The international workshop “Sovereign Projects of countries from the South in the globalising world” took place between13th-14th of August 2014 in Hanoi. The Vietnamese Peace and Development Foundation (VPDF) together Action Aid Vietnam, Action Aid India and Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Southeast Asia (RLS SEA) invited about 20 speakers and diverse participants from Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and Europe to exchange perceptions and theories about issues related to the Global South in terms of transformational processes and sovereignty.
The opening ceremony was led by Nguyen Thi Binh, President of the Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation, and Nadja Charaby, Director of RLS SEA. Nguyen Thi Binh declared the ambitions and objectives of the workshop, which were to realize the further challenges, contradictions as well as opportunities for countries of the global south. The conference had four sessions with four speakers each time, including a part for questions, answers and comments.
The first session began with a speech of Samir Amin, former director of IDEP, who addressed the issue of what shall be perceived as a sovereign state. According to him, exisiting electoral systems (as opposed to democracy), are producing modern poverty, leading into a situation of permanent war, a devastating financial situation and therefore undermining the sovereignty and stability of all countries.
The second speech by François Houtart, Professor at the National Institute of Higher Studies in Quito (Equador), also questioned the understanding of progress and modernity, which he described as sacrificing economy. He argued for a paradigm shift to solidarity, which is participatory and decentralised. The comment session, emblematic of the situation, brought up controversial point of views. For example, the fear of losing competition against neighbouring states, if one country is not willing to have Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and other arguments were expressed.
The second session on day one began with a presentation by Alexander King, a development policy expert of the Bundestag caucus of THE LEFT. He first gave further explanation of the terminology „globalization“ and presented both, a critique on the economic order which is accelerated further by Free Trade Agreements, and secondly presented guidelines of THE LEFT party, to support the balancing of countries in the north and south.
Nguyen Viet Thao (Vice Dean of the Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy) first deepened the understanding of sovereignty as a concept first developed after the 30-year war (1618-1648). It developed further and requires open international relations, not only in terms of economy, but in the cultural, social and political sphere, too.
Mamdouh Habashi, Founder of the Socialist Party of Egypt, tried to exemplify in which field the South could follow up which is, according to him, not in productivity, but in values. Otherwise, there would be only a reproduction of capitalist mistakes – and he argued for delegitimizing the capitalist economy and hegemony.
Sit Tsui, Associate Professor at the Institute of Rural Reconstruction of China, Southwest University, spoke about the implications of western democracy models for countries of the South. As a counterproposal, she was proposing rural regeneration and grassroots democracy and governments.
Claus-Dieter König, Director of RLS in Dakar, gave a rather detailed speech about historic paradigm shifts supporting the western hegemony like the move away from the Gold Standard and he spoke about the value of individuality, compared to individualism, the liberal distraction of this value.
Questions and comments in the second term were addressing potential cooperation between which kind of partners were favourable in order to tackle the idea of FTAs and it was spoken about the power of GDP as a valuable, but not sufficient indicator for development.
On the second day of the workshop, Hoang Anh Tuan, Director of the Strategic Studies Institute, Minister of Foreign Affairs, started the session with the presentation about “Countries from the South in the context of changes in the world order since the cold war”. He briefly introduced the situation of the world after the cold war and the changes of South-South and North-South cooperation since. Asking about his topic, participant from Malaysia wondered if Vietnam, Malaysia, and some other countries from the South can stand together against the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), since they are scared of the disadvantage impacts of it on their economy. Answering this question, Tuan reaffirmed that the more Vietnam integrates into the world economy, the more benefit it will get. So, unfortunately, he sees TPPA as a chance for Vietnam to increase its GDP.
Pablo Solon (Executive Director of Focus on the Global South) continued with “Solutions on sustainable development and protection of economic sovereignty”, he stated that he did not believe in sustainable development. He introduced “The economy for life: Our vision is to build an eco-society that seeks equity with humanity and a balance with nature. The future depends on our capacity to recover our humanity and preserve the vital cycles of the Earth system”. He also raised a question: “What sovereignty will be left with TPP, FTAs and ISDS (added by the author: Investor-State-Dispute-Settlements)?”.
Next, Hernan Vagas, General director of networks training territorial – Ministry of the Popular power for the communes and social movements, also from Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestro América (ALBA) made a speech about “Cooperation, international integration and South-South solidarity”. He said we need to separate between sovereignty by Government and struggle for sovereignty of the people. He believed that FTAs act against sovereignty, but the ALBA organisation was born for that purpose. ALBA protects sovereignty for its members but also increases the trade turnover amongst them. After tea break, the discussion session started with many passionate questions and comments from experts from Vietnam and other countries.
The afternoon session began with Ibu Arta Tobing, former Indonesian Diplomat, who presented “Indonesia’s democracy support in other countries”. Firstly, she introduced the imbalance concept of development, how Indonesia’s reforms from economic crisis in the period of 1999 – 2009 and what Indonesia has done so far to increase democracy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in the Asia-Pacific Region and also in Middle East and North Africa and in Indonesia itself.
Nguyen Quang Thai, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Economic SciencesAssociation, presented “Economic self-reliance in international integration”. According to him, the first thing is building an independent self-reliant economy and then dealing with interdependence among economies. Also, Vietnam needed to take specific measures in some particular economic sectors, and to avoid ‘self-destruction’ when internal and external forces were not well combined. According to him Vietnam must strive ahead strongly and comprehensively with deepened international integration.
Finally, Walden Bello, Congress Member and professor of sociology and public administration at University of Philippines Diliman, spoke about “Practical lessons on the development of countries of the South – experience from various regions, especially Latin America, ASEAN and the non-alignment movement”. He briefly talked about the Bandung Conference as well as ‘The new international economic forum’, ALBA organisation, Cancun conference in September 2013, and detailed about BRICS’s (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) role and ended the session.
The final discussion session again was full of devoted comments and questions. It is now an open question how the South-South People’s Solidarity Network will follow-up raised discussions and support practical implications for and of the Global South in the future.