An article by: Stefano Zamagni
THE GLOBAL SOUTH OF THE PLANET seeks a different role

Stefano Zamagni is a prominent Italian economist. He was president of the Public Sector Agency. From March 27, 2019 to March 31, 2023, he was President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. In recent months, he wrote a peace plan inspired by Pope Francis.

Thousands of wars have been fought in the name of justice…

I have been asked to reflect on today’s world swept by the winds of war and on the subject of peace. I begin with two phrases which serve to define the shape of my thought. The first one is from the Gospel, and it says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” This expression is full of meaning in many ways. But above all, it reminds us that peace is possible and it can be built. Every day. And this is a gift. The second phrase is taken from Populorum Progressio by Paul VI and reads, “Development is the new name for peace.” When Montini wrote this encyclical in 1967, we were in the midst of the Cold War. What did Paul VI mean? That peace has a new name, and it is development, the development of all peoples. We need to agree on what the word “development” means. Development is different from growth. Growth is not only human activity, but also animal or plant activity. Development, on the other hand, is a characteristic of a human. We understand its meaning from Latin, because the s (sviluppo) before a word has the same function as the initially negative in Greek language. Development means the elimination of tangles. And tangles are chains, laces, snares that prevent the expansion of spaces of freedom. Therefore, the concept of development is doubly related to the concept of freedom or, if you like, liberation. All this suggests that the important message is that if we want peace, we must expand the space of people’s freedom.

Today there are 169 wars in the world, although our attention is completely focused on the war in Ukraine, in which we are closely involved. Based on these two understandings of peace, here is the thesis I want to support: with Ukraine, we are facing the first global war in history. In my opinion, it is improper to talk about the third world war, this is rather a global war. A war is defined as global when its consequences affect innocent countries that played no role, direct or indirect, in actually starting the war.

Of course, the Russians were the first to invade Ukraine, but the root cause of this war was the disruption of the global balance that reigned in the world for several decades after World War II. And I want to focus right here on this case. It can be summarized in the following manner: unilateralism vs. multilateralism. We still want to keep the unilateral model. And we must frankly admit to ourselves: anyone who continues to follow this line is irresponsible. I hope this is in good faith, because this opinion is no longer sustainable. In other words, today the issue is no longer in the problems of East and West. The last twenty-five to thirty years have been marked by the emergence of the so-called Global South. Previously, these states were called BRICS, from the initials of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. These five countries have gradually moved closer to other important states, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, even Iran… And this front, known as the Global South, includes the majority, 33 percent of the people on the planet. At the same time, only four and a half percent of the world’s population live in the United States. The South cannot accept a model of geopolitical international politics inspired by a unilateral model.

Do you see what is happening with China? Under its leadership, these countries are organizing themselves for a new development bank, a new currency, new international institutions, which present an alternative. Is it possible that these events could not have been foreseen? By imposing a unilateral model, we Westerners have finally pushed these countries into an alliance against us. Take Splinternet, our alternative network model – the ongoing war is essentially a consequence of this situation. Since China and the United States could not wage war against each other, a proxy war broke out, as it was said fatally. It’s not that much for the Russians either, who are well aware that they have a different cultural matrix than China and different interests, but the war makes their alliance indispensable. And in the West, there is also obvious damage: first of all, we, the countries of the European Union, are paying a very high price. Today everyone wants peace, but it is difficult to achieve – I heard that peace should be just. But I’m in favor of a ceasefire because I think it’s the right thing to do – to save human life. If human life is the highest value, then we must affirm the value of the good, the superiority of the good. Aristotle already back then supported it very clearly: what shall we do with justice, which is death and wilderness?

Let’s remember this: in the name of justice, thousands of wars have been fought in the world. And everyone is made to believe that their own plan for justice is real. It’s legitimate for you to have a plan, but if you have to destroy everything in order to implement your plan and you do not consider the circumstances, then I definitely cannot support you.

We must prepare a multilateral model that includes all peoples. I have been working for 45 years at the American Johns Hopkins University. I have ongoing relationships with many colleagues, from whom I receive dozens of emails and messages every day. The Americans were the first to realize that their unilateral model was no longer viable. However, until now they did not want to open this phase. That’s why we must have the strength to propose five points that open up a discussion on what the characteristics of the new multilateralism might be.

Five Fixed Points for Reforming Major International Agencies in a Different Vision


Firstly, it is the end of neocolonialism. We must ban the international practice of “raping the earth,” so to speak. Today, large countries are buying huge tracts of land in less developed countries, paying them little and making that population poorer in the long run, because their development is hindered. The mechanism by which this predation occurs, for example, in Africa, is the 99-year annuity. During this period, the tenant countries have the right to exploit the lands of these countries by importing new technologies, until they die. Clearly, one of the results of this neocolonial policy is emigration, flight from their own country.


The principle of multilateralism requires rewriting the rules and charters of international economic organizations. Starting with the most important organs: the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, that is, the WTO, and the World Health Organization. Today, these bodies follow rules that are already wrong, harmful to the countries of the global South.


The third direction is the fundamental reform of the United Nations. Today the organization is represented only by states, that is, governments. But the concept of “nation” is a broader one: it is necessary to ask for the initiation of a second Assembly accompanying today’s General Assembly, which includes representatives of societies and peoples. Society organizes itself into movements, associations… In Italy, we have a public sector. It is not clear why the United Nations should not have in mind the concept of a community, a community of people. It would be an advisory chamber, and I am sure that it could greatly help the development of multilateralism.


Both models of migrant integration adopted so far in the West are in crisis: the multicultural model adopted last century by the United States and the assimilation model of France, which they impose on those who arrive in this country. Today, these models are crying out for revenge before God, as they say, because they are a clear violation of human rights. In the French model, a migrant must forget his traditions, his culture, his religion. The real model of integration is dialogue, respect for cultures, and diversity.


Everyone can see the importance of this point. The Paris Conference took place, and the states ignored their obligations. The countries then reunited again at COP 26 in Glasgow and COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh. What was the result? Zero. The West uses the rules to punish the South of the world, and the South of the world reacts by continuing to pollute the environment. How can we imagine a peaceful and better coexistence in the world if we do not move away from planning for a balanced transition that does not increase but reduces inequality?

These are just five points, there certainly could be more. But if peace is to be established, we must begin to reason in order to achieve the ethical community of pluralistic societies in an increasingly multipolar world.


Stefano Zamagni