Global South's Role in Shaping a New World Order

On September 22, ZIBS organized an international symposium titled "Exploring Alternative Innovation Models from Emerging Economies: Policies and Perspectives" and during the keynote address in the first part of the symposium, Professor Bengt-Åke Lundvall, the pioneer behind National Innovation Systems and a professor at Aalborg University Business School in Denmark, presented a speech titled “The Global South's Role in Shaping a New World Order through International Knowledge Sharing and Preservation of Planetary Boundaries” Here are the main highlights from his presentation:


Amidst the backdrop of global challenges and geopolitical conflicts, the emergence of a new global order is increasingly evident. At its core lies the establishment of a knowledge-based New International Economic Order (KNIEO). Crucially, this order presents an opportunity for the Global South to assert its influence and play a pivotal role. Central to this vision is the creation of a Knowledge Belt Road Initiative, led by BRICS nations and supported by the United Nations. Under this initiative, the UN would be responsible for crafting fresh regulations governing global knowledge sharing, with an initial focus on green technologies and healthcare innovations.





Global Challenge and Innovation Division

Currently, the world is facing a multitude of serious challenges. The global ecological crisis poses a grave threat to the survival and development of humanity. It's imperative to globally regulate Artificial Intelligence and tech giants. The escalation of the conflict in Ukraine heightens the risk of a nuclear war, and the US declaration of a Technology War against China undermines collective efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Simultaneously, in the second phase of the digital revolution, unequal access to knowledge lies at the heart of global inequality. Actors from the Global South must strengthen their national innovation systems and collaborate to reshape the international economic order with a focus on redistributing knowledge. Building stronger innovation systems in the Global South necessitates inclusive reforms, greater transparency in public affairs, and amplifying the voices of young people and women.





Tech Giants and Global Natural Monopolies

U.S. tech giants, represented by companies like Google, Amazon, and others, are increasingly being seen as global natural monopolies. Google dominates around 90% of the global internet search market, while Amazon accounts for 39% of all U.S. e-commerce sales and over 30% of the global market. Facebook, on the other hand, wields a 66% share of the global social media landscape. Collectively, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google control a significant 65% of the worldwide cloud services market. Addressing these global natural monopolies calls for global regulation, but the challenge lies in the absence of a global regulatory authority. Recent developments in Artificial Intelligence have raised concerns about its potentially dangerous and high-risk nature, even being likened to nuclear power by its own creators. Therefore, there's a pressing need for regulation that takes the interests of the Global South into account.
Taking a different policy perspective on the role of tech giants, the critique has traditionally focused on issues such as market power, tax avoidance, and privacy concerns. However, an equally crucial aspect is examining who wields the power to shape digital technologies and artificial intelligence. Tech giants dominate research in AI, with Amazon investing $35 billion and Google investing $26 billion USD. To put this into perspective, the total research and development (R&D) spending in countries like the Netherlands and Sweden is approximately $16 billion and $17 billion, respectively, whereas the entire African continent's R&D spending totals only $25 billion. Notably, tech giants' primary interest lies in advancing AI to promote consumption in the Global North, inadvertently exacerbating the climate crisis and undermining serious efforts to address this pressing global challenge.




A Window of Opportunity for the Global South

There is a unique opportunity for countries in the Global South to take action. It's evident that nations in the Global South face the most significant challenges and vulnerabilities related to the global issues I mentioned earlier. However, in today's divided and politicized world economy, the United States and its northern allies must pay attention to the perspectives of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. There seems to be a noticeable shift in tone among speakers from the North during the ongoing UN General Assembly, creating a window of opportunity for the G77 and BRICS nations. They can utilize the United Nations as a platform to propose a new global order. While industrialization and value chain upgrades remain crucial for developing countries, it's essential to recognize that the most significant source of inequality now lies in knowledge distribution. In 2022, a staggering 95% of the world's intellectual property income flowed to high-income countries, which can be referred to as countries in the Global North, despite their comprising only 14% of the world's population.



The Global Knowledge Enclosure and 
Knowledge Belt and Road Initiatives

We emphasize what we term a dual process of knowledge enclosure at the global level. Firstly, we observe the privatization of knowledge within intellectual monopolies. Secondly, we witness a growing trend of techno-nationalism among wealthier nations, where the state increasingly protects the interests of their own intellectual monopolies. This dual process results in reduced accessibility to the knowledge commons for low-income countries.
Notably, China has now emerged as the world leader in patenting, raising a thought-provoking question: Can China, along with its fellow BRICS countries, counter this trend towards enclosure and become global leaders in knowledge sharing within the Global South? Could we envision a Knowledge Belt Road Initiative (KBRI) analogous to the U.S. Marshall Plan that was developed at the end of World War II?
If such KBRI projects were to materialize, they should be the outcome of negotiations between BRICS actors and host countries, reflecting mutual interests. In conjunction with the development of physical infrastructure and the sourcing of natural resources, BRICS nations should commit to engaging in local capacity building. One aspect of this Knowledge Belt Road Initiative could involve providing incentives for BRICS graduates and engineers to work abroad and participate in capacity building in low-income countries.
It's noteworthy that countries like Cuba, which have heavily invested in the healthcare sector, have dispatched numerous doctors and nurses to the least developed countries. In the initial stages, projects under KBRI could prioritize capacity building and knowledge sharing in the domains of green technologies and health technologies.





UN as A Platform for Transformative 
Knowledge Sharing

A proposal can be made for the Global South to leverage the United Nations as a platform for transformative knowledge sharing. This approach would entail a critical review and reform of institutions such as WIPO, WTO, and UNCTAD, with a specific focus on fostering knowledge sharing with low-income countries. Additionally, it would involve the development of new capabilities in the Global South to absorb and advance green technologies and health technologies.
Furthermore, this initiative would encompass the regulation of tech giants and the steering of artificial intelligence development towards addressing global challenges rather than undermining them. It would also involve the establishment of new rules that restrict global technology warfare while enhancing global science and technology cooperation to achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This vision is not mere fantasy, as exemplified by the recent G77 Summit in Havana, which convened 132 countries, representing 80% of the world's population. The summit's theme, “Current Development Challenges: The Role of Science, Technology, and Innovation,” underscores the central role of knowledge in development. Key concerns raised included the monopolization of patents, technologies, and research centers by a few countries on a global scale, leading to a brain drain from the Global South. The summit concluded by echoing a call for a new global order.
Of particular note, the Chinese representative emphasized China's commitment to prioritizing South-South cooperation and building technological capabilities to bridge digital divides. Additionally, the UN Secretary-General participated in the summit and declared that the world is failing developing nations. This underscores the UN's readiness to address these critical issues.

Global South's Role in Shaping a New World Order