French President Emmanuel Macron has called a unique summit that aims to reset relations between Western countries and the Global South. But the message from China and Russia will be not to trust such diplomatic maneuverings.
PARIS — “France has creative diplomacy.”
The admiration came from a European leader after last month's political community summit in Moldova that included Ukraine and a wide range of European countries — a gathering first proposed by Emmanuel Macron.
A different kind of summit is opening Thursday in Paris, bringing together 50 heads of state and government to form a new global financial pact. Some heavyweights present include Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Brazilian President Lula.
Readers who are not particularly impressed with this latest act of French diplomacy will be forgiven. To quote General Charles de Gaulle when he was criticizing the United Nations, "What are these 'things' for?"
The results of such high-level diplomatic events are not always glorious, or even entirely effective. The Paris Climate Agreement is one such example, but there are several others where words and displays of support have not been followed by any significant effects. And the current state of the world is not conducive to optimism.
But the stakes of each diplomatic event, given the current state of the world, are considerable. And rather than being ignored, they should be examined with the care with which one would treat someone seriously ill.
Global poverty rising again
The concrete issue guiding the summit was the financing mechanisms for the poorest countries in the world. Each of them was not helped by the triple shock of COVID, from which they have not yet recovered, the impact of the war in Ukraine, which has only heightened inflation and interest rates, and the more structural issue of the climate crisis.
“The global poverty that had been considerably decreasing, has begun its rise once again,” Nobel laureate and economist Esther Duflo told France Inter in an interview. The World Bank estimates that 14 out of the 28 poorest countries in the world are threatened with defaulting on their debt — and this will be one of the focal points of the summit.
The Russians and Chinese tell them that the West is selfish and decadent.
One of the major accusations held against the West is what is now being referred to as “same weight, different measures.” Nearly unlimited mobilization of Ukraine, coupled with disinterest in other crises around the world. Or, even earlier, the South waiting for COVID vaccines, while the North took them first.
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados.
Emmanuel Macron via Twitter
Has the Global South been heard?
The meeting in Paris was co-organized by France and the island of Barbados, where Prime Minister Mia Motley has been particularly active, showing that it is possible to help Ukraine and the world’s poorest countries at the same time. That is her theory.
The path to action will be difficult because the philosophies on this issue are different in Washington D.C., in Europe, or in China, which was the first creditor to developing countries.
Will the countries of the “Global South” leave Paris thinking that their voices have been heard? Or will they be more susceptible to messages from the Russians and Chinese, who tell them that the West is selfish and decadent?
This is an issue of the geopolitical balance of power, but also and above all the fate of millions of men and women hit hard by the disturbances of the world. And it's only just begun.