multilateral system and restore an internationalist approach and universal application of international principles. He also reiterated Norway’s support for an African seat at the U.N Security Council and willingness to cooperate with African countries on Climate change adaptability.

In the past decade, the West has been at odds with African countries and the Global South on matters of global governance where confidence in the western led order has eroded. Nationalism and xenophobia is one the rise, far right political parties are being mainstreamed projecting a western world that is retrogressive and inward looking. Donald Trump’s presidency and protectionist policies, structural and diplomatic inequality, U.S withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement, Europe’s “vaccine nationalism”, hypocrisy and double standards on global rules, norms and values have deepened the divide between the Global North and Global South leading to a political struggle over the character and utility of the global order itself.

Observers in the global South are pessimistic about the western-led “rule-based international order” because some western countries are not observing it. They accuse the West of conducting foreign policy that is inconsistent with their rhetorical claims of moral virtue and unjust to the rest of the world. For example, the U.S global war on terror and unilateral interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, NATO’s unlawful and unsuccessful intervention in Libya and the unilateral measures against Cuba, Syria and Venezuela have been frowned upon in the global South. The inconsistencies concerning globalism and universal human rights has cast doubt on the western-centered multiculturalism and its idea of the “international community”.  Others contend that malignant nationalism and populism in the west are responsible for the disruption of free movement of goods and people, weakening of multilateral global organizations and the very post war order that westerners built.

There is a growing resentment over the double standards and discriminatory policies. The director of the Chatham House think-tank, Bronwen Maddox, bemoaned that it was time for the West to acknowledge how vulnerable it was to hypocrisy charges, and how it matters in the global South. Vusimuzi Madonsela, the South African ambassador to the Netherlands, could not be more clear when she said, “the argument about double standards “runs like this: the west cares about democracy, but not when it wants to install leaders it likes in other countries. It respects sovereignty except when it does not, as in Iraq. It argues for self-determination in Taiwan, not in Catalonia. It supports human rights, but not in countries from which it needs oil. It defends human rights except when it gets too difficult, as in Afghanistan”.

The rise of Brazil, Russia, and India, China and South Africa (BRICS) and expansion into BRICS+ (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ethiopia, Egypt and Iran) has shifted significant economic power from the Global North to the Global South. The BRICS+ countries have seized their geopolitical moment and fashioned a united coalition of emerging and developing countries against a world order and practice of International Politics that does not correspond to their needs and necessities. It has facilitated the creation of a new platform for South–South cooperation and coordination to challenge the western led order. The rise of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) has renewed hope for an alternative world order where countries in the Global South can converge their interests and unlock benefits that include development finance, increased trade and investments unhindered by western governance models that they deem unfair and outdated.

Since the 2007 recession, the West has gradually lost its dominance over the world politics, economy, science and technology, and raw materials. Unlike the past, it has been left with limited instruments to maintain economic and political power to dominate and dictate policy in the Global South.  Sanctions against Russia have not worked as they did in the past as countries increasingly see them as tools for political manipulation and intimidation.

This calls for responsive policies and a commitment to globalism, internationalism and multiculturalism in the new international environment. Norway’s recognition of a Palestinian state puts pressure on other Western states to follow suit and offers hope of a departure from previous European positions that many in the global South consider zero-sum, imperialist and partisan postures that they are determined to reform.